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Did The Draft Help The Lions?

How could it not?

The mid-season trade of WR Roy Williams provided Detroit with Dallas' 1st and 3rd round picks, giving them five picks in the top 82. With nearly every spot on the roster in need of improvement, this was a very important draft for them.

Detroit slipped from a promising 6-2 start in 2007, to a 7-9 finish, to a 0-16 disaster. Their defense was the worst in the NFL in 2007, based on total yards allowed, and it got even worse in 2008. Their offense was respectable in 2007, thanks to a solid season from QB Jon Kitna. But Kitna got off to a poor start in 2008, was soon thereafter lost for the season with an injury, and eventually traded to Dallas this offseason.

Now they're building around No. 1 overall selection QB Matthew Stafford.

Looking back, I gave Matt Millen a thumbs up last season. He drafted two offensive starters, RT Gosder Cherlius and RB Kevin Smith, and added three defensive players in the first three rounds. Cherlius was good last season, when he wasn't taking a shot at DE Jared Allen. Smith was good too, but he had too many carries in college to expect a long NFL career and his mouth isn't doing him any favors. Millen did waste his 2nd round pick on LB Jordon Dizon, who seems destined to remain strictly a special teams player. 3rd round DT Andre Fluellen is strickly a backup. 3rd round DE Cliff Avril had 5 sacks as a rookie and has been described as one of the three best players on the team. Not a bad haul.

Here's what Detroit found in this April's draft:

  • 1st round (No. 1 overall) - QB Matthew Stafford. I'm not a fan of this pick. He's a combine superstar who doesn't play like it on the field. That said, he's a high risk-high reward pick in a draft without a clear top player. As much as the franchise needs a boost, they can't automatically name him the starter. In recent seasons, I've watched QB Aaron Rodgers and QB Brian Brohm struggle horribly as rookies. They have to wait until he's ready.
  • 1st round - TE Brandon Pettigrew. At first, this seemed like a luxury pick. Few tight ends are drafted in the 1st round and Detroit has so many holes on the roster. But GM Ted Thompson considered drafting Pettigrew with the No. 9 overall selection and he was the best receiver available at that spot.
  • 2nd round - SS Louis Delmas. He's a good tackler, good in coverage, and very aggressive. But at 6'0" and 200 lbs. he's also undersized at safety. I would have liked this pick if Delmas could play cornerback. He's similar to, but a little lighter than, SS Atari Bigby, but I doubt anyone in the NFL would trade a 2nd round pick for Bigby.
  • 3rd round - LB DeAndre Levy. I really want to like the selection of a Wisconsin Badger, but I don't like this pick. Levy is a little too slow and a little to small to play outside linebacker in the NFL. And he rarely stood out when I watched the Badgers play.
  • 3rd round - WR Derrick Williams. As Sean notes, they could really use him as a return man. The Lions depth at WR behind Calvin Johnson is really weak, so they needed to address this position in the draft. But it seems like they drafted him a couple rounds too early.

They might strike gold with one of their later picks, but it's hard to expect anyone drafted outside top 100 players overall to be an impact player.

The more I look at this draft class, the less I like it. If Stafford and Pettigrew are future Pro Bowlers, then it's a good (maybe great) draft. But I'm not high on any of their top 5 picks except Pettigrew.

And as Sean points out, new GM Martin Mayhew doesn't represent a break from the Matt Millen era, but a continuation of it:

I will just say that I am furious with the promotion of Lewand and Mayhew. Both are from the Millen era and need to be relieved of their duties as well. No offense to Mayhew especially, but it's time to get some new faces in the front office.

Maybe it is the beginning of an improved Lions franchise. But it's more of the same; a weak draft class, signing pointless free agents like WR Keary Colbert, and a Millen inspired front office. Now they need to make a horrible trade, like when they gave away DT Shaun Rogers, and it will be like Millen never left. The Lions look like they're still at least one more front office change away from providing the Packers some real competition.