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How the Lions and Bills are proving pundits wrong

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek (R) sacks Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Orchard Park, New York October 9, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Preseason predictions in any sport mean absolutely nothing. It’s a fun way for the media and fans to get hyped for the regular season but it’s not like players and coaches are concerned about who prognosticators predict to win the Super Bowl.

That said, it is interesting to look back at how the “experts” whiffed when it came to predicting the success of the Lions and Bills. Granted, there’s still plenty of time for both teams to fall flat on their faces (after all, the Lions were 6-2 in 2007 before losing seven of their last eight to finish 8-8) and to be fair, there were several pundits who believed Detroit would make the playoffs as a Wild Card. But you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would have laid money on Detroit and Buffalo being a combined 9-1 at this point in the season.

Thus, what did pundits miss that prevented them from believing the Lions and Bills would be this good (at least record wise)? Below are a couple of thoughts.

THE PASS PROTECTION
Both teams were expected to be hampered by their offensive lines and yet outside of the Titans, no team has been better in pass protection than Buffalo. Third-year players Andy Levitre and Eric Wood have really come into their own while Fred Jackson has stepped up his efforts in pass protection as well. The Bills blew it in 2009 with the selection of mega-bust Aaron Maybin, but give Buffalo credit for also pulling the trigger on Wood and Levitre in that same draft. They were dedicated to rebuilding their O-line and now they’re starting to reap the rewards. As for the Lions, their pass protection hasn’t been great but it’s certainly been much better than people expected coming into the season. While Jeff Backus continues to be exploited at tackle, veteran Dominic Raiola has made up for his poor run blocking with solid pass protection and the same can be said for Stephen Peterman. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew has also come a long way as a pass blocker since his rookie year in ’09.

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Bills’ columnist rips into former first rounder Aaron Maybin

Aug. 13, 2010 - Landover, Maryland, United States of America - 13 August, 2010: Buffalo Bills Linebacker AARON MAYBIN.

Teams have a hard time giving up on a player that they selected in the first round – especially in the top-15.

But Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News wants to know why the Bills haven’t parted with former No. 11 overall pick Aaron Maybin if they say they’re not trying to protect their financial investment (they paid the defensive end a $15 million signing bonus after he held out in 2009). Sullivan’s main point is that the Bills have the worst defense in the league, yet Maybin isn’t even good enough to be active on game days (he was a healthy scratch last week at Baltimore).

But Sullivan goes further:

It’s quite possible that Maybin is the worst player in the NFL (though a case could be made for John McCargo, another former Bills’ first-rounder who has been inactive all six games).

The Bills gave Maybin a $15 million signing bonus after his holdout in 2009. That’s not the sort of return on investment that made capitalism great. If Maybin were some seventh-round pick — like, say, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Stevie Johnson — he’d be long gone by now.

Well, it’s become increasingly apparent that Maybin isn’t really a football player, that while he possesses the raw speed to sack Big Ten players and impress gullible NFL scouts, he lacks the athletic ability to succeed in the NFL.

So go ahead and cut him.

Really, if it’s not about protecting a big investment, admit your mistake and move on. Maybin isn’t going to wake up and start performing like Brian Orakpo or Clay Matthews, linebackers who were drafted later and immediately played at a Pro Bowl level. The Bills can’t afford to waste another summer finding out that he’s not good enough.

The guy is playing behind Antonio Coleman, an undrafted free agent who played two snaps Sunday. Maybin can’t even get in on special teams. You can’t trust him to run up and down the field in his lane on kickoffs?

Someone should explain how the Bills concluded Maybin could be an NFL star after he played 10 games at Penn State. Maybin wasn’t even on the depth chart before that season. If a defensive end named Maurice Evans hadn’t been caught with marijuana, Maybin might never have become a starter.

This is yet another example of how NFL scouts can often be fooled by prospects coming off a big year. (And defensive ends are the biggest culprits when it comes to this.) The Falcons drafted Jamaal Anderson with the No. 8 overall pick in 2007 and now use him in a rotation at end and tackle. He’s fine against the run, but he’s shown zero pass-rushing ability, which is a problem seeing as how that’s why Atlanta took him so high.

I don’t disagree with anything Sullivan said about Maybin and it makes no sense to waste another year on a guy that can’t play. The only thing I’ll say is that it usually takes three years for things to click for defensive ends and Maybin is only in his second full year. I’m not saying the light bulb will go off for him, but it still may be a little premature to dump him.

2009 NFL Mock Draft Version 1.0

It would probably be good for me to do an intro to this piece, but I’m going to skip all the foreplay and just get right to the action. And let’s be honest – you probably wouldn’t have read the intro anyway.

Below is my first mock draft of the year. You can disagree all you want, but just make sure you go into detail in the comments section so I know you care. I hate those bastards that trash my work and don’t have the common courtesy to tell me how much of a moron I am in print…

Let’s mock!

1. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Jason Smith (Baylor), Eugene Monroe (Virginia) and Aaron Curry (Wake Forest) are all possibilities for new GM Martin Mayhew with this pick. But the offensive tackle and linebacker positions are deep in this year’s draft – the quarterback position is not. Mayhew can get his franchise quarterback in Stafford, select an offensive tackle at No. 20 and then fill the middle linebacker need in the second or third round. There, I just fixed the 0-16 Detroit Lions in less than 100 words.

2. St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
If Smith goes No. 1 to the Lions, then I fully expect the Rams to take Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe. With the jettison of long-time veteran Orlando Pace this offseason, St. Louis needs to address their need at left tackle and they’ll do so with either Smith or Monroe depending on who’s available. If it’s Smith, then they land one of the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft.

3. Kansas City Chiefs: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
The Chiefs could really use a right tackle to pair with last year’s first round pick, Branden Albert, but Curry would be too good to pass up here. GM Scott Pioli put a premium on versatile defenders while he was in New England, and that’s exactly what Curry is. The Wake Forest product could play either outside or inside in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and is easily the best defensive prospect in this year’s draft.

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