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Friday, April 18, 2014
Reviewing the Detroit Lions' 2013 draft

By Michael Rothstein

Over the past two weeks, we have taken a look at the past 10 first rounds from the Detroit Lions -- all of the drafts that had Martin Mayhew as either the team's general manager or assistant general manager.

This week, we're looking specifically at the Lions' drafts since 2009, when Mayhew has been in charge. This will be a look at the entire class, not just the first-round picks, which are the ones paid the most attention.

We’ll take a peek at each of the drafts, what worked, what didn’t and one pick that in retrospect we would change with Detroit. Hopefully, this can also give a window into the way Mayhew drafts and some of the decisions he has made in the past that could help influence the 2014 draft and beyond.

Past years: 2009; 2010; 2011; 2012

Complete draft (pick number in parentheses):  Round 1 – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU (5); Round 2 – Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State (36); Round 3 – Larry Warford, G, Kentucky (65); Round 4 – Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina (132); Round 5 – Sam Martin, P, Appalachian State (165); Round 6 – Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech (171); Round 6 – Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame (199); Round 7 – Michael Williams, TE, Alabama (211); Round 7 – Brandon Hepburn, ILB, Florida A&M (245)

Picks left on the 2014 roster: 9 (Ansah, Slay, Warford, Taylor, Martin, Fuller, Riddick, Williams, Hepburn)

Picks left in the NFL at the end of the 2013 season: 9 (Ansah, Slay, Warford, Taylor, Martin, Fuller, Riddick, Williams, Hepburn)

Larry Warford
Larry Warford didn't miss an offensive snap for the Lions as a rookie in 2013.
Best pick: Warford. This is actually a tough selection because Detroit had a lot of good picks and a bunch of immediate starters and contributors out of this draft. Warford, though, ranks above the rest of the class. He played every snap last season as Detroit’s right guard and already has established himself as a potential starter for the next decade for the Lions. He almost seamlessly fit in next to Dominic Raiola and worked well with his fellow rookie, LaAdrian Waddle, who ended up as the team’s starting right tackle by the middle of the season.

That Ansah, who led rookies in sacks with eight, and Martin, who was one of the league’s better young punters, didn’t fit this spot tells you all you need to know about what was by far Mayhew’s best draft.

Worst pick: None, as of now. If there was an absolute pick here, it would probably be Williams. That wouldn’t be fair to him, though, as he spent the season on injured reserve with a busted-up hand. But he was a seventh-round selection who wasn’t expected to contribute much anyway in his rookie season and he could end up being a good tight end for Detroit down the road. They really didn’t make any major mistakes with this draft.

Best value pick: Martin. This was a somewhat questionable pick when the Lions made it in the fifth round, especially because teams usually don’t spend draft picks on kickers and punters. But Martin won the job -- he was always going to win the job with that investment -- and had a strong rookie season. Considering the way kickers and punters last in the league, he could outlast every person currently in the organization with his tenure with the club if he continues to have good seasons. That's why he is the best value selection. If he continues to work out, Detroit will not have to worry about a punter for the next 12-15 years. That's not bad value at all.

One pick I’d change (other than the worst one):  This is kind of a nitpick, because this was a really good draft for the Lions, but in the sixth round, Detroit should have taken Andre Ellington over Corey Fuller -- especially because the team took Theo Riddick a few picks after Ellington went to Arizona. The Lions could have picked up that third/fourth running back need with a potential difference-maker in the backfield who could learn behind Reggie Bush for a year or two before potentially replacing him. But Fuller was a developmental receiver project who may still pan out with his speed.

Draft grade overall: A. This was easily Detroit’s best draft under Mayhew and essentially every major pick already has turned into a contributor. Even if Hepburn, Fuller and Williams don't end up working out, the Lions got six guys who played immediately and three starters out of the draft. They'd take that every year.