- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Much of the chatter around the Detroit Lions and the NFL draft in the past few days has been about the secondary. Many mock drafts -- including the ones at ESPN.com and the NFLNation mock draft -- had the Lions trying to solidify the defensive backfield.
It’s an area Detroit has not addressed with a first-round pick in a long time. How long? The last time the Lions selected a safety in the first round, no prospect in this year’s draft was born.
Cornerback is a little bit more recent, but Detroit still played in the Silverdome when that player was picked.
So here is a look at the Lions’ draft history from the prism of the last time the team selected each position group in the first round.
Quarterback: 2009, Matthew Stafford, Pick 1. How that worked out -- He has already emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in franchise history and became the fastest player to throw for 16,000 career yards. He holds the Lions record for career passing yards with 17,457 and has only played five seasons.
Running back: 2010, Jahvid Best, Pick 30. How that worked out -- He had concussion issues before he entered the league and that continued in the NFL. By the 2013 season, he was already out of the league.
Wide receiver: 2007, Calvin Johnson, Pick 2. How that worked out -- Johnson has become one of the top wide receivers in NFL history, in the same conversation as Jerry Rice. He has played in 101 games, made 572 catches for 9,328 yards and 66 touchdowns.
Tight end: 2009, Brandon Pettigrew, No. 20. How that worked out -- Pettigrew re-signed with the Lions this offseason for three more years. He has had some inconsistencies but can both run routes and is a very good blocker on the line of scrimmage. He has 284 catches for 2,828 yards and 16 touchdowns, but has only played in all 16 games twice in his five seasons.
Offensive tackle: 2012, Riley Reiff, No. 23. How that worked out -- Reiff was the third tackle in his rookie year and became the team’s starting left tackle in 2013. He gave up seven sacks in 2013, but was part of one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. Depending what happens in the draft, he could end up at guard in the next couple of seasons.
Offensive guard: 1996, Jeff Hartings, No. 23. How that worked out -- Hartings started for five seasons at right guard for the Lions, but it wasn’t until he went to Pittsburgh in 2001 that he flourished, becoming a two-time All-Pro for the Steelers ... at center.
Center: 1945, Frank Szymanski, No. 6. How that worked out -- Technically, Hartings is a center, but he played guard for Detroit, so that is where I listed him. Before that -- we’re looking to the pre-modern era of the NFL. Szymanski played three seasons in Detroit and then one in Philadelphia and one in Chicago. After his career ended, Szymanski became a Probate court judge in Wayne County, Mich.
Defensive end: 2013, Ezekiel Ansah, No. 5. How that worked out -- Ansah became a starter in his rookie season and played well above expectations for a player initially viewed as raw and somewhat of a project. Ansah led all rookies with eight sacks and was the first pick of Martin Mayhew’s strongest draft.
Defensive tackle: 2011, Nick Fairley, No. 13. How that worked out -- Fairley has been an inconsistent player throughout his career with Detroit. At points, he can be dominant. At other times, he disappears and is inconsistent. This led to the Lions not picking up his fifth-year option, an option that came with little risk.
Linebacker: 2006, Ernie Sims, No. 9. How that worked out -- He played four seasons in Detroit before moving on to Philadelphia, Indianapolis and then the past two years with Dallas. He has made 419 career tackles.
Cornerback: 1998, Terry Fair, No. 20. How that worked out -- Fair was better known as a return specialist throughout his career, but had 171 career tackles and seven interceptions in four seasons with the Lions. Now retired, he is an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee.
Safety: 1988, Bennie Blades, No. 3. How that worked out -- Blades played 10 seasons in the NFL -- nine of them with the Lions. He started 125 games for Detroit and had 14 career interceptions between the Lions and Seattle. He also recovered 11 fumbles and made 772 tackles.