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Martin Mayhew and the first round -- 2013

4/7/2014

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.

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.

Last season, with his team back in the top 5 of the draft, Mayhew took his biggest risk to date as the team's general manager. Knowing his team needed to win now after the Lions skidded back into the top 10 of the draft after a playoff appearance in 2011, he went after a player who didn't have much football experience. It also ended up working out pretty well.

Past years: 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2009; 2010; 2011; 2012

The pick: No. 5

The player selected: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

The player’s credentials at the time: Ansah didn’t have mindblowing numbers coming out of BYU, having played in 31 career games and making 72 career tackles. He also only had 4.5 sacks in his career and really had only one season where he played a lot -- his senior year in 2012. He was drafted more on potential since he had just started playing football his sophomore year of college in 2010 after being part of the track team in 2009 and trying to play basketball for the Cougars.

Who else was available at pick No. 5: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU; Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama; Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama; D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston.

Did the pick make sense at the time: Kind of. The Lions needed help on the defensive line and on defense in general. But there were a lot of questions surrounding Ansah, mostly from an experience standpoint. He has not played football for all that long and his ability to slide in right away as an immediate starter and top 5 pick was a question.

Did he end up being a good pick: Absolutely. Ansah played better than almost anyone could have expected during his first season. He led all rookies in sacks with eight and when he was healthy was a key player on the Detroit defensive line. Considering that he is still learning the game, he worked out exceedingly well for the Lions and the team has big hopes for him entering his second year.

Who should the Lions have taken at No. 5: After seeing what Ansah did as a rookie, the team would almost definitely make this pick again. While Eric Reid and Kyle Long had Pro Bowl seasons as rookies, Ansah has the potential to be better than both of them. He ended up being the wisest pick at this spot, especially since Milliner struggled as a rookie and the team found Larry Warford as the guard of the future in the third round.

What can Detroit learn from this: This started off what has been Mayhew’s best draft as the Lions general manager (or assistant general manager). He took a risk and it worked out, so what he did here is bought some currency for whatever the Lions choose to do in May’s draft.