Though Mayhew's first draft as the team's actual general manager took place in 2009, he had been working with the team since the middle of the 2004 season as the assistant general manager. He did not make final decisions when it came to the draft in those first few years -- Matt Millen was still the general manager then -- but Mayhew was certainly part of the group that helped influence what happened with the Lions.
In 2007, Mayhew’s third year as assistant general manager, the team was coming off a 3-13 season with a strong-armed quarterback but not much offense. Over the next two weeks, we'll look at the first-round picks in each year for the Lions, who else would have been available and whether or not that pick ended up being a good call.
The pick: No. 2
The player selected: Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
The player’s credentials at the time: Johnson was the best player in the draft and one of the top receiver prospects to come out of college in a long time. He was a unanimous All-American and was the Biletnikoff winner in 2006. His numbers weren’t otherworldly -- mostly because he played with quarterback Reggie Ball -- but he still set Georgia Tech records in receiving yards (2,927) and touchdowns (28).
Who else was available at the pick: Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin; LaRon Landry, S, LSU; Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma; Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss; Marshawn Lynch, RB, California; Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh.
Did the pick make sense at the time: Yes. No doubt. The Lions needed offense and saw a transcendent player available at the No. 2 pick in an insanely talented top of the first round of the NFL draft. Johnson was the safe play, the smart play and the right play.
Did it end up being a good pick: Absolutely. Johnson has turned into one of the top receivers in NFL history and could end up holding many NFL records by the time his career ends. He has topped 1,000 receiving yards the past four seasons and surpassed 1,400 yards the past three. He has 572 catches for 9,328 yards and 67 touchdowns. He has also turned into the face of the Detroit Lions and one of the most consistent players in the game.
Who should the Lions have taken: Johnson. No question about that. Had Adrian Peterson not been coming off injury, maybe the Lions would have considered taking him instead, but either way they would have had a dynamic player who would eventually be considered among the all-time greats at his position. That said, the Lions made the smart and correct call in drafting Johnson. It is the best first-round draft pick the team has made in the past decade.
What can Detroit learn from this: Don’t overthink anything. Take the player that makes the most sense. In 2007 that was Johnson. Though it is unlikely there is a player like that available at No. 10 this season -- even in a deep draft -- if someone who has that high level of skill happens to fall to Detroit, take him regardless of positional need. Good coaches find ways to make use of their best talent, and if the Lions feel they have a good coach in Jim Caldwell, they should be able to do that.