The Lions’ selection of Nick Fairley put the Lions on the early list as one of the 2011 NFL draft’s winners. Their day two picks caught criticism from some fans who felt the Lions should have addressed needs at cornerback and outside linebacker.
The balance between need and value is always an important consideration. Mel Kiper has released his 2011 draft grades and includes separate grades for need and value before issuing his final grade for each team’s draft. His grade based on need acknowledges the Lions came up short in addressing their biggest holes but that didn’t stop him from giving the Lions his top overall grade (in a tie with the Bengals):
Detroit hit home runs all over in terms of value, but the question is whether the Lions did enough to help the talent level in a way that can further conceal weaknesses. For example, Fairley at No. 13 is perhaps the steal of the draft — imagine what the Lions can do up front now — but will the pass rush now be so good that it can mask the personnel issues that dot the secondary? Leshoure adds more potency at running back, but can this offensive line open enough holes? The Lions should be concerned about how well they can block in both the run and passing games, and didn’t get an offensive lineman until No. 209 overall. Matthew Stafford’s health is such a huge concern. But even after those questions, the value was oustanding. Fairley, Young, Leshoure and even Hogue could have gone earlier. Is it possible to love a Detroit draft when the Lions didn’t add major help at cornerback or offensive tackle? Ask me after free agency, I guess.
Todd McShay did not assign team specific draft grades but he loves what the Lions did with their first three picks:
Best move: Nailing their first three picks
The Lions slam-dunked their first three selections. DT Nick Fairley doesn’t look like a need at No. 13, but putting him next to DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh under a coaching staff that will demand Fairley works hard gives Detroit a chance to have a nasty defensive front. Second-round WR Titus Young will be a nice complement to Calvin Johnson, and trading into the second round to get big RB Mikel Leshoure will allow RB Jahvid Best to maximize his skill set and take some pressure off QB Matthew Stafford.
Most questionable: LB Douglas Hogue in the fifth round Hogue is a developmental prospect with good size and speed, but there were players available (Lawrence Wilson, Quan Sturdivant) who might have had a better chance to contribute right away.
The Lions fared quite well when their draft class was scrutinized by a number of other sources around the internet.
Fox Sports: A-
The Lions made good use of their top-three selections. Fairley and Leshoure could start as rookies and Young gives them the badly needed speed they have been looking for at wide receiver.
Sporting News: A+
With Nick Fairley joining Ndamukong Suh, the Lions’ defensive line will give quarterbacks nightmares. Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure are both offensive playmakers.
It doesn’t get much better than the Lions’ first three selections, as general manager Martin Mayhew proved just as capable of finding talent when drafting outside of the top 10 as he had in selecting Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh the past two years. Though the team had bigger needs, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley falling into their lap could prove a coup, especially considering the talent already on Detroit on the defensive line. Just as frightening as the combination of Suh-Fairley-Vanden Bosch is on defense, the speed of running back Jahvid Best will be well complemented by the power of Mikel LeShoure. In between, the Lions simply added arguably the draft’s top deep threat in Boise State’s Titus Young to better take advantage of Stafford’s big arm. Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue, the team’s fifth-round selection, could surprise. Only their limited number of picks keeps the Lions from ranking among the elite drafts in this class.
Best pick: I love first-round pick Nick Fairley. He was the top player on my board. Now he can line up next to Ndamunkong Suh? Scary.
Questionable move: Taking running back Mikel LeShoure in the second round. They have more pressing needs, especially after drafting Jahvid Best last year.
Third-day gem: LB Doug Hogue is an athletic player who likely will be counted on to be a special-teams player. Jim Schwartz loves speed at linebacker.
Analysis: I love what the Lions did. Getting Fairley was a great move. Then they did a good thing taking receiver Titus Young as a companion with Calvin Johnson to liven up the passing game. The LeShoure pick is solid, but why not defensive help?
Now they really have an Alex Karras mentality in the middle of their defense with DT Nick Fairley joining Ndamukong Suh. Added a complement for Calvin Johnson for Matthew Stafford in WR Titus Young, a DeSean Johnson type, and a Steven Jacksonesque running back in Mikel Leshoure. OL and CB in free agency.
Mitch Albom: B-
Dave Birkett: B+
Carlos Monarrez: C+
Michael Rosenberg: B
Drew Sharp: B