Answering your e-mails
Thanks for the e-mails. I'll try to get back to answering those once a week on here now that the draft is over. If you anything you want me to address that I don't get to in your comments, try me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've taken the liberty of rewriting a few of these questions for length reasons, but the gist remains the same. The first one's from a good friend. I don't know if he's serious, but what the heck. I'll answer it anyway.
When the Lions go 0-16 again next year, does the NFL have any legal way to step in and remove the team from Ford's ownership?
No, there's nothing the league can do to force William Clay Ford to sell the team or pass total control to his children. If they did, wouldn't the Raiders be under new ownership already? Seriously though, I know Ford catches a lot of flack for the state of the franchise, much of it deservingly so, but I talked to plenty of people around the league last fall (when a GM search was supposed to be going on) who spoke glowingly of the Lions' long-time owner. He's not overly meddlesome, he's not afraid to spend money and, for better or worse, he's loyal to his people.
Should we read anything into the Lions' flirtation with drafting Beanie Wells?
To be clear, I don't know if they would have drafted Wells at 33 having taken offensive players with the first two picks. He certainly fits the type of back they want, but at some point you have to weigh need on your board. That said, it'll be interesting to see how Kevin Smith fits into the new offense. He's a good back, but he's not break-away fast and he played in a zone system most of his life. I've been thinking about this since free agency, when Maurice Morris was the Lions' first signing. I do think if they had their druthers, they'd use two backs of varying styles, but that seems a bit of a luxury right now.
With money such an issue at the top of the draft, why don't more NFL teams treat the No. 1 pick like they do in baseball and negotiate a lesser contract at the top?
The easy answer is because, theoretically at least, you're getting an immediate impact player at the top of the draft and someone the general public has followed for years. In baseball, when the Padres took Matt Bush five years ago and top prospect Stephen Drew fell to No. 15, no one had seen Bush play and almost no one had watched Drew. Bush eventually flamed out, but he had a five-year time horizon to begin with. Even Drew was two years away when he was drafted. In football, teams would get killed if they took a far lesser prospect No. 1. That said, salaries have just started getting out of whack recently and we've seen teams strike gold at the top with the perceived lesser prospect (Mario Williams vs. Reggie Bush). If a rookie pay scale isn't instituted in the next CBA, I think you will start to see some of that baseball effect. And it wouldn't be that much of a leap if, to use the e-mailer's example, B.J. Raji went No. 1 instead of Matthew Stafford this year.
There's a school of thought among some Lions fans that Tom Lewand is calling the shots after playing a big role in the last eight seasons of misery. Any truth to it?
I haven't seen or heard anything that leads me to believe the Stafford pick was the doing of anyone other than Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz. Lewand runs the day-to-day operations of the franchise and as such has a hand in a lot of contractual decisions, as he did under Matt Millen. He appeared to be charting 40 times at the NFL combine, which was a bit mysterious, and there's no doubt he and Mayhew developed a good relationship in recent seasons (and that relationship aided Mayhew in getting the job). But Mayhew is the man in charge of football decisions, not Lewand.
Can Manny Ramirez take a step forward and win a starting job at guard?
I wouldn't count on it. I think the Lions are set up front with Gosder Cherilus and Jeff Backus at tackles, Stephen Peterman and Daniel Loper at guards and Dominic Raiola at center. George Foster, Damion Cook, Manny Ramirez and seventh-round pick Lydon Murtha are in the mix for backup jobs. Ramirez is a big, strong man, but he hasn't shown much in the running game yet. Admittedly, he hasn't much of a chance, but he has something to prove once the pads come on if he's going to make the team.