Detroit Lions: How Well Do They Draft?


The next team up in my series of reviewing and grading the 2006 through 2010 NFL Drafts is the Detroit Lions. The Lions have recently gone a transition from the terrible talent evaluator Matt Millen to the much respected Martin Mayhew, so that will probably be reflected in the draft grades. I’m not going to delay anymore let’s take a look at how the Lions have done since 2006, for players who have taken a snap in the N.F.L. One thing that I discovered while looking back over every pick of the recent Lions drafts is how often they’ve gone to the Nebraska Cornhuskers well.


1st round: Ernie Sims, LB, FSU

2nd Round: Daniel Bullocks, S, Nebraska

3rd Round: Brian Calhoun, RB,

5th Round: Jonathan Scott, T, Texas

6th Round: Dee MCann, CB, West Virginia

7th Round: Fred Matua, G, USC and Anthony Cannon, LB, Tulane

Still on the Lions Roster: NO ONE

Grade F- to the infinity.

This is the worst draft class I’ve graded. Not only was no one on the roster out of six picks, but on top of that only Ernie Sims was even on the team into 2009. That’s pretty awful. They basically got zero contribution out of this class minus Ernie Sims, and even he wasn’t that great on the roster.

Matt Millen is not very good (understatement).


1st Round: Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech

2nd Round: Drew Staton, QB, Michigan State,  Ikaika Alama-Francis, DE, Hawaii and Gerald Alexander, FS, Boise State

4th Round: A.J. Davis, CB, North Carolina State and Manny Ramirez, G, Texas Tech

5th Round: Johnny Baldwin, LB, Alabama A and M

7th Round:Ramzee Robinson, CB, Alabama

No Longer on the Lions Roster. Everyone except Staton  and Calvin Johnson

Ramirez and Alexander made over a combined 30 starts for the Detriot Lions and Ramirez played snaps with the Lions in 2010, but is now listed as being on the Dallas Cowboys roster.

Staton is a decent backup quarterback who has shown he can provide a spark when given the opportunity.

And then there is Megatron the crown jewel of this draft class. One of the top wide receivers in the National Football League. In his four years, Johnson has 33 TD receptions and has amassed more than 4,000 yards (4,191) at a 15.5 yards per reception clip. Johnson is a  beast and if Stafford stays healthy and improves, Johnson might put up even better numbers.

Grade C-

The Johnson pick is hard to weigh. Considering he was chosen so early in the draft and he was such a well regarded prospect it’s hard to mess it up. When you take a QB in the 2nd round, you want a starter, not a backup. The rest of the picks were pretty bad. I was going to give this draft a D, but pumped it up two slots (counting D+ as one slot) because of the Johnson pick.

2008 Draft:

1st round: Gosder Cherilus, T, Boston College

2nd Round: Jordan Dizon, LB, Colorado

3rd Round: Kevin Smith, RB, Cental Florida and Andre Fluellen, DE, FSU, also Cliff Avril, DE, Purdue

5th Round: Kenny Moore, WR, Wake Forest and Jerome Felton, FB, Furman

7th Round: Landon Cohen, DE, Ohio U and Caleb Campbell, DB, Army

No longer on the Lions Roster: Kenny Moore, Landon Cohen

Caleb Campbell was an inspirational pick, a player that was coming out of Army, but he didn’t get the chance to join the Lions until 2010 because he had to serve in the military. He got cut from the active roster before last season and placed on the practice squad. He was signed onto the active roster late in the 2010 N.F.L. season and had 3 tackles.

Jerome Felton and Andre Fluellen get on the field. Felton had 26 carries last year and Fluellen had 10 tackles and a sack. Lions fans were hoping that Dizon would have a breakout season, but he was placed on IR before the season. Dizon still has a chance to make an impact in the N.F.L., but so far for a second round pick he has been very disappointing.

First round pick, Gosder Cherilus was considered a reach when he was selected, and he has not been a great N.F.L. player. He does have 40 starts for the Lions over three seasons, but the Lions line is not well respected. Cherilus needs to show a lot more this year if he doesn’t want to be an average pick and borderline bust pick.

Kevin Smith is a plus receiver out of the backfield, but three years in his career, he is averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry. And the Lions spent first and second round picks in consecutive years (Best, LeShoure) which indicates they do not think Kevin Smith is the answer at running back. He only received 34 attempts this year in 6 games. In 2009, Smith had 41 receptions.

The pick of Cliff Avril could be considered a standout pick. Avril had 8.5 sacks last year on the Detroit Lions, and at least five sacks in every one of his seasons early in his career. Not surprisingly, after the draft Avril was considered the best value pick the Lions made. I’ll say this the rest of my life, but draft the best player available and fill needs in other ways. Three to five years down the road it looks silly if you pass on a stud, just to fill a need for a year or two with an average to below average N.F.L. player.

Grade: C

Every draft, you’re looking for three starters and some depth. The Lions got two starters. Avril has 8.5 sacks, but under 40 tackles in 13 starts which isn’t fantastic. He’s still a better than average DE though. That was good pick. Could any of the other picks be considered any better than average? Probably not.


1st Round: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia and Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State

2nd round: Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan

3rd Round: Deandre Levy, LB, Wisconsin and Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State

4th round: Sammie Lee Hill, DT, Stillman

6th round: Aaron Brown, RB, TCU

7th round: Lydon Murtha, T, Nebraska, Zach Follett, LB, California, and Dan Gronkowski, TE, Maryland

No longer on the Lions: Lydon Murtha, Dan Grownkowski.

Aaron Brown and Samie Lee Hill have a role on the Detroit Lions. Hill actually had 2.5 sacks last year from the defensive tackle position, which is not bad for a backup defensive tackle. Zack Follett was a nice surprise for the Lions, but suffered a neck injury on a special teams kickoff after colliding with Jason Pierre Paul of the New York Giants.  Brown had 17 carries last year, so nothing great, but it’s something. He has an uphill battle to make the roster this year though with the addition of Mikel LeShoure. Derrick Williams hasn’t been great: with 9 receptions over the last two seasons, though he has also been a return man.

What is making the mark in this class is the first few picks. I’ve said this a million times as well, but the majority of good N.F.L. starters get drafted in the first three rounds (1st two rounds even more so).

DeAndre Levy was probably the Lions best linebacker last year (not saying much). 72 tackles and 2 interceptions. He started the last 10 games of the season and his arrow is pointing up.

Louis Delmas is one of the top safeties in the entire league and a marvelous pick. He had 84 tackles, 2 sacks, and two forced fumbles. His numbers aren’t as great as one would hope, but a large part of that has to do with how poor the rest of the secondary and linebacker corps are. If Delmas played on a better defense, he could really shine. Good pick by the Lions.

I liked the Brandon Pettigrew pick when it was made and I still like it a lot now, but a lot of people didn’t like that the Lions passed up on offensive line help to get Pettigrew. Pettigrew had 71 receptions last year and four touchdowns and is a plus N.F.L. blocker. Pettigrew is one of the better all around tight ends in the entire league in my opinion.

What will make or break this draft class is the continued progression. He has all the talent in the world, but has only been able to play 13 games over the past two years. In that limited time he has flashed brilliance. He has 19 touchdowns and 1 INT in his young career, but had a 6:1 TD to INT ratio in 2010.

Grade B, but trending up

This grade can easily be an A if Stafford develops into a franchise quarterback. And here’s to hoping he can stay healthy to get a chance. The Lions have been bad a long time, but I’m rooting for them to get it together.


1st round: Nndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska and Jahvid Best, RB, Cal

3rd Round: Amari Spievey, CB, Iowa

4th round: Jason Fox, OL, Miami U

7th Round: Willie Young, DE, North Carolina State and Tim Toone, WR, Weber State

The Lions didn’t have a ton of draft choices in 2010 (6), but they tried to make the most of them.

Tim Toone has yet to register any statistics (games appeared).

Willie Young has played in 2 games in his short career and also not put himself on the “scoreboard”. No tackles or sacks.

Jason Fox appeared in four games last year and the Lions hope he can be the eventual replacement of Jeff Backus or push Cherilus out of a job as a good right tackle. Fox has good size at 6’7.

Amari Spievey looks to have a pretty bright future. He has decent size at 5’11” 195 pounds. Spievey started 9 games last year and appeared in 15 games. He nabbed two interceptions.

Jahvid Best will never be a grinder on offense, but he has explosive ability. He only averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Where he makes his money is in the receiving game, where he had 58 receptions last year with two touchdowns. With the addition of LeShoure from the 2011 N.F.L. draft, Best might even have more chance to respond.

And here’s the prize. Ndamukong Suh was excellent last year. All-pro good. There isn’t much more to say about Suh other than if he stays healthy and plays like he did last year for the majority of his career he could be one of the great ones.

Grade B+ and trending up

I might be docking the Suh pick a bit because it was such an easy pick to make, but they could have gone in other directions.  The Lions didn’t have a ton of picks so they have to hope that Fox is eventually able to win a starting job and that Spievey continues to play well. Best had a so-so year last year. He as more Sproles like than Chris Johnson. I’d like to see how he responds this year with the addition of LeShoure.


It’s clear to see why the Lions feel so much better about the future now that Matt Millen has been replaced by Martin Mayhew. Mayhew has been pretty impressive in his early drafts, but we might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves calling him one of the best. We need to see how well the players are playing a few years down the road. Suh looks like a lock to be a top player, the success of the Lions ultimately lays on the (fragile?) shoulders.

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