The NFL’s Top Ten “Farm Systems”–#10: Detroit Lions

In the spirit of baseball season, I decided to take a look at who I thought had the best “farm systems” in the NFL today. If you are not familiar with baseball lingo, a farm system is basically all of the minor league teams combined, and the prospects that make up those teams. So, obviously then, a team with the best farm system has the best young prospects in the NFL.

It doesn’t quite work the same in the NFL, actually not at all. In fact, you would probably have to consider the college game itself the NFL’s version of a farm system, and even then teams don’t own the rights to any players specifically. However, for this particular instance, the criteria required to qualify as a player in a team’s “farm system” will be three years experience or less, and the teams with what I feel have the best players in their “farm system” qualify.

We begin today with the Detroit Lions, who despite a barrage of injuries at the quarterback position managed to finish in third place in the NFC North, which put out the top two teams in the NFC last season (Chicago, Green Bay). Detroit has long been the butt of jokes in the NFL, but they are finally a team on the rise. With another good draft in 2011, they could even be a wild card contender in the NFC, provided some key players stay healthy. So how about their “farm system?”

Top Ten Prospects for the Detroit Lions

1. Ndamukong Suh, DL

Dominant young defensive tackle prospect, couldn’t have asked for a better rookie season/coach pairing with Jim Schwartz. Incredible athlete with fantastic drive. 66 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT, 3 PD as a rookie. Kid has a bright future as a perennial All Pro.

2. Matthew Stafford, QB

When healthy, I think Stafford gives the Lions another dimension completely. He can really sling the ball, and he has good mobility. He has undoubtedly shown flashes of why the Lions took him #1 just two years ago.

3. Jahvid Best, RB

If the Lions can get a capable back to pair with Best, he could be the next great thing in the NFL. You saw the impact Chris Johnson has had in Tennessee, and Best is capable of similar things. Over 1,000 all-purpose yards as a rookie, and six total touchdowns.

4. Brandon Pettigrew, TE

Really came on as a consistent receiving threat late last season and should be one of the better tight ends in the NFL this year. Breakout season included 71 receptions, 722 yards, and four touchdowns despite the addition of Tony Scheffler.

5. Louis Delmas, S

Hard hitting safety, the kind of guy you want to build your secondary around. 84 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles to follow up a stellar rookie season.

6. DeAndre Levy, LB

Despite missing five games, totaled 72 tackles, two interceptions (one for TD), and four passes defensed. Could be a nice building block for the LB corps going forward.

7. Amari Spievey, DB

Question about Spievey right now is–what position will he play? He played both cornerback and safety for the Lions, but it appears his future is at free safety. 51 tackles, 2 INT, and 3 passes defensed in his up-and-down rookie season.

8. Ashlee Palmer, LB

At worst, Palmer will be a valuable special teams player and backup at linebacker. Last season, he had 55 tackles and an outstanding five forced fumbles for the Lions. This is a team that needs an upgrade at linebacker, but he can at the very least provide depth.

9. Jason Fox, OL

4th round pick in 2010, Fox will go into camp looking to take over the left tackle position. Very athletic, 6’7″ 300+ pound guy with a ton of upside. one of the hottest risers before the 2010 NFL Draft.

10. Sammie Lee Hill, DL

Massive DT prospect who has the athleticism to succeed in Schwartz’s defensive scheme. The reason I like him as a prospect is for that reason alone if nothing else. The coaching he will receive in Detroit will be the best in the NFL, in my opinion.

Honorable Mention:  Stefan Logan, RS

As you can clearly see, the Lions have quite a bit of young talent, and many players at key positions. The one are of the team that needs an infusion of youth right away is at cornerback, and then they should look to follow up shortly after with help on the interior offensive line and at linebacker. Another big receiver to go along with Calvin Johnson wouldn’t hurt, and if Kevin Smith cannot return to form, a running back as well.

The building blocks for this team:

Offense: Matt Stafford, QB

Defense: Ndamukong Suh, DL

Playmaker: Jahvid Best, RB

Topics: 2011 NFL Draft, Detroit Lions, Top NFL Prospects

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