The Detroit Lions 2013 draft class is already drawing praise. ESPN’s Todd McShay put the group number one in his list of five impact draft classes for 2013 released today.
There is no doubt the 2013 class is a huge reason for the team’s success, but is it the draft class most responsible for what has transpired so far this season?
I think it is time to revisit the Lions 2009 draft class. There was no understating the importance of that draft coming off the league’s first 0-16 season. The Lions made a total of ten selections and while the hit rate ends up under 50%, they pretty much nailed it where they had to with their top four picks in 2009 all playing significant roles this season.
Matthew Stafford has solidified his standing as the Lions’ franchise quarterback by signing a contract extension last July. He is on the cusp of setting a new franchise record for passing yards in a career at just 25 years of age and ranks as the fourth-highest rated quarterback this season by Pro Football Focus.
Brandon Pettigrew may never be a fan favorite given his history of ball security issue but he has quietly put together a nice string of games of late. Jim Schwartz has also singled Pettigrew out as being a big blocking contributor to the Lions new-found running game.
Louis Delmas is on track to play all 16 regular season games for the first time in his career. It’s not just about being on the field for Delmas, he is also back to making plays with two interceptions after entering the year with just three for his career. His tackling looks more solid than it has over the last couple seasons and probably better in coverage than he has ever been.
DeAndre Levy is the biggest reason the perception of the Lions’ 2009 draft class is on the rise five years later. The Lions had a choice to make with Levy and Justin Durant both heading towards free agency. The Lions opted to bring back Levy and let Durant go via free agency and it was absolutely the right decision. Levy is playing at a Pro Bowl level and is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with five.
Great teams with staying power are built through the draft. The Lions draft history has been spotty, even under Martin Mayhew, but it looks like the results are trending in the right direction – even if it takes a few years to see it.