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.
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 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 2009, Mayhew finally gained control of the Lions as their general manager, and he had a massive ordeal in front of him. He had to completely reconstruct the Lions after their 0-16 season with a first-time head coach in Jim Schwartz and holes at almost every position other than wide receiver thanks to the team’s drafting of Calvin Johnson in 2007. Mayhew would have two picks in the first round in his first draft as general manager, and his most important need would likely be quarterback. Over the next week, we'll look at the first-round picks in each year for the Lions with Mayhew making the call, who else would have been available, and whether that pick ended up being a good call.
Past years: 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008
The picks: No. 1; No. 20 (acquired in trading Roy Williams)
The player’s credentials at the time: Stafford was widely considered the best quarterback prospect in the 2009 draft after throwing for 3,459 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2008 for Georgia. He possessed -- and still does -- an exceptionally strong arm and could make every throw. He was also healthy throughout his career, not missing a game because of injury. He was by far the best option for Detroit. Pettigrew was a four-year starter at tight end for Oklahoma State. His senior stats weren’t massive -- 42 receptions for 472 yards and no touchdowns -- but part of that came from playing in an offense with star receiver Dez Bryant and running back Kendall Hunter. But Pettigrew was the dual-purpose tight end the team sought.
Did the picks make sense at the time: Yes. The Lions needed to draft a quarterback, and Schwartz kind of made it known he wanted a quarterback early. Stafford was, by far, the best quarterback in his class and one of the few quarterbacks from his year to become an NFL starter along with Sanchez, Josh Freeman and the undrafted Brian Hoyer. Pettigrew was a little bit more of a questionable pick, but the team needed a multi-purpose tight end and Pettigrew was the best option at his position in the draft. Overall, both picks were logical.
Did they end up being good picks: Yes. Stafford has turned into the Lions quarterback of the future and is among the upper half of quarterbacks in the NFL despite having some consistency issues. Detroit is banking on him being more consistent, and gave him a massive extension a year ago. He has already set some franchise records. Pettigrew just re-signed with Detroit this offseason, and though he has had some issues catching the ball, he has caught 284 passes for 2,828 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career. He’s been a comfort for Stafford as they have played together their entire careers.
Who should the Lions have taken at No. 1: Stafford. It was a weak draft with B.J. Raji probably the best pick overall in the first round. But the Lions couldn’t take a defensive tackle at No. 1 with all of the issues they had entering 2009. They needed a quarterback and made the right choice between the top three available. If Stafford straightens out some of his issues, he could end up being the Lions quarterback for the next 10 years still.
Who should the Lions have taken at No. 20: Maybe Clay Matthews, but Pettigrew ended up being a strong pick for them. He might have had his frustrating points, but he has been a consistent tight end for Detroit and became a critical part of the Lions' offense in 2011 and 2012 before a drop-off in production last season because he was needed to block more. Both he and Stafford are now on their second contracts with the club.
What can Detroit learn from this: Because of the team’s massive issues everywhere and having two picks in the first round, this was an anomaly of a draft for Detroit. Not much can be read into anything the Lions did, other than they tried to set up their offense for the future.