Scott Bischoff is a college scout with GM Jr Scouting service, staff writer for Football Guys, and member of the PFWA, FWAA and FSWA. He was the co-host with Sean Baligian of “Fantasy Sports Geekly” from 2002 until 2013 both on Detroit Radio, and streamed by Fox 2 Detroit. Fantasy Sports Geekly was named one of the 5 best Fantasy Football shows in the Nation by Sports Illustrated’s Jay Clemons in 2010.
- Let’s start with a look back at the 2016 NFL Draft. What was the scouts view on Taylor Decker?
Decker was widely considered the third or fourth best offensive tackle prospect in the 2016 Draft. Scouts love his size, work ethic and his ability to play early as a pro. He has strong hands and punches well to slow speed rushers. He has very good core strength and can drive block really well in the running game and he moves hit feet well enough to mirror defenders in the passing game. Decker is tall but he can drop his hips and play with good knee bend most of the time, but that height does pose a problem at times.
If there is a weakness, it shows up when speedy players get into his frame before he gets set up and it negates his strength and length, allowing defenders to turn the corner and pressure the quarterback. Decker is going to struggle with players that are quick and have a low center of gravity as he’ll be reaching for them, forcing him to bend at the waist which causes a lineman to lose all of their functional power.
Decker was viewed as a safe pick. He doesn’t have a huge ceiling as a player but his floor is reasonably high so there isn’t a lot of volatility in this pick.
- Much talk about Decker taking over at Left Tackle, and Riley Reiff moving over to the Right tackle spot, how do you see that scenario playing out?
In a perfect world, the selection of Decker improves the Lions at two positions along the edges of their offensive line. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and there are going to be struggles for both players, perhaps struggles that some aren’t currently seeing. These issues could derail the Lions 2016 campaign if they experience protection issues that lead to an injury to veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Riley Reiff is moving to right tackle which is a more natural position for his athletic tools, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to simply lock down the position in his first season over at right tackle. Mechanically, everything is going to change for him and he’ll have to work that out. Also, defenses have talented pass rushers coming from the right side of the offensive line so he’s not going to experience a huge drop-off in the type of pass rusher he’ll face on a week to week basis.
There is zero doubt that Reiff is a very big upgrade from a talent perspective over what they’ve had at that position for the past few years. It is no coincidence that right guard Larry Warford had his best year when the Lions had stable play out of the right tackle spot, and they’ll get that with Reiff.
The issue then becomes handing the left position over to a rookie and expecting him to handle himself in his rookie season. I think that is asking a lot out of Decker, and he’ll struggle at times which will create problems for this offense. This offense needs to operate with rhythm and tempo, and pressure kills that.
Injuries are always a factor and I can see Reiff starting at right tackle but getting moved back to the left tackle position if Decker deals with injuries or struggles to the point where they have no choice but to move Reiff back to the left tackle spot. Ultimately, it is going to be painful at times with Decker at left tackle and it’ll require patience in 2016.
- Many were surprised that A’Shawn Robinson was still on the board in the 2nd round at 46th overall, was there a reason for the “fall”? Seems like a great fit on the interior of the Lions defensive line?
Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson was a fairly dominant interior defender at Alabama, but there are two reasons that he fell (so to speak) the Lions at No. 46 in Round 2. First, the 2016 NFL Draft was very deep at the defensive tackle position. More importantly, Robinson wasn’t viewed as a player that could really pressure the pocket as a pass rusher at Alabama.
Robinson was asked to handle two gaps and control the line of scrimmage which allowed the linebackers at Alabama to run clean and free to make plays, and he did this really well. In Detroit, he’ll be asked to penetrate more into the backfield to disrupt run plays before they start, and to squeeze quarterbacks into the pressure the Lions want to bring off the edge.
Time will tell the tale with Robinson, but in Round 2 they got a good run defender with some physical tools to blossom into a disruptive interior presence down the line. This was a very good value pick considering their long-term needs at the position and the fact that he can work in the defensive tackle rotation as a rookie. Robinson is a stout, powerful player and he’ll show that with the bull rush this year but it’s going to take time for him to turn in a consistent pass rush presence.
- Getting value out of later round picks has really hurt previous regimes here in Detroit, is there a player, or players, that you feel have the potential to become value picks from the later rounds?
Offensive lineman Joe Dahl is a very intriguing athlete. He is a very versatile lineman who will help significantly with the 46 man game-day roster as there is a chance he can play either guard spot and he moves his feet well enough to play tackle in a pinch.
In his rookie year I think he can carve out a role as a swing tackle, essentially a very big tight end that can line up next to a tackle to help in the running game. His real value comes down the line a year or two as he will give general manager Bob Quinn the ability to move on from interior lineman looking for their second contract.
Running back Dwayne Washington is a very raw football player but he has a ridiculous blend of size and speed. He’ll be fun to watch because of the speed but he has a long ways to go in terms of fully grasping the running back position. If he can develop, he’ll be a very nice pick and a player that will be viewed as a value in a few years.
- Matthew Stafford is coming off a strong second half of 2015, and an overall statistically solid season as a whole. At 28, how much of a ceiling does he still have, and what can turn him from a good NFL QB, into a great one?
Matthew Stafford is in a situation where he almost can’t be viewed as a great quarterback. He can put up ridiculous numbers like he did over the last half of the 2015 season (19 TD and 2 INT over the past eight games) and it won’t matter. There is an argument that the wins and statistics didn’t matter as the games were meaningless, played against bad competition.
The only real way for Stafford to move from an inconsistent, streaky performer to a great one is for him to play well against the better teams in the NFL, at home but more importantly, on the road. Stafford needs to beat winning teams in big games, and he needs to get the Lions into the playoffs and win games there too.
There is definitely more ceiling for Stafford, but to get there he needs to be much more consistent on a week to week basis. It helps that the coaching staff looks to be designing an offense around what he does best as opposed to forcing him to do things he doesn’t do well which was the case with former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
- With so much focus on the front four, and subsequent depth, what are your thoughts on the Lions back 7 heading into the season?
There is very little depth in the back seven of the defense heading into the season. The Lions have a high end free safety in Glover Quin and a budding star in cornerback Darius Slay, but outside of that they have a bunch of younger players that aren’t established or older veterans that haven’t really panned out elsewhere.
It appears that Rafael Bush has secured (or is close) the strong safety job, but these guys have a tough job as they have to consistently take on bigger running backs and tight ends so injuries are going to be a factor. Nevin Lawson is slated to start at outside corner opposite Slay and he can grab a little too much at times, but he is game.
I’d say he is an average starting cornerback, but better than what is behind him on the roster. Lions fans should hope that injuries don’t hit the secondary in 2016. The depth will get tested in 2016 but defensive coordinator has passed this test before as he’s gotten good play out of depth guys in the past.
One of the team’s biggest question marks is the status of linebacker DeAndre Levy. This situation is strange, and going into the draft there was some rumbling that the Lions were concerned about Levy playing out his current contract. Whether that is true or not won’t get answered right now. He is one of the two most critical pieces they have on defense.
The back seven as it sits right now (assuming Levy plays right away in the regular season) looks solid and it should fare okay as long as injuries don’t take their toll. I’d also say that the play of the front four should be much better this year which will only help the players in the back seven.
- Potential biggest surprise on offense in 2016?
When Marvin Jones was signed in free agency, it was made perfectly clear that he wasn’t replacing retired wide receiver Calvin Johnson, but someone has to step up and get those targets. It’s clear watching in camp that Jones and Stafford are developing chemistry and Jones is the more vertical threat on the roster. Golden Tate isn’t going anywhere, but I see Jones as a much bigger factor than others do and once the season gets going I see Tate and Jones as very good options on offense.
- Potential biggest surprise on defense in 2016?
It’s tough to find a player that will really surprise on this defense, but I’m going to go with two here. Defensive end Devin Taylor is going to have a nice season and will start and play a lot of snaps opposite Ziggy Ansah. I’m not sure I see him as a 10 sack guy as he’s an established factor now and he won’t be taking anyone by surprise.
The second player that could very much surprise is newly acquired defensive end Quanterus Smith. Smith has dealt with knee injuries and hasn’t really had his legs under him in the NFL to this point. He can definitely turn the corner and looks like he’s filled out a bit to play with more power. He has to show that he can pressure the passer on a consistent basis to make this team. But if he does he could surprise with his sack totals.
- Do not be surprised if fill-in the blank makes the team.
Undrafted free agent tight end Cole Wick has made the most of his opportunity at every turn. In OTA’s, with Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew out with injuries, it was Wick that was making plays and catching everything thrown his way. Fast forward to training camp and it’s Wick again taking advantage of an Ebron injury to work with the first team offense.
Wick is nowhere near the athlete that Ebron is and he’s not a proficient blocker, but he is a solid route runner and a guy that catches the ball. Wick should make the roster and play a role immediately on offense.
- The Lions can get back to the playoffs if…????
The Lions need pretty much everything to go almost perfect to get to the playoffs this year. They really need to get, and stay, healthy in key positions and keep their starting players on the field and not in the doctor’s office or training room. They also need their rookies to perform at a high level and most importantly, they need Stafford playing the best, most consistent football of his career.