NFL Nation: Titus Young

As news of the Detroit Lions' roster moves trickled out Saturday, I saw a plenty of references on Twitter to Martin Mayhew's drafts over the past five years. The Lions' cutdown to 53 included three more of Mayhew's draft picks, leaving 21 of his 38 picks over the span of five drafts still on the roster.

(I was a bit off in the wee hours of Saturday night with some of those figures.)

I tweeted out that number with no context. Many of you asked the fair question: What does that number mean? How does it compare to other teams and general managers?

[+] EnlargeMartin Mayhew
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioMore than half of the players that Lions GM Martin Mayhew has drafted in the past five years are still on the team's roster.
For the most part, I think it's difficult to find an apples-to-apples comparison because of the varying team-building philosophies in the NFL. Some teams value quantity of draft picks, leading to higher raw numbers. Some general managers start off with better rosters than others, impacting the chances of draft picks making the team. You could make the argument that undrafted rookie signings should fall into the same category. There is also the question of quality: who is starting and who is a backup? We could go on.

So what I decided to do is draw up a comparison between the Lions/Mayhew and the team that most NFL observers consider the most draft-driven in the league. I think we can all agree that under general manager Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers have almost exclusively built through the draft -- especially during the most recent five-year period that matches up with Mayhew's tenure with the Lions.

By no means will this look be exhaustive, but let's run through some basics here:

  • The Packers' roster as of Sunday morning includes 26 of the 44 players they drafted between 2009-2013. That does not include two first-round picks, lineman Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod, who are on various injury-related lists. Still, that's 59 percent. The Lions' percentage on the 21-of-38 figure is 55.2 percent.
  • The Packers' likely 24-man starting lineup (including kickers) features 11 players Thompson has drafted in the past five years. (Seven more were drafted between 2005-08.) The Lions' likely lineup also includes 11 Mayhew draft picks. (Two others were drafted before 2009.)
  • So in total, regardless of time period, the Packers drafted 18 of their 24 starters. The Lions have drafted 13.
  • The Packers' 53-man roster includes a total of 34 players they once drafted. That works out to 64 percent. The Lions' includes 23, or 42 percent.

So what do we make of all this? In some cases, frankly, I was surprised to see the numbers as close as they were. No team is more committed to the draft than the Packers, and their roster hit rate in recent years hasn't been much better than the Lions'. The biggest distinction might be in depth: The Packers have 16 backup players that they have drafted, while the Lions have 10.

I would agree that Mayhew's drafts have fallen short in some areas. The Lions haven't had a good success rate in turning mid-to-late-round draft picks into solid backups and special-teams players. In fact, only three players taken below the second round between 2009-11 are still with the team.

It's also true that a few of Mayhew's high-profile risks have blown up, most notably running back Jahvid Best and receiver Titus Young. (Best had a concussion history in college, while Young was considered a character concern by many teams.)

But like many things, you can probably find a combination of figures to support any argument you wish to make. What this exercise helps us realize is that every team has draft failures, no team hits on all of them and there are various mitigating circumstances.

In this era, the responsibility for success of draft picks doesn't fall solely on the general manager. The speed with which these players are often asked to contribute puts a premium on development from coaches, something I think Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his staff deserve credit for. Consider this: 51 of the 53 players on the Packers' current roster have never taken a snap for another NFL team.

The Lions' roster was so bare when Mayhew took over in 2009 that it should have been easier for his draft picks to make the team than it was for, say, the Packers'. I get that argument. In the end, however, it's a lot more difficult than it sounds.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the one move each team in the NFC North needed to make but didn't.

Chicago Bears: General manager Phil Emery approached the draft with hopes of selecting a quarterback, and there were reports of the Bears privately working out North Carolina State's Mike Glennon. The plan made sense for a number of reasons. First, the team was bidding farewell to 2012 backup Jason Campbell. Second, new coach Marc Trestman is known as a quarterback guru and the Bears could benefit from having him develop a rookie. Third, starter Jay Cutler is entering the final year of his contract. Ultimately, however, the Bears couldn't justify using any of their six selections on a quarterback. For now, 2012 third-stringer Josh McCown is penciled in as Cutler's backup.

Detroit Lions: It sounded greedy, but a need at wide receiver existed all offseason. After releasing Titus Young and shepherding Ryan Broyles through his second ACL rehabilitation in as many years, the Lions don't have many sure things behind receiver Calvin Johnson. Veteran Nate Burleson participated in offseason practice but suffered a major leg injury last season. Mike Thomas remains on the roster after being acquired last year from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and several players have talked up the potential of first-year player Pat Edwards. The Lions tried to supplement via free agency, pursuing Darrius Heyward-Bey, among others, but in the end, they added no one of experience and drafted no one with major potential.

Green Bay Packers: Did the Packers do enough from a personnel standpoint to improve their defense against the type of run-heavy offenses that gave them trouble last season? We all know they worked hard on developing a better approach and scheme, even sending their defensive coaching staff to a college coaching clinic at Texas A&M. But they added only one notable player, first-round draft pick Datone Jones, to their front seven. They also hope that 2012 first-rounder Nick Perry can establish himself as an outside linebacker. The Packers are hoping to play a different way with largely the same players.

Minnesota Vikings: It's true that the Vikings chose a cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, with one of their three first-round draft choices, but it's still fair to question whether the team did enough to make up for the departure of slot cornerback Antoine Winfield in the offseason. Winfield had an excellent season in 2012 and was one of the underdiscussed reasons why the Vikings finished 10-6. The Vikings have what appears on paper to be a promising young core of cornerbacks, with Rhodes, Chris Cook and Josh Robinson. But none of them has played the nickel role that Winfield excelled at last season, and Cook has never been able to stay on the field.
Is former Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young suffering from a mental illness or is he just a bad person? The mere existence of that question is the topic of Tim Keown's thoughtful column on ESPN.com.

An excerpt:
The professional athlete suffering from mental illness has a much more difficult route to acceptance. From Jimmy Piersall to Metta World Peace to Royce White, the athlete isn't sick -- he's considered irresponsible. He is seen as being privileged to such an extreme degree -- paid to play a game translates to chosen by God in some circles -- that he can't possibly have feelings of depression or grandiosity or mania. If he does the things Young is accused of doing, it's because he's either entitled or -- America's favorite code word alert -- a thug.

You can read the entire column here.

When inside linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest 10 days after signing with the Baltimore Ravens, this told me that he wasn't committed to playing in the NFL. A month later, it looks like this was the case.

McClain abruptly announced his retirement at the age of 23, ending a bizarre 33-day career with the Ravens. Getting arrested three times in 11 months raises questions about character. But giving up on a career just three years after being the No. 8 overall pick in the draft raises questions about McClain's current state of mind.

Perhaps McClain realized his days in Baltimore were numbered when the Ravens traded up in the second round to draft Arthur Brown a month ago. Maybe McClain surmised no team was going to give him a third chance. Or it could be a case of McClain not caring any more. No one knows at this point.

McClain can call it retiring, but it's not. It's a retirement when 37-year-old Ray Lewis decides to leave the game. When 23-year-olds walk away, it's quitting. Plain and simple.

The hope is that McClain can somehow get his life in order. Based on his track record, leaving the game isn't the best decision. McClain struggled in a controlled and structured environment in the NFL. Beyond the arrests, he was suspended for two games seven months ago after an argument with his head coach. Now, McClain is on his own. You don't want to see another Titus Young, whose life has spiraled out of control since he was released by the Detroit Lions.

The Ravens will move on. Brown now has a clear path to start with McClain gone. The bigger question is what the future holds for McClain.
Gabe Carimi, Titus Young, Derek SherrodGetty ImagesGabe Carimi, Titus Young and Derek Sherrod are a few of the 2011 NFL draft picks who haven't quite panned out as planned for three NFC North teams.
A mere two years later, the 2011 draft is crumbling for most of the NFC North. At a time when it should be forming the nucleus of our respective teams, the class of '11 is instead causing some of our most gaping holes.

The futures of two first-round picks are in serious doubt, a second-round pick has already been waived amid a disastrous meltdown and only eight of the 30 players selected appear to have a reasonable chance to start in 2013.

Mistakes, bad luck and injuries have all contributed to this disaster, which we will detail below.

Chicago Bears
Total picks: 5
Picks remaining with team: 4
2013 projected starters: 2
Catastrophe: Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi (Round 1, No. 29 overall)
On the fence: Defensive tackle Stephen Paea (2-53)
Potential gem: Safety Chris Conte (3-93)
Final analysis: Carimi suffered a season-ending knee injury in his second game as a rookie and didn't appear fully recovered last season. He was benched after 11 starts at right tackle and moved to guard as an emergency measure. New Bears coach Marc Trestman indicated last month that his staff views Carimi as a guard, and Carimi has been working out on his own in Arizona ever since. Neither Trestman nor general manager Phil Emery were with the team when Carimi was selected, so there is no reason to think he is guaranteed a roster spot because of his draft status. Paea started 14 games last season, but has ceded any interior playmaking role to Henry Melton, whom the Bears franchised. Paea has 4.5 sacks and a total of 21 tackles in two seasons. You would hope for more from a second-round pick. Conte has been more than competent in 24 starts but has had trouble keeping his 6-foot-2 frame healthy. No matter how you look at it, the Bears didn't get a single impact player from this draft.

Detroit Lions
Total picks: 5
Picks remaining with team: 2
2013 projected starters: 1
Catastrophe: Receiver Titus Young (Round 2, No. 44 overall)
On the fence: Running back Mikel Leshoure (2-57)
Potential gem: Defensive tackle Nick Fairley (1-13)
Final analysis: Drafting Young is the biggest mistake general manager Martin Mayhew has made in his tenure. Young had a history of behavioral problems at Boise State and he flamed out midway through his second season, at the cost of about $2.6 million in salary and bonuses -- and not to mention a continuing hole at receiver. Leshoure lost his rookie year to a torn Achilles tendon and was suspended for two games last season because of two drug-related arrests. When he did play, Leshoure was the least explosive running back in the NFL. He'll almost certainly cede playing time to newcomer Reggie Bush in 2013. Fairley demonstrated how dominant he could be during a limited stretch late last season, notching four sacks in five starts, but needs to provide that kind of performance more consistently.

Green Bay Packers
Total picks: 10
Picks remaining with team: 6
2013 projected starters: 1
Catastrophe: Offensive lineman Derek Sherrod (Round 1, No. 32 overall)
On the fence: Running back Alex Green (3-96)
Potential gem: Randall Cobb (2-64)
Final analysis: The Packers hadn't found a position for Sherrod by the time he suffered a massive leg injury in Week 15 of his rookie season. Multiple fractures cost him the entire 2012 season and required additional surgery this spring. The Packers are hoping he can compete for their right tackle spot, but if he can't get back on the field 18 months after this injury, it will be fair to wonder if he ever will. Green tore his ACL midway through his rookie season and failed in an extended audition to be the Packers' No. 1 back last season. Drafting Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin suggests Green will need some good fortune to get anything close to that kind of opportunity again. A shoulder injury cost cornerback Davon House (4-131) a chance to win a starting job last summer, and he is now behind Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward on the depth chart. Cobb, on the other hand, led the Packers with 80 receptions for 954 yards last season and is developing into one of the NFL's most electric receivers. The Lions' choice of Young over Cobb will go down as one of the all-time draft gaffes in this division or elsewhere.

Minnesota Vikings
Total picks: 10
Picks remaining with team: 9
2013 projected starters: 4
Potential catastrophe: Quarterback Christian Ponder (Round 1, No. 12 overall)
On the fence: Safety Mistral Raymond (6-170)
Potential gem: Tight end Kyle Rudolph (2-43)
Final analysis: Ponder had a poor rookie year and was terribly inconsistent in his second season until pulling it together for a sharp four-game stretch to end it. He hasn't fallen to the level of Carimi, Sherrod or Young, but 2013 is still entering a make-or-break year for him. If Ponder falls short and needs to be replaced, the Vikings will have wasted three years developing their team around him. That qualifies as an unmitigated catastrophe. Although there are nine players remaining on the roster from this draft, Raymond and guard Brandon Fusco are the only other likely starters/contributors. Raymond seems to have the interest of coaches even after an injury-shortened season. Rudolph caught half of the Vikings' total touchdown passes last season (nine of 18) and was named MVP of the Pro Bowl. Ponder's development could make Rudolph into a dominant threat.
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In what appears to be a coincidence of timing, Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall appeared Monday on "NFL Live" to discuss treatment for mental illness at around the same time the father of former Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young was hinting that his son suffers from an unspecified mental disorder.

Richard Young told the Detroit News that Titus Young has a condition "caused by his brain being compressed into the front of his skull," according to the report. Titus Young has sought outpatient help at several treatment facilities and, according to the Detroit Free Press, has was prescribed a drug known as Seroquel. According to its website, the drug is used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among other conditions.

Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2011 and is now an advocate for treatment. He told ESPN host Trey Wingo that he reached out to Young several months ago to no avail.

"But months back, I wanted to get my hands on Titus, just sit down with him and possibly walk him into the doors of the same program I was in," Marshall said in the video. "But I think there were some things in the way that kept us both from moving forward. And I am disappointed in that because, since then, it's just gotten worse and one of the things I stress was without the proper treatment, it's just going to make things worse.

"So I'm praying for Titus and I know this can be a success story, but we need to embrace it and we also need to advocate for people in positions like this."

While I suppose everyone has had their own suspicions, this is the first public discussion of Titus Young potentially suffering from a mental illness. I'm sure some will wonder if Young's father is covering for simple immaturity from his son, but those who are familiar with mental illness know there is more gray than black or white when it comes to diagnosis. For Young's sake, you hope there is a deeper explanation for his behavior than simply bad decisions.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith cautioned everyone not to rush to judgment on Titus Young, the former Detroit Lions wide receiver who has been arrested three times in less than a week.

This is what Smith posted on Twitter on Monday:
"Prayers up for Titus right now...he is going thru something that seems easy outside looking in to handle...we don't know his problems"

Smith entered the league at the same time as Young. He was taken in the second round in 2011, 14 spots after the Lions drafted Young. Over the past two seasons, their numbers have been fairly similar. Smith has caught 99 passes for 205 yards and 15 touchdowns. Young has 81 receptions for 990 yards and 10 touchdowns.

That's where the similarities end. Smith is among the most respected players on the Ravens. He spent the early portion of this offseason working for a local politician. Young's life, however, is spiraling out of control.
It's hard to know what else to say about Titus Young, the disgraced former Detroit Lions receiver who has taken career flameout -- even for this franchise at that position -- to a new level.
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Young's third arrest in less than a week, this time for allegedly breaking into a California home, makes clear that his life has spiraled out of control.

There is no sense debating his future, at least not on a football blog, because his playing career is almost certainly over. And there's no sense criticizing the Lions any further for making Young a second-round draft choice in 2011; they admitted their mistake by releasing him as soon as league rules allowed it this winter.

Really, all you can say or hope is that Young gets himself straightened out, if not for his sake, then for the safety of the people he is encountering in his current state. As for us, how about we move on from further gawking at Young's demise? There's too many other good and interesting stories to draw our attention.
Jahvid Best, Titus Young, and Mikel Leshoure USA TODAY SportsJahvid Best, left, Titus Young, center, and Mikel Leshoure are among the recent draft picks by the Detroit Lions who have had their careers impacted by injuries and/or off-the-field issues.
The NFL's cyclical intent is never more apparent than draft time, when the worst teams from the previous season line up to select the best players entering the league. It is a time of renewed hope and realistic dreams for a better tomorrow. For the Detroit Lions, this year is also reason for reflection, nerves and perhaps some skittishness as well.

The Lions have the No. 5 overall pick when many of the draft's top prospects face physical or character issues. The situation isn't necessarily unique, but it draws further scrutiny to a franchise that has experienced a debilitating mix of bad luck and poor decisions in its recent drafts.

The Lions have drafted 29 players over the four-year tenure of general manager Martin Mayhew. Of that group, 11 -- about 38 percent -- have had their careers significantly sidetracked by injuries or disciplinary issues. That list, detailed in the chart, doesn't include quarterback Matthew Stafford, who missed 19 of his first 32 games because of shoulder injuries.



In many cases, those players had predictive histories. Receiver Titus Young had been suspended for behavior issues at Boise State. Tailback Jahvid Best suffered a violent concussion on the final play of his college career. Other setbacks, including running back Mikel Leshoure's ruptured Achilles tendon, could not reasonably be expected.

Still, as a whole, the Lions' recent draft performance is a worrisome backdrop for 2013. Utah State defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, the draft's No. 3 prospect according to Scouts Inc., was diagnosed with a heart condition at the NFL scouting combine. Linebacker Jarvis Jones, who might be the draft's top pass-rusher, was forced to transfer from USC to Georgia because of spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal cavity. Meanwhile, Alabama's Dee Milliner -- the draft's top cornerback -- is scheduled for surgery to repair a torn labrum. Another top linebacker, Georgia's Alec Ogletree, has been suspended for a failed drug test and arrested for DUI in the past year.

Medical and character evaluations are a part of every draft class. But if you're the Lions, and your recent list of issues is as long as the one in the chart, you have less room for error. With only six draft choices at their disposal at the moment, the Lions might have to reconsider their risk tolerance.

"Honestly," said Lions coach Jim Schwartz. "We've had guys that have had a history of injuries that got injured. We've had guys that have had a history of injuries that have made it through without getting injured. Injuries are a part of the landscape. And if you think because a guy hasn't been hurt before that he won't get hurt, you might be mistaken. If you discount a player because he's been hurt. …"

I can fill in where Schwartz left off. If you discount a player because he's been hurt, you're dramatically and unnecessarily limiting your pool of candidates.

"I think the biggest thing with injuries," Schwartz said, "is probably identifying things that are chronic, things that aren't going to get any better, things that he can rehab."

In 2013, the concussions Best suffered while playing at Cal would be considered chronic. In 2010, as we discussed last fall, they were not. Generally speaking, though, NFL people will tell you that players who were routinely injured in college will be routinely injured in the NFL. Offensive lineman Jason Fox, whose knee problems at Miami carried over to his rookie season in 2010, is an example. (The Lions hope Fox can compete for a starting job in 2013.)

Even so, injuries are a much more scientific evaluation than the type of character judgments the Lions have been forced to make in recent years. Four of the five players they drafted in 2011, for example, experienced disciplinary issues over the following year, from defensive tackle Nick Fairley's arrests to Young's insubordination to Leshoure's drug suspension.

Young lasted only two seasons before the Lions released him this month, but at the combine Mayhew said that was "a very unique situation" and added that he is "confident" in the process that led to drafting him. He also noted that new personnel executive Brian Xanders has helped make some changes in the Lions' combine preparation and interview process.

In the end, the Lions are almost certain during this draft to face the same type of decision they did with Fairley, Young, Best, Fox and others. And I agree: A risk-free approach isn't any more advisable than a high-risk one. But the Lions need to improve their batting average, and their high-profile position in this draft means no one will miss the result.

The Rams and new WR Titus Young

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Titus Young caught all nine passes thrown his way for 100 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner, during a Detroit victory against Seattle in 2012.

Yeah, the St. Louis Rams would take that kind of production against their division rival.


Recent evidence suggests they're unlikely to get it from Young, but they are willing to give the recently released receiver a chance, at least. They claimed Young off waivers from the Lions.

NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert recently wrote a post-mortem on Young's disappointing tenure with the Lions. The Lions benched Young early in the season after the receiver head-butted Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins during a game. Later, the team unofficially suspended Young for defying coaches. There has been more.

"Last month's bizarre set of tweets suggested Young has much work left to do," Seifert wrote. "Those of you who have been asking if the Minnesota Vikings, or any other team, should claim him are missing how serious of a situation he is in."

The Rams are bringing along young receivers in 2012 draft choices Chris Givens and Brian Quick. Adding a volatile young talent to the mix would seem to carry some risks. But the Rams can always release Young if the situation appears headed in the wrong direction. They're in the business of adding talent at receiver by any means necessary. They have a strong head coach, Jeff Fisher, who hasn't been afraid to draw a hard line with players, including when he benched Jenkins and Givens for a big game at San Francisco.

Young was the 43rd player chosen in the 2011 NFL draft. He caught 48 passes for 607 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. He caught 33 passes for 383 yards and four scores this past season.

Young ranks ninth in receiving yardage (990) among players drafted in 2011. Six players drafted lower than Young have more receiving yardage.

Still, Young clearly has talent. As a rookie, he caught 14 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown on third down alone. That's an 18.3-yard average.

It's telling that the Lions are releasing such a highly drafted player so quickly. The situation in Detroit had become untenable. Perhaps the Rams can do better with him.
As many of you have pointed out, the release of Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young pretty much wrapped up the "Have at It" debates we generated a few years ago about the best young receiver in the NFC North. (Hint: It wasn't Young.) It also opens the door for an inspection of the Lions' drafts under general manager Martin Mayhew, who took over the NFL's most barren roster when promoted to his current role after the 2008 season.

The chart shows the 20 Mayhew draft picks who remain on the roster. Eight were 2012 starters, and of the larger group, six are pending free agents whose return is at least uncertain.

On the whole, we can see that many of the Lions' best players are Mayhew draft picks, be it quarterback Matthew Stafford or defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh or even defensive tackle Nick Fairley. (Receiver Calvin Johnson was selected in 2007, the penultimate year of Matt Millen's tenure.) There have been some low-round hits, most notably 2010 seventh-rounder Willie Young, and two high-profile failures.

Young, of course, is one. The other is tailback Jahvid Best, whose complicated situation we discussed in depth last fall. Things have changed a lot since 2010, and given Best's history of concussions, it is highly unlikely he would be a first-round draft pick in 2013. The Lions gambled that Best's prior concussions wouldn't make him more susceptible to future ones, a passable projection three years ago that has since proved folly.

More than anything, Mayhew's drafts lack the kind of volume that would have been necessary to fully restock the Lions' roster over a four-year period. Compare their raw numbers to the recent drafts of the Green Bay Packers, who are the NFL's gold standard draft-and-develop program.

The Packers have 26 players on their roster from their past four drafts, including 14 who spent time as 2012 starters. In fact, the Packers had a former draft pick or undrafted free agent start at every position last season, including place-kicker and punter.

I won't suggest that the Lions have to match the Packers' draft practices to be successful. Good teams can be built in different ways. But as Mayhew approaches his fifth draft, we've already discussed the possibility of a defensive overhaul and noted that the team needs to beef up its depth at receiver, running back and offensive line as well. That's a long list of needs for a group that has been at this four years already.

Titus Young and Lions: Such a waste

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As the 43rd pick of the 2011 draft approached, the Detroit Lions zeroed in on a talented player they had identified for a specific role in their offense. The Lions wanted an explosive vertical threat who could capitalize on the chunks of yardage available for anyone playing opposite Calvin Johnson, and they believed Boise State's Titus Young was best suited for that role.

Young was drafted ahead of three other receivers in the round. Most of us who watched him over the past two years would agree he has the talent to rival Torrey Smith (No. 58 overall to the Baltimore Ravens), Greg Little (No. 59 to the Cleveland Browns) and Randall Cobb (No. 64 to the Green Bay Packers). In the end, however, Young will go down as arguably the worst mistake Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has made in his five-year tenure. Releasing him Monday was an obvious, inevitable and overdue move -- a stunning fall for a high second-round draft pick.

[+] EnlargeTitus Young
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesTitus Young, who played in 10 games this season for the Lions, was released by the team on Monday.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but it seems clear Mayhew underestimated the character issues that all teams were aware of prior to the 2011 draft. Young had been suspended in 2008 for behavior issues, and it wasn't difficult to find an NFL personnel man who privately expressed concern about his personality quirks.

Young's implosion included acts of violence and insubordination that you don't often see, even in a rough-and-tumble industry. His primary and known offenses -- sucker punching safety Louis Delmas last spring and reportedly lining up in the wrong position intentionally last December -- are not just examples of immaturity. They are signs of a troubled soul who isn't equipped at this point in his life of functioning in the NFL's high-pressure world.

I hope he spends some time getting his life together before pursuing a new NFL team. Last month's bizarre set of tweets suggested Young has much work left to do. Those of you who have been asking if the Minnesota Vikings, or any other team, should claim him are missing how serious of a situation he is in.

Is it fair to say Mayhew should have recognized those issues before the draft? Maybe not. But it is absolutely part of the business to hold him accountable for using a valuable asset, not to mention committing a $1.8 million signing bonus along with two years' worth of base salaries worth a total of $840,000, on a player who caused much more trouble than he did good in his short time. It would have been embarrassing to the franchise if the Lions keep him on the roster one day longer than required under NFL rules.

In the end, this episode leaves the Lions right back where they started in 2011. They need a receiver who is explosive enough to eat up the yards available when defenses focus on Johnson. The Lions have some hope that player could be Ryan Broyles, but he is recovering from his second torn ACL in as many years.

As wild as it sounds, wide receiver needs to be near the top of the Lions' list of draft priorities. By definition, that makes Young's two seasons in Detroit a total waste.
How eager were the Detroit Lions to release receiver Titus Young? They made him the NFL's first official move on the first day that rosters were unfrozen after the final game of the season. The team announced the move a few minutes ago, and I'll have some thoughts on the blog in a bit.
If half of the reports this season about receiver Titus Young were true, it's hard to understand why he is still on the Detroit Lions' roster. But if the Lions didn't cut him after he intentionally lined up wrong to improve his chance of getting the ball, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, it's hard to know what could finally compel the team to cut ties.

Will it be a bizarre set of tweets Young has sent from his verified Twitter account over the past 12 hours? I don't know. What is clear, however, is that Young is nowhere close to the mindset that would generate interest from another team in a trade or even a waiver pickup, much less inspire the Lions to bring him back in 2013.

It isn't clear what some of Young's tweets were referring to, most notably: " My first year I played football I was the best … It's true I could be a lot better, But wit the football My first year I was a captain Lol."

Was Young referring to his rookie year in 2011, when teammate Calvin Johnson caught 16 touchdown passes? I'm not sure. But there is no mistaking the meaning of this tweet: "To Be the best you gotta Beat the best #Me" or these:

"Like I said I never been selfish but if I'm not going to get the football i don't want to play anymore"

"Never have I ran the wrong route, just put my self where the ball was going."

So in summary, Young suggested he is "the best" and that he has "never been selfish," but implied he will retire if he isn't thrown the ball more often. He said he didn't run the "wrong route," but that of course doesn't address the accusation that he lined up in another player's position.

I realize Twitter is an instant glimpse into a moment of thought (or lack thereof), and shouldn't necessarily be considered canon of one's true beliefs. But for those of you who have been looking for updates on Young's situation, well, there you go.

Final Word: NFC North

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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 14:

Recent dominance: The Chicago Bears have won six consecutive games against the Minnesota Vikings, their last loss coming in 2009 when Brett Favre was the Vikings' quarterback. There might be some mild animosity directed at the Vikings' Jared Allen, whose illegal hit on guard Lance Louis two weeks ago ended Louis' season. But for the most part, the Bears should win this game if they can slow down Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson, who has put together the best four-game stretch (671 yards) in his career. The Bears actually held him to his least productive game over that period, 108 yards. The Bears are favored by three points and 11 of ESPN's 14 experts have picked them to win.

[+] EnlargeChristian Ponder
AP Photo/John FroschauerChristian Ponder has thrown for more than 200 yards in only one of the Vikings' past four games.
Last chance: The Vikings entered Week 12 with an opportunity to win the NFC North, but quarterback Christian Ponder struggled in games against the Bears and Green Bay Packers to largely scuttle those chances. Ponder has completed just over 50 percent of his passes for a total of 278 yards in those games, and another poor performance Sunday could send him to the bench in favor of backup Joe Webb. Coach Leslie Frazier left open that possibility this week by saying: "We believe that Christian is our number one and we've gone through offseason, training camp, during the season, now. That being said, if things get to a point where your number one is really costing you some situations that could preclude winning, you do have to do what's best for the football team." We'll see if Ponder can avoid that fate against a Bears team that won't have linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring) and probably cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder) as well.

Touchdown receptions: This game will feature two players with eight touchdown receptions, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall and Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. Each has their own statistically impressive story to tell considering the relative lack of production around them. The Bears have found a way to target Marshall more than any other NFL receiver on a percentage basis this season (39.2 percent of all throws). Marshall also leads the NFL in percentage of a team's receptions (41.9) and passing first downs (44.9). Rudolph, meanwhile, is the only NFL player to have caught more than half of his team's total touchdown passes (eight of 14). Marshall is tied for second at 50 percent (eight of 16). In both cases, it's awfully impressive for one player to continue to produce even when defenses know how limited their offenses have been.

Wisconsin's spell: There are a lot of historic numbers heading into Sunday night's game at Lambeau Field, and all of them favor the Packers. They have won 21 consecutive games against the Detroit Lions in the state of Wisconsin, including the playoffs. The Lions haven't won in Green Bay or Milwaukee since the 1991 season, the longest streak of consecutive road losses to one team in NFL history. The Packers have won 10 consecutive NFC North games, the longest current divisional streak in the NFL, and coach Mike McCarthy is 12-1 against the Lions in his tenure. Finally, the Packers are 19-6 all-time in Sunday night games, the best Sunday night winning percentage in the NFL. The Packers are seven-point favorites and all 14 ESPN experts have picked them to win.

Rebuilding at WR: The Lions will be playing without three of the top four receivers they entered the season with. Calvin Johnson remains on the field as he pursues Jerry Rice's record for receiving yards in a season, but Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles are all on injured reserve. Newcomer Mike Thomas likely will start next to Johnson, but expect the Lions to make heavy use of tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler in their multiple-receiver sets. Last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the Lions used multiple tight ends on 90.7 percent of their snaps. That was the Lions' highest percentage use of multiple tight ends in a single game, by far, over the past five years. The previous high during that period was 77.8 percent in Week 2 of 2010.

(Statistics courtesy ESPN Stats & Information unless otherwise noted.)

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