Detroit Lions Fans Face Tough Decision: Draft Pick or Playoff Berth?

Detroit Lions: Draft Pick or Playoff Berth

A.J. Reilly: Now the question that we have to ask Eric Draft pick or playoff berth? Draft pick or playoff birth. Because here’s what inevitably has happened to the Detroit Lions. We now have to root for the Rams to beat the Seahawks, the Baker Mayfield of Los Angeles, to beat the Seahawks, which will inevitably affect our first draft pick in April.

But it also helps on the back end with a potential playoff berth. So my question to you is, which is more important, is the higher draft pick, so Seattle beating the Rams and we end up where we end up in the top five, top six. More important? Or is them beating the Seahawks? The Detroit Lions beating the Packers and getting into the playoffs.

More important in your mind? This is what Don George says, a playoff berth. Ricky says, draft pick. Calvin says, let’s go playoffs. What are your thoughts? 

Detroit Lions: The Case for a Higher Draft Pick

Eric Vincent: I’m looking at this from a couple of different perspectives. For me, I feel like if this was somehow a situation where the Detroit Lions could be hosting a playoff game at Ford Field, I would say gimme the playoff berth.

Oh, while I believe the Detroit Lions could, and this is if they only see Minnesota, they somehow, I see the Niners in the first round. I don’t like our chances at all. But you see Minnesota on the road and beat them, that’s cool. But I want that satisfaction at home. From a fan’s perspective. 

A.J. Reilly: You’re not getting it. So take that out. 

Eric Vincent: Exactly. So since that’s not gonna happen, I’m on the side of the draft pick. I feel like it’s not gonna move a whole lot because based on how the teams are that are ahead of the Rams right now in the draft. It’s the Colts who play the Texans who have been trying to win a lot lately.

I don’t understand. The Cardinals are ahead of them, but they play the Niners. They’re probably not gonna win that game. The Broncos, who do the Broncos play? The Chargers, they’re not gonna win that game. And I think it’s one more team that I’m forgetting that could move. So potentially they could get into the top five, which to me would make me happy because you at least.

I wanted them to walk away with one of these three D linemen if you could somehow, I don’t think they’re gonna get Will Anderson. Jalen Carter’s not gonna happen. But I really like Myles Murphy from Clemson. If you can get him at number five, I’d be super happy with that. And I think you have the best chance being at five.

And for me now, I do have a lot of faith in Brad Holmes to make the right choices. I don’t think this playoff berth it’s not fulfilling enough for me to forego and forget about better draft positioning for this team. So I’m all in on the draft pick at this point. Honestly. 

The Case for a Playoff Berth

A.J. Reilly: I respectfully disagree. Respectfully disagree. And there are a number of reasons why I respectfully disagree. 

Eric Vincent: I can’t wait to hear this. Okay. 

A.J. Reilly: You are already ending up with a top-10 pick regardless, which is good. Now, does that mean that you’re necessarily gonna get one of those defensive linemen? No. That does not mean that. No. But whether you pick six to 10.

Okay, let’s give it that range. That is 100% dependent upon what teams one through five do for you in the draft. Okay. Who thought Penei Sewell was gonna fall to seven? 

Eric Vincent: Not a lot.

A.J. Reilly: Okay. Also, at Pick 217 in last year’s draft, we found James Houston. I think it’s a fifth-round pick or a fourth-round pick.

We found Amon Ra St. Brown. We got Malcolm Rodriguez in the sixth round. I trust Brad Holmes with a top-10 pick. Not a, you can’t mess up top-three pick. I’m putting my faith in Brad Holmes to make the best selection wherever that Rams pick lands. And adding to that, the fact that who is the nucleus of the Detroit Lions team right now?

The rookies. Rookies that have been drafted last year and the second-year players that Brad Holmes has drafted. Those are the guys making the plays. Houston McNeil, Hutchinson, and Kirby Joseph, right? They need playoff experience. They need playoff experience. 

Eric Vincent: They need it this year? 

A.J. Reilly: They need it this year. And I’ll tell you why. Because there is validity to the idea of learning how to win. Of gaining experience and letting experience be a teacher. So that you can then understand we may go into Minnesota and we may lose by two touchdowns, but we were there. And we have a group of guys and a nucleus of guys, who are the playmakers that experienced that.

Eric Vincent: Even if they get waxed by two touchdowns? 

A.J. Reilly: That doesn’t matter. They were there. The lights were brighter, the fans were louder. And, as one of my friends pointed out, it also gives Dan Campbell a year of playoff coaching under his belt. Where inches matter, where seconds matter in a season where you’re not expected to do anything in the playoffs, which is fine.

I’m not expecting a Super Bowl for the Detroit Lions, but what I do want is that extra year of playoff experience. Because in 2023, if you draft like you’ve been drafting and they perform like they’ve been performing, this team is your NFC North champions. There’s no doubt about that. There’s no team better in the NFC north than the Detroit Lions going into 2023.

Eric Vincent: Okay, so let me ask you a question.

A.J. Reilly: And so hold on, I’m not done. 

Eric Vincent: Ooooohh.

A.J. Reilly: With that, with that bold take, because I think that, of course barring injury, but the Detroit Lions are the best team in the NFC North, and I think they’ve proved that over the last nine games. They’ve won seven outta nine, they beat Minnesota, and they’ve handed the Bears their butt twice.

Cause the first time was by one point at Soldier Field. And they have a chance to sweep Green Bay. You take this team, give them a little bit of playoff experience, and then you roll into 2023 with some holes filled. Another year of coaching under Dan Campbell’s belt and some playoff coaching experience.

That might be a force to be reckoned with my friend. 

Eric Vincent: It could be a force to be reckoned with without that. Like, let me ask you a question. Okay, so we’ve agreed that basically, these last closing four games that they played are essentially playoff games. Don’t you think they’re playing with more house money in the playoffs compared to playing against Green Bay? Especially if Seattle loses this coming week? 

A.J. Reilly: Yes, but again, your game on Sunday night is essentially like a playoff game. I agree with you. Okay. But it is not a playoff game. It’s that extra week of preparation. It’s that extra, heightened sense of every little thing mattering in that first-round playoff game. And getting these young guys that experience.

It matters. It matters. I talked to one of my buddies who’s a professional athlete and I straight up asked him this question. 

Eric Vincent: Baker Mayfield

A.J. Reilly: It’s not Baker Mayfield, he’s not even a football player. But I asked him, I go, as a professional athlete, is there something to the idea of learning how to win? Of getting there and getting experience?

And he said, of course, a hundred percent. There’s no doubt about that. He goes, it’s being in that situation and knowing, okay, I’ve gotta find something within myself to get over this hump, or I take what I learned from that playoff experience and then incorporate it into my preparation for next year.

It’s all that playoff experience. So they’re not required, as Ricky said, I’m with you. But at the same time, you cannot replicate the experience that they will get from a first-round playoff game. You can’t replicate it in practice or anywhere else. 

The Risks and Rewards of Both Options

Eric Vincent: But this is, I think you’re missing something though, because yes, playoffs are important, but I think the experience that they’re getting is big game experience. Now while playoffs may be bigger, these games that they’re playing right now, you can’t get into the playoffs without winning and playing well right now. 

You can make an argument that these are more important and I think them getting that taste in their mouth, whether it’s through victories or getting punched in the mouth against the Panthers where they didn’t show up, I feel like that is serving a big growth for these young players in a playoff situation where they’re not even expected them to be there.

And even if they get in, do you expect them to get further than the first round or second round? I’m not, and like, I don’t think that’s necessarily needed for rookies who are already playing in big games and are weathering the storms of adversity that they created on their own and through their coaching staff.

And they’re learning like you said, what it takes to win. But I don’t think playoffs has to be a definition of that now. Because I have somebody specific that I want in mind with Myles Murphy. That’s why I want the pick specifically at five. I do, I’m with you. I trust Brad Holmes to make the right call wherever they land, but I wanna see that D line as strong as possible as the identity of their defense.

And with the talent that’s up there that high, I think that serves better for the next five to 10 years than one playoff bid, which may not even do anything for ’em. What if they don’t make the playoffs next year? Like the NFL’s kind of like up in the air. Sometimes it’s not a guarantee that because they snuck in this year, they’re guaranteed to be back next year.

So like I just think they need to focus on building correctly, and I think that goes with the foundation of their roster construction. 

A.J. Reilly: I agree with you. And I think there’s validity to that. Right. But you have also heard, and we’ve also had, and this is a different scale cuz right, it’s, it’s college football versus, NFL football, right?

But, but JJ McCarthy, right? He’s even said last year when we got to the playoffs, it was different. This year we’ve been there and we know what to expect. Now the result wasn’t different. They still lost. And we’re gonna talk about that here in a second. But, there’s something to being there. And that’s what I’m trying to get across, right?

Like as, as I feel like yes, you’re 100% right. Understanding how big and important these last four games have been and learning to win within those games. Yes, massively important, huge. But that’s like the second tier compared to the first tier of actually being in a playoff atmosphere. Okay. That’s what I’m saying, like, okay.

Yeah. We’ve learned if experience is tiered out, right? You’ve got your regular season, and now you’ve got your meaningful regular season games that are gonna get you into the playoffs in tier two. Okay, now we need that next level of experience in tier one actually being in a playoff game, understanding that the crowd’s gonna be louder, understanding that seconds matter more, understanding that inches matter more.

And yeah, do I think that they get into the playoffs and then are blown out in the first round? Not at all, actually, I don’t, especially as they go to Minnesota, they’ve proved that they can win Minnesota as long as they don’t kick a 53-yard field goal and give up two double-digit leads. And Minnesota’s the biggest fraud in the NFL.

Eric Vincent: No question. You know it. No question. 

A.J. Reilly: So to me, the playoff experience going to a hostile environment, cuz Minnesota’s a tough place to play. And getting that experience for these young guys who somebody brought up contracts a little bit earlier, right? We only have a short amount of time left. Sewell has two years left after this one, right?

Amon Ra has three years left, I think. Right? If we pick up his fifth-year option. Okay. So that’s a very short window. 

Eric Vincent: I get that. 

A.J. Reilly: And so you gotta capitalize on that and again, I’m gonna keep reiterating, yes, the player experience is nice, but also getting MCDC some playoff experience before this team has its holes filled is never going to be a bad thing.

And yeah, I would sacrifice picking eighth instead of fifth to get him that experience.

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