Don't get me wrong, 316 yards on 60% completion is impressive(ish), but it's the PRO BOWL. It's basically a 7-on-7 scrimmage. It's not even as competitive as pre-season football because there at least you have guys competing for jobs. In the Pro Bowl, everyone is trying to stay healthy. There was a total of 6 QB hits in the entire game and 2 sacks, and that's only because Von Miller & Elvis Dumervil didn't get the memo (5 hits & 2 sacks between them). Fortunately for Stafford, they were on his team.
Here were his pertinent stats for the game:
- 15 for 25 passing, 60.0 COMP%... meh
- 316 yards, 12.6 yards per attempt... Ok that's not bad, but it's the Pro Bowl
- 2 TDs, 1 INT, 3 fumbles (1 lost)... That's a LOT of carelessness with the football. Not good
The lack of ball security could be due to unfamiliarity with the center or or with the RB on the hand off, but I didn't watch the game so I couldn't say for sure. 3 fumbles in a game is a lot, and then he did get picked as well at the goal line (by JJ Watt).
Pro Football Focus put out grades for players on every team in the NFL, rating them Elite, Good, Average, or Bad, and evaluated what they need to be considered a Super Bowl Contender. The Lions were ranked 6th, having 4 players rated as Elite (CJ, Suh, Glover Quin, Levy), 4 rated as Good (Ansah, Mathis, Ihedigbo, Slay), 21 rated Average, and 3 rated as Bad (Jeremy Ross, Pettigrew, Raiola). Per Pro Football Focus, that means the Lions are 5 Good to Elite players away from being considered a Super Bowl Contender.
First, Raiola is gone, so that's one Bad player out the door. Fairley, Warford, Stafford, and Ebron all have the potential to move from Average to Good or even Elite. Ansah could be Elite next year, but the Lions could lose out on Suh and/or Fairley, and Rashean Mathis is always a year away from losing it (he's 34).
Defensive tackle is going to be their biggest need this offseason, with Suh, Fairley, Mosley and Fluellen all hitting free agency. They'll try to get both Suh & Fairley back, but that'll be a tall order and they'll still need one more guy. Offensive line is another need, and they may go to the draft to resolve that. They might extend offers to Sims and Hilliard to stick around, but signing Suh is priority #1, so Mayhew could be looking to save money elsewhere. The CB position was where the Lions were thinnest in 2014. Mathis & Slay were relatively healthy, but Bentley and Lawson were next on the depth chart, both getting injured and neither projecting as a starter down the road. You need 3 decent-to-good CBs in this NFL, and Mathis (one of the Lions' 2 Good CBs) is very close to retirement.
The Lions were ranked pretty low (20th out of 32 teams) on ESPN's list of teams with good players 25 or under . Mayhew's drafts have been pretty bad, other than the 2013 draft. He needs to be better this year. Grantland published a piece earlier this week about how Bill Belichick crushes the draft process, and the common threads of this were a) letting other teams trade up and getting multiple draft picks in return, and b) not re-signing aging vets or doing much in free agency, getting compensational picks in return. Obviously this would take a while to bear fruit, but it's kept the Patriots in the mix for the last 15 years.
Mayhew has been the type of GM that Belichick has taken advantage of in the past, trading several picks to move up in the draft, usually picking the wrong guy anyway. In the 2010 draft he traded up for Jahvid Best (who didn't work out), didn't pick in the 2nd round, moved back in the 4th round, and didn't pick in the 5th or 6th rounds. In the 2011 draft, Mayhew traded back into the 2nd round to take Mikel Leshoure (who didn't work out), didn't pick in the 3rd or 4th rounds, dealt the earlier 2 of the 3 5th round picks he possessed, didn't pick in the 6th, and used only 2 of his 4 7th round picks. What really hurts about the 2011 draft is the picks Seattle got when Detroit traded up to take Leshoure were used to select Richard Sherman (Byron Maxwell was later picked up by Seattle as part of the Lawrence Jackson trade). Ye gods. The Vikings ended up with Chris Cook (meh) and Everson Griffen (ok, he's GOOD) in the deal that netted Jahvid Best (who's out of football).
Some of these picks were lost due to depth trades (like acquiring Chris Houston, Corey Williams, Sims, etc.) to make up for years of bad drafting under Millen, but if you're going to do that then you shouldn't give up MORE picks so you can trade up! Look at the 2 Super Bowl teams - New England gets SIGNIFICANT production from mid-to-late round draft picks (Brady, Gronk, Edelman), and so does Seattle (Wilson, Sherman, Maxwell, Chancellor, Mebane). This article is kinder to Mayhew than it should be, but it breaks down all his trades through 2013.
If the Lions are going to become more than just a once-in-a-while playoff team, they need to do a much better job of handling the draft process. Not just drafting the right players, but not trading away picks and correctly identifying needs. The 2014 was pretty brutal, so Mayhew needs to step up this year.