ALLEN PARK - When Lions president Matt Millen took over sole responsibility for the team's efforts in the NFL draft, I asked him about the NFL's "Draft Value Chart" and whether or not the Lions used it.
"It's a tool just like anything else," said Millen at the time, "but its not the only thing (we use)."
But since its inception in 1999, the chart has become an indispensible item in every team's 'War Room', sort of like a cook book in a kitchen. It's there when you need it.
Dallas Cowboys executive Mike McCoy invented the chart at the behest of new head coach Jimmy Johnson. Johnson came into the league wheeling and dealing on draft day and the results were phenomenal. Johnson was getting pro bowl players like Leon Lett in the 7th round, defensive end Tony Tolbert in the fourth round and center Mark Stepnoski in the third round.
While every team finds diamonds in the rough, the Cowboys were doing it way too much for it to be coincidence. Interest in Johnson's ideas and methods were high. At the same time San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh was developing a similar approach to the draft and having similar success.
Pretty soon, the Cowboys and the 49ers were the top two franchises in the NFC, regularly fighting it out to get to the Super Bowl. What is surprising is that the Cowboys didn't guard the chart as if it were gold, but instead, the chart can be found on website throughout the internet.
The chart asssigns the first overall pick a value of 3000 points, while the last pick in the round is worth just 590 points. The theory is that when making a trade, you should try to end up with more value than you are trading away.
For instance, the Houston Texans pick is worth 3,000 points while the Lions' 9th overall pick is worth 1,350. Had the Lions lost their Christmas Day contest with the New Orleans Saints, they would have been selecting in the 2nd overall position, a pick worth (2,600) nearly double the 9th overall pick according to the chart.
If the Lions wanted to move up to the 2nd overall position, they'd need to trade the rest of their remaining draft choices to come close to meeting the chart's requirements and would likely have to throw in future draft choices to move up.
Why should this interest you?
Two teams are reportedly interested in Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, the suspected target of the Arizona Cardinals (10th overall) who have been rebuffed by the teams drafting in front of the Lions -- the Minnesota Vikings, picking 17th and the St. Louis Rams, picking 11th overall.
Should Detroit's top two selections, Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk and Texas safety Michael Huff already be off the board when they select 9th, they could expect to recoup a 3rd round pick from the Rams or a 2nd rounder from the Vikings for the privilege of swapping picks.
That's a pretty good value, especially when you consider Detroit could use the swapped pick to take a solid tackle like USC's Winston Justice, who is likely to be there at the 11th and could be there at 17th, although a player like Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway or tackles Marcus McNeil of Auburn and Eric Winston of Miami are more likely.
In the second round, armed with perhaps two picks, Oklahoma guard Davin Joseph and Georgia guard Max Jean-Gilles would solidify Detroit's pourous offensive line and allow them flexibility to perhaps move up in the second round to address the safety position or the linebacker position for depth.
Although teams often deny using the chart, watch as the draft unfolds, and when you see a trade made, compare it with what's on the draft value chart.