- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Detroit Lions reporter
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While 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 Lions' 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 he was certainly part of the group that helped influence what happened with the Lions.
In 2008, Mayhew's final draft as assistant general manager before being promoted, the Lions were 7-9 and apparently headed in the right direction with Rod Marinelli. They didn't know they would be an 0-16 team by the end of that season and both Millen and Marinelli would be gone. They didn't know the entire team would end up being restructured. 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 that pick ended up being a good call.
Past years: 2005; 2006; 2007
Pick: No. 17
Player selected: Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Player's credentials at time: Cherilus could play both left and right tackles and was a four-year starter at Boston College and a team captain. He was one of the top tackles in the draft and the Lions were somewhat light at the position. His NFL.com profile leading into the draft questioned his ability at left tackle in its pre-draft profile of him as well as his ability to shift directions. They viewed him as a right tackle instead of a left tackle in the NFL.
Who else was available at time of pick: Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware; Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas; Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois; Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina; Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida; Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech; Matt Forte, RB, Tulane; DeSean Jackson, WR, California.
Did pick make sense at time: Not really. The Lions needed offensive line help, but their pass defense was atrocious and Talib was considered one of the top cornerbacks in the country that season. Cherilus was a good prospect but the Lions could have filled a bigger need and done better.
Did it end up being a good pick: Kind of. Cherilus was a full-time starter by midway through his rookie year and stayed there throughout his time with the Lions, which lasted until the end of the 2012 season. He was with Indianapolis last year. But considering the issues Detroit had defensively and Marinelli's reputation as a defensive-minded coach, the team should have gone elsewhere with the pick.
Who should the Lions have taken: Talib. The Lions were 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2007 (258.19) and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 70.1 percent of their passes against Detroit. They also allowed 32 touchdown passes and intercepted only 17 passes. The secondary was in dire need of attention. Of course, there were character issues with Talib entering the draft, so it is somewhat understandable why Detroit would have passed on him at that point, but Mike Jenkins was also available. He might have been a reach at the time, but the Lions needed some sort of defensive help.
What can Detroit learn from this: Don't always go with offense. This, like in 2005, is an important lesson for Detroit -- something the team has appeared to learn in recent years. They drafted a decent player who was a solid starter for them in Cherilus, but they could have solved a need and possibly prevented the 2008 debacle that followed if they had focused on a defensive player in the first round of the 2008 draft.
In May, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew will run the team for his sixth NFL draft. He'll have been involved with the team's personnel decisions, at that point, for 10 seasons.