Nick Fairley was hurt early in the season, how does he look now?

Detroit Lions Rookie Review

I decided to ask around to the experts how the young players were progressing from different teams. I couldn’t think of a better subject than Zac Synder of the Side Lion Report, One of the fastest growing Lions blogs on the web. Here’s what he had to say.

1) They say it takes three years to truly evaluate a draft class. How is the 2009 Draft class looking?

This is a draft class that can be pinpointed as the most important step in rebuilding the Lions into a respectable team. Matthew Stafford is the most important piece of that draft as the number one pick overall and he has shown flashes of franchise quarterback potential. The Lions also hit on Brandon Pettigrew later in the first round thanks to the fleecing of Jerry Jones in the trade that sent Roy Williams to the Cowboys. Louis Delmas and DeAndre Levy have emerged as starting calibers players from the team’s second and third round picks. Sammie Hill is a solid rotational defensive lineman out of the fourth round and is unfairly overshadowed because of the other names along the Lions defensive front. The Lions got some value out of their seventh round choices too. Zack Follett was a budding special teams ace before a neck injury derailed his career and forced him into retirement and tight end Dan Gronkowski was traded for Alphonso Smith to provide depth in the Lions secondary.

2). Martin Mayhew seems to be aggressive in the draft, he has 11 picks the last two drafts combined. Do you think that eventually this policy of trading future picks to move and grab particular players could come back to bite the Lions?

Everything the Lions do in the draft is based on value. If they feel there is value in making a particular move, they will make it. They take a long-term perspective in all their decisions so they aren’t likely to mortgage the future for any get rich quick scheme but they aren’t going to hoard draft picks for the sake of having them. Mayhew and the organization value the draft but they make it clear that it is not the finish line. Improving the roster is a continual process. That focus will keep them from having any one decision come back to bite them.

3)   Bad luck with drafting running backs, no?

You could say that. Mikel Leshoure was drafted to be the compliment back to Jahvid Best and things haven’t worked out according to plan thanks to injuries. I’m of the belief that a lot of the Lions woes in the running game are a result of the line’s inability to run block but not having the personnel they thought they’d have at running back hurts that evaluation process.

4). What undrafted free agent seems like he might have a long term impact for the Lions?

Aaron Berry is the undrafted player currently in the best situation with the Lions. He made the team as an undrafted free agent last season and was the starting nickel back in week one. He intercepted a pass in that game but also suffered a season ending arm injury. He came back this week and is getting playing time but how he continues to develop will determine how big of an impact he can have.

5) Nick Fairley just made his first couple of appearances…how does he look?  Just to be reactionary  Would they still make that pick if the draft were today?

He is working his way back into things. He has the benefit of being part of a strong rotation rather than having to star right away so he doesn’t have to face ridiculous expectations. I absolutely believe the Lions would draft him all over again because he fits what they want to do with their defensive tackles and he was a value pick at 13th overall.

6) based on how the Lions are playing this year and taking into consideration their last two draft classes what are their 2012 draft needs?

- The offensive line has to be addressed based on age and talent so you would figure that would be high on the team’s list. Defensive lineman will always be targeted based on the organization’s philosophy and the rest of the defense could be bolstered with more depth. All this is merely an academic exercise, however. The Lions have shown pretty clearly that they draft for talent rather than basing their picks on a hierarchy of team needs.

7).  Anything else to add?

Draft fans might want to pick the Lions as a team to watch as next April approaches because the Lions are becoming one of those teams that is unpredictable in their approach to the draft. Their value based approach adds a wrinkle that typical draftniks might miss when filling out a mock draft or predicting what the Lions will do with a draft board in a particular situation. They won’t reach for a need and they are perfectly happy to add a solid player to a team strength.

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Tags: Detroit Lions Mikel Leshoure Nick Fairley

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