Detroit Lions: first round review

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

Ansah
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.
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 -- he was certainly part of the group that helped influence what happened with the Lions.

In 2012, Mayhew actually got a chance to do something rare in Detroit: Have a pick that belongs to a playoff team. He spent his first three seasons as the team’s general manager in the top half of the draft and two of those seasons in the Top 2 of the draft for at least one pick. This would be the only time the team has picked lower than 13th with their first pick in his tenure to date.

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

The pick: No. 23

Reiff
Reiff
The player selected: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

The player’s credentials at the time: Reiff was rated as the No. 18 player on the ESPN.com board and as the No. 2 offensive tackle behind USC’s Matt Kalil. While there was some concern he could be a dominant left tackle, there was little doubt he could play right tackle in the NFL fairly quickly. His Scouts.com profile lauded his durability and described him as “above average” in pass protection, run blocking, awareness and toughness.

Who else was available at pick No. 23: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama; Nick Perry, LB, USC; Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame; Doug Martin, RB, Boise State.

Did the pick make sense at the time: Yes. Detroit knew Jeff Backus was getting up in years and much like they might do with Dominic Raiola this season, needed to find someone to groom as his replacement. The team had also not selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 2008, when they picked Gosder Cherilus from Boston College.

Did he end up being a good pick: Yes. Reiff was part of one of the top offensive lines in football last season. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed seven sacks, eight quarterback hits and 34 quarterback hurries in his first season as the team’s left tackle and a full-time starter. Those numbers were in the middle of the pack for tackles, according to PFF.

Who should the Lions have taken at No. 23: One could argue for Martin or Smith considering the issues the Lions ended up having at running back and safety during the 2012 season, but Reiff has worked out nicely for Detroit thus far. He started every game at left tackle last season and looks like he could be the team’s future blocking Matthew Stafford's blind side.

What can Detroit learn from this: If you have needs or potential needs down the road, fill them if you can to allow apprenticeship. Not too much to criticize or learn from here. It might be too soon to see if the Reiff pick really pans out or not for the Lions.
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 -- he was certainly part of the group that helped influence what happened with the Lions.

In 2011, Mayhew's first season with only one first round selection, he took a gamble on a ridiculously athletic defensive tackle from Auburn who could have become a dominant pairing with his 2010 first round pick. While that didn't work out quite as Mayhew had hoped, he didn't draft a complete bust as Nick Fairley has still been occasionally productive for the Lions.

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

The pick: No. 13

Suh
The player selected: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

The player's credentials at the time: Fairley won the 2010 Lombardi Award and set Auburn records for sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (24). He was the Associated Press' SEC defensive player of the year and named a first-team All-American by multiple outlets. In two seasons with the Tigers, he had 88 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and three fumble recoveries.

Who else was available at pick No. 13: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina; Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue; Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois; Cameron Jordan, DE, California; Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska.

Did the pick make sense at the time: The Lions selecting Fairley a year after taking Ndamukong Suh in the first round ended up being somewhat of a surprise, but the logic behind the move for the Lions was trying to build one of the more dominant defensive fronts in the NFL. Fairley was and still is a freakish athlete who -- when he plays to his potential -- could be better than Suh. He won the Lombardi Award, so he was clearly a talented individual.

Did he end up being a good pick: Debatable. When Fairley has been motivated, he has been one of the better defenders the Lions have had. Combined with Suh, they form the dominant pair in the middle the team had hoped for. But Fairley can also disappear for games and has not looked worthy of the first round pick during these absences. That the team is trying to use not picking up his fifth-year option as an incentive speaks to how much the team feels like he needs to be motivated. He has 84 career tackles in 38 games, including 12.5 sacks.

Amukamara
Who should the Lions have taken at No. 13: Although Fairley has not been a bad player for the Lions, they probably should have gone a different direction in retrospect. Considering the team's issues in the secondary, Amukamara might have been the better pick in the first round, especially as he blossomed with 85 tackles last season. The smartest pick, though, would have been to stay on the defensive line and take Quinn from North Carolina. He has turned into one of the best defensive ends in football with 19 sacks last season and 34.5 in his career. Even if the Lions wanted to steer away from Quinn because of what happened with Mike Williams, who also sat out his final season before the 2005 draft, the team would have been better off taking Kerrigan from Purdue. He has 24.5 sacks in his first three years and has made 184 tackles. He's also played in every game of his career.

What can Detroit learn from this: This was somewhat of a gamble pick and while it has yet to pan out as the potential game-changing pick it was trying to be, it was a decent chance for the Lions to take. Yes, the team could have gotten a more productive, consistent player, but if Fairley can finally discover his motivation and reach that potential, he becomes a better pick than any other player the team could have taken.
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 -- he was certainly part of the group that helped influence what happened with the Lions.

In 2010, the Lions once again had a top-five selection and by the end of the first round ended up having two first round picks for the second season in a row. It would also feature the first first-round selection under Mayhew’s watch that wouldn’t work out for Detroit in the long run.

Past years: 2005; 2006; 2007; 2008; 2009

Suh
The picks: No. 2; No. 30

The player selected: No. 2 -- Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska; No. 30 -- Jahvid Best, RB, California

The player’s credentials at the time: Suh was arguably the best overall college player in the country in 2009. He won the Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik Awards and was named the Associated Press’ College Player of the Year. He was a rare defensive Heisman Trophy finalist. In his career, he had 215 tackles, 57 tackles for loss and 24 sacks. He also had 38 career quarterback hurries and broke up 15 passes. There was little question he would be one of the, if not the first, non-quarterback taken in the draft.

Best
Best had an electrifying college career when he was healthy. He gained 2,668 yards rushing in three seasons and had 29 touchdowns. He also caught 62 career passes for 533 yards according to ESPN Stats & Information. It was his speed and explosiveness, though, that made him an attractive prospect. He is the type of player, had he not had a history of injuries, that might have gone much higher in the first round.

Who else was available at pick No. 2: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma; Eric Berry, S, Tennessee; Joe Haden, CB, Florida; C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson; Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State.

Who else was available at No. 30: Chris Cook, CB, Virginia; Dexter McCluster, RB, Ole Miss; T.J. Ward, S, Oregon; Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona.

Did the picks make sense at the time: Yes. Suh was the best defensive player in the draft and arguably the best overall player. Detroit did not need a quarterback -- it had drafted Matthew Stafford the season before -- so taking Sam Bradford was not going to happen. Suh was the first defensive player in a while to really make a run at the Heisman Trophy and his ability with the Cornhuskers was devastating. The Lions traded back into the first round to pick up Best, who was the shifty, catch-out-of the-backfield running back then-offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wanted for his offense. The biggest concern with him then -- and it proved to be a major concern -- was his history with injuries, specifically concussions. But from a talent perspective, Best was a smart pick.

Did they end up being good picks: Yes and no. Suh, as expected, developed into one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL and has become the anchor of the Detroit defense since 2010. The biggest issue with him throughout his career has been his fines and then his brief suspension for stomping on Evan Dietrich-Smith in 2011. But there is little doubt Suh became a valuable piece for Detroit and remains so entering the final season of his rookie contract. Best, on the other hand, ended up not working out at all, especially in a trade-up scenario. He couldn't stay healthy and is already out of the NFL because of concussions. He is currently suing the NFL.

Who should the Lions have taken at No. 2: The team made the right call here. Suh was the intelligent selection and the right selection both for what the team was trying to build defensively and also from a best player available standpoint. They would continue to take Suh in this position every single time they drafted.

Who should the Lions have taken at No. 30: One of two things would have made sense here. Either don’t trade up to grab Best and take a running back at your next draft pick. Or, if they were going to trade up, select McCluster instead of Best. While McCluster has also had some injuries since joining the NFL, he's still in the league, which is the first bonus there. Second, he would have been the perfect type of back for Detroit in that scenario -- and would have also gave the team a dynamic returner. Frankly, he would have ended up as the smarter selection and probably could have given the Lions even better production than he gave Kansas City considering the other weapons he would have had with the Lions.

What can Detroit learn from this: Again, a two-pick first round won't teach Detroit much with this draft, but the over-arching lesson from Best is to be wary of taking players with massive injury histories -- particularly an injury history with concussions.
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 selected: No. 1 -- Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia; No. 20 -- Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State.

Stafford
Stafford
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.

Who else was available at pick No. 1: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC; Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest; B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College; Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU.

Who else was available at No. 20: Alex Mack, C, California; Percy Harvin, WR, Florida; Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss; Clay Matthews, LB, USC; Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina.

Pettigrew
Pettigrew
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.
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.

In 2008, Mayhew's final draft as assistant general manager before being promoted, the Lions were 7-9 and apparently headed in the right direction with Rod Marinelli. They didn't know they would be an 0-16 team by the end of that season and both Millen and Marinelli would be gone. They didn't know the entire team would end up being restructured. Over the next two weeks, we'll look at the first-round picks in each year for the Lions, who else would have been available and whether that pick ended up being a good call.

Past years: 2005; 2006; 2007

Pick: No. 17

Player selected: Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College

Player's credentials at time: Cherilus could play both left and right tackles and was a four-year starter at Boston College and a team captain. He was one of the top tackles in the draft and the Lions were somewhat light at the position. His NFL.com profile leading into the draft questioned his ability at left tackle in its pre-draft profile of him as well as his ability to shift directions. They viewed him as a right tackle instead of a left tackle in the NFL.

Who else was available at time of pick: Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware; Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas; Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois; Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina; Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida; Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech; Matt Forte, RB, Tulane; DeSean Jackson, WR, California.

Did pick make sense at time: Not really. The Lions needed offensive line help, but their pass defense was atrocious and Talib was considered one of the top cornerbacks in the country that season. Cherilus was a good prospect but the Lions could have filled a bigger need and done better.

Did it end up being a good pick: Kind of. Cherilus was a full-time starter by midway through his rookie year and stayed there throughout his time with the Lions, which lasted until the end of the 2012 season. He was with Indianapolis last year. But considering the issues Detroit had defensively and Marinelli's reputation as a defensive-minded coach, the team should have gone elsewhere with the pick.

Who should the Lions have taken: Talib. The Lions were 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2007 (258.19) and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 70.1 percent of their passes against Detroit. They also allowed 32 touchdown passes and intercepted only 17 passes. The secondary was in dire need of attention. Of course, there were character issues with Talib entering the draft, so it is somewhat understandable why Detroit would have passed on him at that point, but Mike Jenkins was also available. He might have been a reach at the time, but the Lions needed some sort of defensive help.

What can Detroit learn from this: Don't always go with offense. This, like in 2005, is an important lesson for Detroit -- something the team has appeared to learn in recent years. They drafted a decent player who was a solid starter for them in Cherilus, but they could have solved a need and possibly prevented the 2008 debacle that followed if they had focused on a defensive player in the first round of the 2008 draft.
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 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 Mayhew was certainly part of the group that helped influence what happened with the Lions.

In 2007, Mayhew’s third year as assistant general manager, the team was coming off a 3-13 season with a strong-armed quarterback but not much offense. Over the next two weeks, we'll look at the first-round picks in each year for the Lions, who else would have been available and whether or not that pick ended up being a good call.

Past years: 2005; 2006

The pick: No. 2

The player selected: Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech

Johnson
The player’s credentials at the time: Johnson was the best player in the draft and one of the top receiver prospects to come out of college in a long time. He was a unanimous All-American and was the Biletnikoff winner in 2006. His numbers weren’t otherworldly -- mostly because he played with quarterback Reggie Ball -- but he still set Georgia Tech records in receiving yards (2,927) and touchdowns (28).

Who else was available at the pick: Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin; LaRon Landry, S, LSU; Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma; Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss; Marshawn Lynch, RB, California; Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh.

Did the pick make sense at the time: Yes. No doubt. The Lions needed offense and saw a transcendent player available at the No. 2 pick in an insanely talented top of the first round of the NFL draft. Johnson was the safe play, the smart play and the right play.

Did it end up being a good pick: Absolutely. Johnson has turned into one of the top receivers in NFL history and could end up holding many NFL records by the time his career ends. He has topped 1,000 receiving yards the past four seasons and surpassed 1,400 yards the past three. He has 572 catches for 9,328 yards and 67 touchdowns. He has also turned into the face of the Detroit Lions and one of the most consistent players in the game.

Who should the Lions have taken: Johnson. No question about that. Had Adrian Peterson not been coming off injury, maybe the Lions would have considered taking him instead, but either way they would have had a dynamic player who would eventually be considered among the all-time greats at his position. That said, the Lions made the smart and correct call in drafting Johnson. It is the best first-round draft pick the team has made in the past decade.

What can Detroit learn from this: Don’t overthink anything. Take the player that makes the most sense. In 2007 that was Johnson. Though it is unlikely there is a player like that available at No. 10 this season -- even in a deep draft -- if someone who has that high level of skill happens to fall to Detroit, take him regardless of positional need. Good coaches find ways to make use of their best talent, and if the Lions feel they have a good coach in Jim Caldwell, they should be able to do that.
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 -- he was certainly part of the group that helped influence what happened with the Lions.

In 2006, Mayhew’s second year as assistant general manager, the team was breaking in a new coach, Rod Marinelli. Over the next two weeks, we'll look at the first-round picks in each year for the Lions, who else would have been available and whether that pick ended up being a good call.

Past years: 2005

The pick: No. 9

Sims
The player selected: Ernie Sims, LB, Florida State

The player’s credentials at the time: He started 24 straight games at Florida State and was a difference-maker at linebacker. He was one of the semifinalists for the Butkus Award and had 72 tackles in 2005, his junior season. Listed at 5-foot-11 1/2 and 231 pounds with a 4.5 40-yard dash time, his combine credentials weren't blistering, but they didn't deter Matt Millen from selecting him.

Who else was available at the pick: Matt Leinart, QB, USC; Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt; Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon; Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa; Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State; Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State; DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis.

Did the pick make sense at the time: Yes. The Lions had a new coaching staff coming, which was led by a defensive mind, Rod Marinelli, and Detroit needed massive help on both offense and defense. Considering Marinelli’s background, it made sense he would go defense with his first pick. Sims was a linebacker who many believed could play every down in the NFL. He filled an absolute need at the time.

Did it end up being a good pick: He was. He played all but five games during his four seasons in Detroit, accumulating 418 tackles with 2.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. He was an effective player for the Lions before the team traded him to acquire Tony Scheffler. Sims has continued his career as he just finished his eighth season in 2013, making 41 tackles for Dallas.

Who should the Lions have taken: In retrospect, probably Cutler. The now-Chicago quarterback has turned into a franchise quarterback and could have offered stability at the position for Detroit that wouldn’t come for another four-to-five years with Matthew Stafford. But considering the Lions’ defensive issues, either Sims or Ngata would have been the smart pick at the time with a possibility of Greenway.

What can Detroit learn from this: Not much. While the Lions didn’t have Sims for a long time, he was a productive player for Detroit when he was on the field. Few players could have succeeded at that point in Detroit with a roster that ended up bottoming out with the 0-16 season in 2008. That wasn’t on Sims, as the rest of his career has proven. While grabbing a quarterback here could have helped, he was still in the range of the right selection.
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 -- he was certainly part of the group that helped influence what happened with the Lions.

For that reason, we start our first round review with the year 2005, the first draft Mayhew would have been intimately involved in with the Lions. Over the next two weeks, we'll look at the first round picks in each year for the Lions, who else would have been available and whether or not that pick ended up being a good call.

The pick: 10th

The player selected: Mike Williams, WR, USC

The player's credentials at the time: Williams was a star at USC. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, he had 176 catches for 2,579 yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons with the Trojans. He tried to declare for the NFL draft after his sophomore season and hired an agent after a lawsuit by Maurice Clarett seemed to abolish the rule where draft-eligible players had to be out of high school for three seasons. When the initial ruling was overturned, Williams tried to be reinstated to USC for his junior season and the NCAA denied that petition.

Still, Williams was one of the top players in his class and one of the top wide receivers in the country. Yet Millen apparently didn't want to draft Williams in 2005, as his son said during the NFL Network's “A Football Life” special on Millen.

Who else was available at the pick: DeMarcus Ware, LB, Troy; Shawne Merriman, LB, Maryland; Aaron Rodgers, QB, California; Heath Miller, TE, Virginia.

Did the pick make sense at the time: If the Lions wanted to construct a dynamic offense, yes. Williams was a freakish athlete with immense skills and could have caused major headaches for opposing secondaries -- think what Chicago has now with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. But as Millen's son said in "A Football Life," his father also liked Ware, who was a pass-rusher with his own set of freakish skills.

Did it end up being a good pick: No. Not even close. Williams had 127 catches for 1,526 yards and five touchdowns in his five seasons in the NFL, less numbers than he put up in his two seasons at USC. He had more than 500 yards receiving in a season only once -- 2010 in Seattle -- and that was the only year where he caught more than one touchdown pass. For a top 10 pick, Williams did not pan out at all for Detroit or anyone else who signed him.

Who should the Lions have taken: While hindsight would have said Rodgers would have been the obvious player to take, the team was still committed to Joey Harrington after drafting him with the No. 3 pick in 2002. He had also come off his best statistical season, throwing for 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions -- the only time in his career where he would throw for more scores than picks. But Harrington appeared to be slowly improving.

Millen would have been correct in taking Ware, who has made 576 tackles and had 117 sacks since being drafted by Dallas with the No. 11 pick in 2005 -- one slot after the Lions passed on him. Ware made seven Pro Bowls, was named first-team All-Pro four times and was the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

What can Detroit learn from this: This draft could actually provide a smart blueprint for Detroit in regard to May's draft. The Lions are flirting with taking a wide receiver -- perhaps Texas A&M's Mike Evans -- to pair with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate in hopes of creating a dynamic offense. But the Detroit defense is full of positions in need of upgrades, and if there is a player who can make an impact on defense -- like linebacker Anthony Barr from UCLA, defensive tackle Aaron Donald from Pitt or cornerback Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State -- available at No. 10, upgrading the defense should be the priority over adding to the offense that early. If the Lions had taken Ware, the team's entire last decade might have changed.

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