The Lions continue to build through the Draft


It’s been a long time coming since the Lions were able to put together two respectable drafts in back-to-back years. It’s too early to tell whether the new regime has done so, but there is certainty in the fact that the attention drawn to them through the draft the last few years has been in a positive light.

As most Lions fans will tell you, it’s a breath of fresh air knowing the Lions aren’t always going to take a wide receiver in the first round. From now on, the butt of the NFL Draft jokes will not be incorporated with our team.  It’s way too early to tell if these draft classes will succeed fully, but at least we have seen some real tough football players throughout the process.

On defense, it was the torpedo Louis Delmas making skull shattering tackles on defense. At linebacker, DeAndre Levy came out of nowhere to become a solid option in the middle, with over 80 tackles.  Nearly every Detroit Lions fan wondered,  “Who is this kid?” when he was selected in the third round. The University of Wisconson super stud is now the Lions starting middle man and will most likely take the playcalls in from Gunther Cunningham on the sideline.

On offense, we might not have seen the greatest performances from rookie Matthew Stafford, but what we did see was a quarterback with heart. Something that has been missing from this city for quite sometime.  His offensive weapon Brandon Pettigrew began to pick up his game before injuring his knee. All in all last year’s draft class stayed pretty darn healthy.

Now the hope is that this year’s can maintain that level of production and stay on the field.

This year’s draft was another success in the eyes of the media, most fans, and the Lions management. This post continues the cleanup of some major items that were missed the last few weeks on SideLion Report. This post relates to the NFL Draft. Starting with the second overall pick.

Since when does Lions management EVER draft the player that the majority of fans want to see in Honolulu blue? Is hell freezing over? Not only was Ndamukong Suh the pick of the Lions, but he was the consensus choice of the coaching staff. Wait what? The Lions staff can agree on  a game-changing athlete to draft in the first round? For the second straight year? According to GM Martin Mayhew:

“Exactly the same feeling in the room as we had last year with Stafford. Everybody’s on board. Everybody feels great about this player. We have the exact same feel as last year.”

Thanks Martin for the beautiful reiteration.

Anyways, as a Lions fan, it is really strange seeing the franchise player of your choosing suiting up in Lions colors. It’s probably why Suh’s jersey sales are the second highest among rookies, only trailing the one and only Jesus Christ. In this off-season, it seemed imperative that the Lions come up with a force against the run up front.  Not only did the add Kyle Vanden Bosch, they were able to draft possibly the quickest motor in the history of the NFL Draft. Suh should be a wrecking ball to opposing rushers.

Even if they are as speedy as Jim Schwartz’s new play toy.

When the Lions traded up in the first round, if you are like most Lions fans, you were probably confused. Maybe you had flashbacks of when the Lions drafted Mike Williams. Maybe you thought that this could be the one move that sold you on this team’s future.

In a draft that I though would be mostly focused on defense, I have to admit it was a bit of a shock to see the Lions go after a running back. Granted, Kevin Smith might never be the running back he even was before the injury. There was no doubt the Lions needed a running back. But since Kevin Jones, when had the Lions even considered drafting a play maker that didn’t line up off the line. Here is a kid with definite speed and that leave em in the dust ability. The only question was in relation to defensive needs and swapping picks in the fourth, did it make sense to move up?

Let’s say that Gunther Cunningham’s dream comes true and the Lions pass on Jahvid Best. Koa Misi would have probably been in Lions rookie camp, solidifying the starting job at outside linebacker.  But the head coach got his guy in the bottom of the first round. Here’s a guy that has witnessed the everyday practices trying to stop Chris Johnson. If a defensive coach is okay with passing on that kind of talent, Jimmy Boy you have me confidence in you.

Draft Grades:

Ndamukong Suh, DT Nebraska- This was clearly the right fit for the Lions, who haven’t had a true defensive tackle in years. Suh, like Stafford last year, is not only a tremendous talent, but the right type of personality the Lions want to continue filling the locker room with. When you talk about rookies that can make an impact right away, there are not many athletes in the country that have his ability to adapt. On some days,  I would argue that this was the best pick of the Draft. Draft Grade: A+

Jahvid Best, RB California- After taking time to think about what Best brings to the table, it becomes clear that this was the right move at the right time for the Lions. Kyle Wilson and Joe Hayden were already off the board. The Lions saw the players they wanted flying off the big board, so the snagged the one they had left cheaply. Even though it might not have been necessary, I applaud the Lions staff for moving up and getting the guy they wanted. It felt that much better when the Vikings resorted to taking a corner that wasn’t their main target.  Best should complete this offense when it comes to spreading the ball around, but the only question is will he be able to pass block. Draft Grade: B+

Amari Spievey, CB Iowa- When the Lions drafted Spievy, I was more excited than when Best went off the board in the first round. He is probably going to become the second straight third rounder to contribute majorly on defense. I would be surprised if he didn’t start opposite of Chris Houston. It is early, and many things can happen. This guy though is what defines Jim Schwartz/Gunther Cunningham defenses. He is a hard nosed, extremely talented tackler with the ability to play decent coverage. He isn’t going to blaze by you or be able to stand on an island all alone, but he does have the ability to be an adequate starter in this league. Draft Grade: B

Jake Fox, OT Miami- I’m not going to pretend like I have seen a lot of Fox’s games because I haven’t. He is what he is, a projectable offensive tackle that will be a project for the Lions. The hope has to be that Fox will be able to fill in for Jeff Backus once he leaves. Many of the scouts believe he is capabale of that, and could even project into a starting tackle in the future. At the time, I didn’t understand the pick with a bigger need for linebacker depth and even possibly more secondary help. Fox fit the ‘best player available’ mantra though and hopefully he can contribute more than say O’brien Schofield. The linebacker fits the mold Gunther Cunningham was looking for to battle for the starting outside job. Only time will tell if this pick works out, but I wasn’t thrilled with the position choice. Draft Grade: C

Willie Young, DE North Carolina StateIn the seventh round, the hope is to find some talent that you can work with and hopefully develop into short term special teams help. When the Lions selected Willie Young, I wasn’t surprised in the least. Here is an end that has at times dominated offensive lineman, even with his small frame. Young has a chance to make the team as a special teams body, but with so much depth on the line, he will probably see time on the practice squad to develop his ability. The good thing is he has the mindset and right coaching to succeed, even if moved to linebacker. Draft Grade: B+

Tim Toone, WR Weber State- There were still some interesting names on the board that could of added more depth to the Lions roster, but Toone is an all around talent, that can return punts and finds his way in the middle of the field. It will be interesting if he makes it out of camp. It would seem the Lions will cut one of the veteran wide receivers from last season if Toone shows any promise in mini camps and training camp. Draft Grade: C