Have at it: Okung vs. Suh

March, 19, 2010
3/19/10
11:23
AM ET
Russell Okung/Ndamukong SuhIcon SMIThe Lions have the No. 2 overall pick and could consider selecting OT Russell Okung or DT Ndamukong Suh in April's draft.
Great discussion this week about the complicating financial factors Detroit will face with its No. 2 overall draft pick. As we noted in the original post, some teams would be reluctant to pay a defensive tackle -- Ndamukong Suh or any other -- the kind of premium contract usually reserved for quarterbacks, defensive ends and left tackles.

The question: Should the Lions consider Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung over Suh (or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy) because of the financial considerations? Remember, those factors arise from the longstanding NFL sense that left tackles are more important and impact the outcome of games more directly than defensive tackles.

From what I saw, you largely refused to consider the financial aspect and confined the debate simply to whether the Lions would be better off adding a left tackle or a defensive tackle. I didn't tabulate each answer, but in the abstract, a significant percentage of you favored Okung.

In terms of building for the future, wrote rfrelin23, protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford should be the Lions' highest priority:
"Everyone seems to be on the same 'wavelength' here. If the [Lions] feel Okung is an all-pro LT then they must take him. The future of the franchise rests on the shoulders of Stafford (and he can't throw the ball off his backside). Right now the Lions don't need star players, rather they need solid NFL starters. A DT does not make or break a franchise, but QB does!"

While Suh is the consensus top player in the draft, TDbuddah warned against believing any surefire projections:
"If the Lion personnel guys project Okung as a can't-miss, NFL-caliber LT, they should take him. Obviously, there is no proof that any of these ... guys will be a superstar in the NFL. When that's the case, I would lean towards protecting the franchise."

But that's just the point, some of you argued. Passing on Suh for these reasons "would be foolish," wrote seanje. Suh is a "once in a decade, position redefining player," wrote funlovin 24. Vikes4ever70 asked: "Who's worth $10+ million per year? Okung or Suh? Regardless of value of position, I say Suh."

Taking Okung would allow the Lions to move Jeff Backus to left guard, addressing two needs. But solidifying those positions wouldn't be enough to satisfy SuperSloth003:
"We need studs. (best players available at a positional need). Suh is the best prospect and we must take him. Deal with another year of the typical Lions o-line, then address it more effectively next year with another high draft pick. Patience my friends."
My take? I think you can make a quite reasonable argument for the Lions to follow this scenario: Sign defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, a 26-year-old restricted free agent whose pure athletic ability matches or exceeds Suh and McCoy. Then draft Okung.

Hargrove, who visited Detroit earlier this week, has overcome multiple obstacles in his NFL career, including a one-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. But in that scenario, the Lions would align themselves with a long-term playmaker who had a substantial impact on a Super Bowl-winning team.

I think it's something the Lions are giving thought to. Over the next 3-5 years, what would give them a better chance to win: Having a mainstay at left tackle, a veteran at left guard and an ascending playmaker at defensive tackle? Or the potential of a stud defensive tackle with the other positions unaddressed?

In the original post, I suggested the Lions should only take Okung if their personnel department considered him a better prospect. But what if it's close? If, say, the Lions consider Suh a 10 and Okung an 8.9, it might make more sense to sacrifice that extra "1.1" to solidify a larger percentage of their team. This assumes the Lions sign Hargrove, which we'll know by the April 15 RFA deadline. If Hargrove remains with the Saints, I draft Suh regardless. With Hargrove in the mix, however, I would give strong consideration to Okung if scouts consider him a worthy top-5 pick.

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