Draught part 2: tastes great and more fact-filling

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Apr 27, 2008



We top off the pigskin pint of dark, frothy gridiron Guinness with part two of our Draught Day review. Drink up, and remember: beer and Cold, Hard Football Facts are the only two things that separate humans from the lesser species, like Lions executives.
 
 
1. Matt Millen's drafts continue to chart the lowest depths of human intelligence
The Lions have plenty of problems, beginning with the same inattentive ownership and clueless management that drove the American auto industry and the city of Detroit itself into the ground.
 
Matt Millen, meanwhile, continues to provide some of the most baffling draft decisions since Tennessee hillbilly Alvin York declared himself a conscientious objector – then killed like a million Huns in World War I.  
 
This year was no exception. We applauded his decision to grab a building-block offensive tackle, Gosder Cherilus out of Lineman U. (Boston College), with his No. 1 pick.
 
But Millen utterly avoided his team's greatest need: pass defense. Last year, the Lions fielded the 31st-ranked pass defense, with a Defensive Passer Rating of 96.8. They also became the first team in history to allow opposing passers to complete more than 70 percent of their throws. 
 
Yet he didn't grab a DB until his very last pick in the 7th round with Caleb Campbell out of, get this, Army. We don't mean to demean West Point. The Cadets are our heroes and the USMA produces great leaders, war heroes and presidents. But it's not exactly known as a hotbed of shutdown corners. And, believe it or not, the Lions actually drafted a wide receiver – Kenneth Moore of Wake  Forest in the fifth round – before a much-more needed DB.
 
And Millen's attempts to secure a potent sack machine were limited to third-rounder Cliff Avril, a 6-3, 250-pound hybrid DE/OLB pass-rush specialist out of Purdue.
 
2. Other than Matt Millen, stopping the pass is high on the mind of NFL teams
With rule changes to emphasize offense, it's become ever-more difficult for defenses to stop the passing game.
 
The consistently growing league-wide passer rating stands as proof that it's easier than ever to pass the football. And, as loyal Cold, Hard Football Facts readers have seen, teams that pass well on offense win often. Teams that stifle the pass on defense win often – and usually win championships.
 
So naturally, with all these trends coming together, teams are desperate to stop the pass. It's one of the best ways to ensure team success. As a result, 45 defensive backs were snapped up in this year's draft – more than any other positional group.
 
Pass-rushers were also in high demand, as evidenced by speedy defensive ends Chris Long, Vernon Gholston and Derrick Harvey being snapped up by the Rams, Jets and Jaguars, respectively, with the No. 2, No. 6 and No. 8 overall picks.
 
A lot of teams desperately need help in this area. The Saints, for example, were the only team to field a pass defense last year that was worse than Detroit's. But like the Lions, the Saints selected just one DB, Tracy Porter of Indiana, in the second round. The major weakness on the powerhouse Patriots last year was its mediocre pass defense – the same pass defense that has surrendered countless last-minute, championship-killing plays in each of the past two seasons. The Patriots also lost their No. 1 defensive back, Asante Samuel, to the Eagles in free agency this year. They responded by drafting two defensive backs in the first four rounds this weekend.
 
3. Southern talent continues to rule football
As usual, the Southeastern Conference boasted more players drafted (35) than any other college conference among the 252 selections in the 2008 draft. Another 33 players were taken from the Atlantic Coast Conference – which is a bit of a misnamed conference. With the exception of Boston College, 11 of the 12 schools are south of the Mason-Dixon line. It's a hotbed of southern football and talent.
 
The only interloper talent-wise was the Pac-10, which watched 34 of its players taken this weekend. But that talent remains weighted heavily toward one school: 10 of those 34 Pac-10 players came out of USC – more than came from any single school. Virginia Tech of the ACC was second with 8 players drafted. National champion LSU out of the SEC was third with seven.
 
4. The white guy is back
With race such a prominent issue in political circles these days, we figured we'd throw some gridiron gas on the fire. After all, the 2008 draft proved a historic one in a sport where white guys are so rare we confuse them with great games by Rex Grossman.
 
For the first time in more than three decades, three white guys were taken the top three of the NFL draft: Jake Long, Chris Long and Matt Ryan, who between them have just 25 letters in their names ... and skin so pasty white you could brush your teeth with it.
 
The last time three white guys went in the top three spots of the NFL draft was back in 1975, when Atlanta grabbed quarterback Steve Bartkowski, the Cowboys picked up the appropriately named defensive tackle Randy White and the Colts nabbed guard Ken Huff.
 
5. Stanford over USC was the upset of the 2007 season
Two major upsets rocked the college football world in 2007. Early in September, Div. 1-AA power Appalachian State walked into the Big House and toppled mighty Michigan, 34-32.

A month later, Pac-10 weakling Stanford shocked superpower USC, 24-23, at the L.A. Coliseum.
 
Looked at purely from the point of view of draftable NFL talent, the Stanford upset was more shocking than the Appalachian State upset.
 
Not a single player was drafted out of Stanford this year, compared with the NCAA-leading 10 from USC. Appalachian State boasted two picks in this year's draft, compared with six out of Michigan.
 
Stanford may still play with the big boys more regularly, but as far as NFL teams are concerned the lower-division Mountaineers of Appalachian State played with more talent.

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