Even though the Lions didn’t address any major “needs” in this weekend’s draft, they added a lot of talent to positions that you could consider strengths of the team. I think Mayhew foreshadowed this when he spoke with the media a couple of weeks ago by saying he believes the team has more needs than people think. In the second round he reinforced his statement earlier in the week. The Lions grabbed Titus Young. A speedy wide out that can stretch the field and take pressure off Calvin Johnson. They also drafted power back Mikel Leshoure. I honestly can’t remember the last downhill tough running back this team had. We’ve had some washed up options (i.e. T.J. Duckett) but no one in their youth.
I think unfair expectations were immediately set following the Fairley pick. I must admit I was an angry fan on Friday, especially after the Young pick (I was having horrible flashbacks to the Millen era). Having a few days to reflect and remove the emotion from the initial sticker shock helped place things in perspective. The truth is the Lions, although improved, are not even close yet to being a perennial playoff contender. The Lions should get better this year. Better could mean 8-8 or 9-7, while a playoff berth would be huge plus, it should not be an expectation. If this team made the playoffs last year and still had CB and Oline needs, then I think you would have seen the Lions be more aggressive in the draft targeting those positions. But the front office knows this team isn’t that close yet.
The NFL has evolved into a passing league. The great teams in the league have the best quarterbacks and a ton of talent to surround them with. The Saints have Brees and a ton of WRs around him, as do the Colts. The Lions are just following the example set by the premier teams in the league. Find your QB and surround him with more weapons than they know what to do with. On the flip side you want your defense to get after the opposing QB. Put constant pressure on him, disrupt his timing, and rattle him all game long. Looking at the Super bowl teams, Green Bay and Pittsburgh have arguably the best pass rushes in the game. Adding Fairley gives the Lions a non stop force up the middle. The Vikings and Bears will have difficulty this year facing the Lions and trying to stop their D-Line for 4 quarters. You could argue with the addition of Fairley the Lions got one to two more wins, especially against division foes. Did anyone notice after the Lion’s first pick the Packers and Bears drafted offense line help?
The draft failures of the better part of the decade have conditioned us Lion fans to take every draft pick with a grain of salt. It’s a painful reminder that haunts us with every draft or with key FA signing. But as we complete another draft with Mayhew at the helm, my fear is subsiding quickly. He knows what it takes to build a contender. He and Schwartz have a blueprint in place and are following it. Take a look at the Lion’s roster at the end of 2008 and compare it to today’s roster. The talent on the roster is growing exponentially. They getting the right pieces in place to have this team contend for a very long time. It’s hard as a fan to not be overly excited for this team, especially since this team has been horrific for the past 10 years. But I would rather the front office load the roster up with impact players rather than drafting players just to fill needs.