Detroit Lions: Draft review

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)

[+] EnlargeLarry Warford
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsLarry 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.
Over the last two weeks, we took a look at the Detroit Lions' last 10 first rounds -- all of the drafts that had Martin Mayhew as either the general manager or assistant general manager.

This week, we're looking specifically at the Lions' drafts since 2009, the first one with Mayhew in charge. This will be a look at the entire class, not just the first-round picks.

We'll take a peek at each of the drafts, what worked, what didn't and one pick that in retrospect we would change. 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.

Complete draft (pick number in parentheses): Round 1 -- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa (23); Round 2 -- Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (54); Round 3 -- Bill Bentley, CB, Louisiana Lafayette (85); Round 4 -- Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma (125); Round 5 -- Tahir Whitehead, OLB, Temple (138); Round 5 -- Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion (148); Round 6 -- Jonte Green, CB, New Mexico State (196); Round 7 -- Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma (223).

Picks on the 2014 roster: 7 (Reiff, Broyles, Bentley, Whitehead, Greenwood, Green, Travis Lewis).

Picks left in the NFL at the end of the 2013 season:: 6 (Reiff, Broyles, Bentley, Whitehead, Green, Travis Lewis).

Best pick: Reiff. Almost went with Jonte Green here because he started games as a rookie in 2012 and was a contributor in 2013, which is pretty strong for a sixth-round pick. But Reiff became the Lions' starting left tackle last season and was part of one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. He has solidified himself as a potential left tackle for the future and at worst, a strong part of the Detroit offensive line for years to come.

With a draft that had all sorts of contributors for Detroit, Reiff has become the one sure-fire starter, although he may end up as one of a few out of his 2012 draft grouping.

Worst pick: Ronnell Lewis. He is the only player the Lions drafted that is no longer on the roster and no longer in the NFL. Some of the other picks haven't completely panned out, but all other than Ronnell Lewis have at least been special teams contributors. Lewis had two special teams tackles in his one season with the Lions before being cut prior to the 2013 season.

Best value pick: Tahir Whitehead. He hasn't cracked the linebacker rotation yet, but drafting Whitehead in the fifth round turned into a valuable selection for the Lions. He was the team's special teams MVP last season and has 20 special teams tackles in two seasons along with two forced fumbles. He is a player who could take a big step in his third season and, depending on the draft, end up as the team's fourth linebacker since Rocky McIntosh is not returning. Detroit had a couple of strong value picks in this draft, including Green in Round 6 and Greenwood in Round 5 as well. One of those two could end up as one of the Lions' starting cornerbacks, depending on how things play out this offseason. Bentley also was a strong value pick as he has become one of two nickel corners for Detroit.

But Whitehead is the pick here because of where he was selected combined with his special teams prowess.

One pick I'd change (other than the worst one): Ryan Broyles has been unable to stay healthy since he was drafted by the Lions in the second round in 2012 and has had his past three years end with some sort of season-ending surgery -– either a knee or an Achilles. Considering who went in two of the four picks after him, the Lions would have been better off looking away from Broyles with this pick. Detroit could have drafted Peter Konz as the heir apparent to Dominic Raiola at center, as Konz went one slot later to Atlanta. If the team had wanted to shore up their defense, they could have taken Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David, who went four picks later to Tampa Bay. In his second season, David was named a first-team All-Pro.

Draft grade overall: C+. No All-Pros in this draft grouping for the Lions yet, but a decent contributor-level draft of depth. The team got three quick starters out of it in Reiff, Bentley (at nickel) and Green (at points during the 2012 season). They found a special teams stalwart in Whitehead, who is a linebacker project. Travis Lewis has been on a lot of special teams. Depending on how Whitehead and the corners end up panning out over the next few years, this could end up being a pretty decent class for the Lions.
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 as 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 that are the most paid attention to.

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

Complete draft (pick number in parentheses): Round 1 – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn (13); Round 2 – Titus Young, WR, Boise State (44); Round 2 – Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois (57); Round 5 – Doug Hogue, LB, Syracuse (157); Round 7 – Johnny Culbreath, OT, South Carolina State (209).

Picks left on the 2014 roster: 2 (Fairley, Leshoure)

[+] EnlargeNick Fairley and Jay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesNick Fairley is one of the few players to produce for the Lions in their 2011 draft class.
Picks left in the NFL at the end of the 2013 season: 2 (Fairley, Leshoure)

Best pick: Fairley. Like in 2010, this is pretty much by default – although this really is by default, considering the rest of the horrific nature of this draft for Mayhew. Fairley has been an inconsistent defensive tackle for the Lions and the team is not picking up his fifth-year option, something detailed at length here. When he has decided to show his talent, he and Ndamukong Suh become one of the better defensive tackle tandems in the NFL. Those times, though, are rare.

If he can ever get himself in shape and playing at a consistent level and is still playing for the Lions at that point, he could end up making at least part of this draft worth it for Detroit.

Worst pick: Um, take your pick? In all seriousness, this entire draft was awful for Detroit, but no pick ended up worse than the selection of Titus Young. The Boise State wide receiver had a ton of talent and from a pure talent perspective, was well worth the second-round selection. By now, though, everyone knows how that worked out. In two seasons, Young had 81 catches for 990 yards and 10 touchdowns – actually good production. But then it all fell apart for him. He got into confrontations with coaches, teammates and opponents. The team eventually released him in February, 2013. St. Louis claimed him on waivers then released him soon after.

All of this before he was arrested three times in two weeks in May and Young’s father eventually said he had a brain disorder. It is a sad story for an immensely talented player and unfortunately a tale that future players might be able to learn from.

Best value pick: None. Seriously. The Lions received no value-compared-to-draft-position on any of their picks. Fairley has been inconsistent. Leshoure turned into a non-factor in 2013 and is not a lock to be on the 2014 roster by the start of the season. The other players are out of the league.

One pick I’d change (other than the worst one): This is going to be complicated. In the fifth round of this draft, the Lions had to flip their initial pick, the 140th selection, with Kansas City, which had the 154th pick. The Lions then traded down three places to 157 to take Doug Hogue. If I were the Lions, I would have stayed at No. 154. Why? The player Seattle took in that spot was a decent cornerback out of Stanford. His name – Richard Sherman.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Lions made some trades and had to swap picks due to tampering in this draft. In one trade, the Lions moved up to take Leshoure, giving away the Nos. 75 and 107 picks to Seattle. That deal also swapped the team’s fifth round picks (mentioned above) and seventh round picks. Here is who was taken with those Seattle selections.

No. 75 – John Moffitt, G, Wisconsin; No. 107 – Kris Durham, WR, Georgia; No. 154 – Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford; Pick 205 – Lazarius Levingston, DE, LSU.

As part of the Alphonso Smith deal with Denver, the Lions gave up pick No. 186 in the draft – and Green Bay, which ended up with the pick, selected D.J. Smith, OLB, Appalachian State. In the Chris Houston deal, the Lions gave up the No. 210 pick in the seventh round, which was used on Andrew Jackson, OG, Fresno State. Pick No. 231, which eventually ended up with Miami, ended up going from Detroit to San Francisco for Shaun Hill. Miami took Frank Kearse, DT, Alabama A&M.

Draft grade overall: F. Heck, if I could give this draft a "Z," I would. Seriously, this might be the worst draft in the history of drafts for the Lions – maybe in the history of the NFL. Of the team’s five draft picks, four ended up being arrested at least once during their NFL careers. Only two, Fairley and Leshoure, are still in the league. Only one, Fairley, made any sort of impact in the NFL. If you’re looking for reasons why the Lions had zero depth in 2013, look at the 2010 and specifically 2011 drafts for the reason why. This draft was laughably bad for Detroit. Not to cross over sports here in Detroit, but this entire draft was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over Trey Burke for the Pistons last year bad. With every pick.
Over the past two weeks, we took a look at the last 10 first rounds from the Detroit Lions -- all 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, who are the ones that are the most paid attention to.

We’ll take a peek at each of the drafts, what worked, what didn’t and one pick that in retrospect we would change. 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.

Suh
Year: 2010

Complete draft (pick number in parentheses): Round 1 – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska (2); Round 1 – Jahvid Best, RB, California (30); Round 3 – Amari Spievey, CB, Iowa (66); Round 4 – Jason Fox, OT, Miami (Fla.) (128); Round 7 – Willie Young, DE, NC State (213); Round 7 – Tim Toone, WR, Weber State (255).

Picks left on the 2014 roster: 1 (Suh)

Picks left in the NFL at the end of the 2013 season: 3 (Suh, Fox, Young)

Best pick: Suh. Beyond the obvious after looking at this draft that there weren’t many contributors for the Lions overall, Suh has been exactly what was expected when the team used the second overall pick on him. He has been a dominant defensive tackle who can change games and demands attention at all times from opposing offenses. He is Detroit's best defender and was named by NFL players as the most feared player in the NFL following the 2013 season.

He became part of a trio of stars for the Lions who have spent their entire careers with Detroit. The biggest question with him now is if and when he will sign his long-term contract extension or a new contract that would lock him up in Detroit for the remainder of his career.

Worst pick: Best. Considering the Lions moved back into the first round to draft the diminutive running back with a history of concussions and then watched as head injuries ended his career after two seasons, 22 games and 255 total carries, this didn’t work out as the team would have expected. As mentioned in the first-round review, the Lions could have had Dexter McCluster either at this pick or at the initial No. 34 pick they traded to move up and get Best. Considering McCluster’s production in his career, that has to sting.

Best value pick: Young. For a seventh-round selection, Young turned into a starter and a productive player last season for the Lions. He played in 48 games for Detroit, made 72 tackles and had six sacks. While those numbers might not stand out, consider he had 47 of those tackles and three of those sacks last season in his first significant action. If the Lions were able to get this type of production out of a sixth- or seventh-round pick every season, they would end up being a much better franchise. These are the types of picks that pan out for good teams more often than not. Young is no longer a Lion, having signed a three-year, $9 million deal with Chicago last month. It will be interesting to see if Young continues to develop into the player he was rounding into during his final season with the Lions.

One pick I’d change (other than the worst one): Considering Victor Cruz, Sam Shields, Joique Bell, Chris Ivory and LeGarrette Blount all went undrafted, I would flip Detroit’s pick of Mr. Irrelevant for 2010 -- Toone -- and draft Bell. While that might seem nice in hindsight (although of those players, Cruz and Shields are better than Bell), he would have been a good local angle for the team to select since he played at Wayne State and ended up in Detroit anyway.

Draft grade overall: D. If that seems harsh, look at it from the perspective of now. The Lions have one pick left on the roster from that draft. Three picks -- Best, Spievey and Toone -- are out of the league. Fox couldn’t stay healthy even when he won the right tackle job last season and signed a veteran minimum deal with Miami this offseason to prove he can be healthy. Young, a seventh-rounder, ended up being the clear second-best pick in that draft. If Suh or Young hadn’t panned out, this would have been an F.
Over the last two weeks, we took a look at the last 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 as 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 garner 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.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Rodger Mallison/Getty ImagesThe Lions scored a hit with Matthew Stafford -- the top overall pick of the 2009 draft.
Complete draft (pick number in parentheses): Round 1 -- Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia (1); Round 1 -- Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State (20); Round 2 -- Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan (33); Round 3 -- DeAndre Levy, LB, Wisconsin (76); Round 3 -- Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State (82); Round 4 -- Sammie Hill, DT, Stillman (115); Round 6 -- Aaron Brown, RB, TCU (192); Round 7 -- Lydon Murtha, OT, Nebraska (228); Round 7 -- Zack Follett, LB, California (235); Round 7 -- Dan Gronkowski, TE, Maryland (255).

Picks left on the 2014 roster: 3 (Stafford, Pettigrew, Levy)

Picks left in the NFL at the end of the 2013 season: 5 (Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas, Levy, Hill)

Best pick: Stafford. This might seem like the easy selection, but in his first five seasons in the league he has set franchise records and actually become the best Lions quarterback since Bobby Layne. Of course, that's not exactly a high bar considering the motley group of quarterbacks between Layne and Stafford, but he is a strong-armed quarterback who turned out to be, by far, the best quarterback in his draft class.

Thus far in his career, Stafford has thrown for 17,457 yards, 109 touchdowns and 73 interceptions. While his accuracy (career 59.5 percent passer in the regular season) and decision-making are still major questions for him entering his sixth season with the Lions, the team has completely committed to him after giving him a massive contract extension prior to the 2013 season. For better or for worse, Detroit will be at the mercy of the play of its newly-engaged quarterback.

Worst pick: Williams. The third round pick signed a three-year deal with the Lions when he was drafted out of Penn State and didn't even it make it to the end of his first contract before being released. Williams played in 18 games during his two seasons with the Lions and caught nine passes for 82 yards. He never caught a touchdown. Even more telling -- he only had 17 targets and only 14 yards after the catch in his career.

Best value pick: Levy. The No. 76 overall pick, Levy took a step this season toward becoming one of the top linebackers in the NFL. He had 118 tackles in 2013 -- the second time in his career he topped the 100-tackle mark -- and also had six interceptions. He was Detroit's second-best defensive player in 2013 behind Ndamukong Suh and appears to be heading into the prime of his career. He graded out as the seventh-best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league this season by Pro Football Focus and the third-best in pass coverage. Considering the mess that was the 2009 draft, if teams were to re-draft today, Levy could have been a late first-rounder in 2009.

One pick I'd change (other than the worst one): This one will be a little bit shocking, mostly because it is a higher pick and not fixing part of the Lions' late round miscues this season. If I had to switch one pick in this draft, it would have been taking Jairus Byrd over Delmas in the second round. This has little to do with Delmas' production as he was a good player for the Lions and a starter during his time with the tea,. Rather, Byrd went less than 10 slots later and has turned into a Pro Bowler who was too expensive for Detroit during free agency. He would have offered more stability at the position than Delmas did and would have been healthier as well.

Draft grade overall: B. Detroit got four starters out of this draft class -- Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas and Levy -- and a contributor for four seasons in Hill. That's not terrible out of a 10-pick class where four of those picks were sixth or seventh round selections. The Lions ended up hitting on their first four picks in that draft with those four starters. Detroit should want that type of success rate every draft. The reason the grade on this draft is not higher is because none of the starters have made a Pro Bowl yet or been named All-Pro. But they have been solid starters and two of those players, Stafford and Levy, could end up at that elite level soon.

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