Detroit Lions Draft: Most Important One Yet

Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Taylor Decker (Ohio State) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Detroit Lions as the number sixteen overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Taylor Decker (Ohio State) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Detroit Lions as the number sixteen overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions have now made the playoffs in three of the last six years, which on the outside seems incredible for the team that just seven years ago went 0-16, but out of the three playoff berths, none have been back to back. Why is that? It’s because the Lions’ management (cough cough Martin Mayhew) had TERRIBLE drafts following promising, playoff filled seasons. So, let’s take a look at how the Lions management had every opportunity to turn this football team into a perennial playoff team and struck out each and every time.

2011-2012 NFL Season:

In the 2011-2012 season, Matt Stafford threw for 5,000 yards, had 41 touchdowns, and had just 16 interceptions, all while leading the Lions to a 10-6 record and their first playoff berth in more than 10 years. The future was looking bright with players like Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh, and DeAndre Levy all in their prime, so all Martin Mayhew needed to do was get at least a couple of play-makers on either side of the ball and Detroit could have become a year in, year out playoff team but that obviously didn’t happen. Here are the Detroit Lions draft picks from the 2012 NFL draft:

2012 Detroit Lions NFL Draft:

1st round: LT Riley Reiff (now with the Vikings)

Reiff was an average to below average starting tackle during his five years in Detroit. He was taken to be the future LT for the Lions, which is what he did even though he never did it at the level that the Lions wanted or needed him to.

2nd round: WR Ryan Broyles (out of the NFL)

Broyles was drafted to be a shifty slot receiver that would take pressure off of Megatron and give Stafford a security blanket underneath, but the injury bug had a different plan. In three straight years (one in college), he had season-ending injuries to his lower body, two ACL tears and one ruptured achilles. Mayhew took a chance on the injured star out of OU and got burned.

Round 3: CB Dwight Bentley (out of the NFL)

Bentley was supposed to be the play-making corner that the Lions have desperately been looking to find for years but he didn’t workout and hasn’t played a meaningful NFL snap since 2013.

Round 4: DE Ronnell Lewis (out of the NFL)

Suh was and still is an absolute monster and the Lions were looking for someone to help him out on the D-line, Lewis obviously didn’t work out. Only 2 career tackles in the only NFL season that he made a team.

Round 5, Pick 1: LB Tahir Whitehead (still on the Lions)

Whitehead is the only player from the 2012 draft that is still on the Lions. He had a bad 2015 season because he was asked to do too much in coverage, but he’s solid in stopping the run. Tahir has had 268 tackles in the last 3 years and is expected to be the starting mike linebacker for Detroit in 2017.

Round 5, Pick 2: CB Chris Greenwood (out of the NFL)

Greenwood was another cornerback that was supposed to help the Lions against Aaron Rodgers and the once promising Jay Cutler, but he also did basically nothing (6 career tackles in 3 career games) for the Lions or any other NFL team.

Round 6: CB Jonte Green (out of the NFL)

Once again, the Lions tried to fix their secondary with the Green selection in the 6th round and once again, another cornerback did little to nothing and dropped out of the NFL like it was hot. In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Lions had three swings on cornerbacks and missed every time.

Round 7: LB Travis Lewis (out of the NFL)

Lewis was never supposed to be a superstar but he was supposed to be a good special teams player and a decent backup, but again just like every other pick the Lions made in the 2012 draft, it didn’t work out for them or for anyone else in the league either.


You have to give the Lions some props for trying to fix their defense by spending 6 out of their 8 picks on that side of the ball, but 5 out of the 6 are no longer even on NFL rosters. Mayhew had at least the right idea (going all out on defensive players) and I would encourage Bob Quinn to follow the same blue print for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft but you have to hit on at least half of your picks and previous management hit bloop singles on 2 out of 8. That is unacceptable, and after such a promising year for the then 24-year-old Matt Stafford, they took a huge step back, going just 4-12 in 2012 and obviously missing the playoffs. One step forward, two giant steps back.

2013-2014 NFL season:

What do you know, after such a bad 2013 season the Lions bounced back in Jim Caldwell’s first season as the new head coach of the Detroit Lions. While in 2011 the Lions made the playoffs behind their high-powered offense, this time they made the playoffs behind a more efficient offense and the number two rated defense in the league. The Lions did lose a couple huge pieces to their defensive front in free agency, in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, but they were still returning players such as Stafford, Megatron, Reggie Bush, and the newly acquired Haloti Ngata to go along with a superb 2013 draft class that consisted of DE Ziggy Ansah, CB Darius “Big Play” Slay, G Larry Wafford, P Sam Martin, and RB Theo Riddick. This was the year that Mayhew could take Detroit to the next level… And while the 2014 class was heads and shoulders better than the 2012 class, it still wasn’t the class the Lions needed to take them into yearly playoff contention. Here are the Detroit Lions draft picks from the 2014 NFL Draft:

2014 Detroit Lions NFL Draft:

1st Round: TE Eric Ebron (still on the Lions)

If you’re looking at this pick by itself, it actually is starting to look pretty good. Ebron had a slow start to his career but last year he exploded for 61 catches for 711 yards. The two areas where he needs to improve are in the redzone (only 1 TD catch) and drops (7 which was tied for 3rd in the NFL last season). But overall, Ebron has yet to play a full season and if he can play 16 games this year, get more touches in the redzone, plus cut down the drops, look for 2017 to be a HUGE year for Ebron. Having a play-making tight end is almost a necessity for NFL teams trying to contend for the playoffs but if you start looking at some of the other 1st round picks taken after Ebron then this was a big miss for Mayhew (Odell Beckham, Aaron Donald, Zach Martin, Kyle Fuller, and Ryan Shazier).

2nd Round: LB Kyle Van Noy (Traded to the Patriots during the 2016 season)

This pick right here got me very excited. Van Noy was supposed to be the play-making linebacker that was going to pair with Whitehead and Levy to make the linebacker unit a strength. The issue with Van Noy was he was a projected 3-4 outside backer and Detroit tried to fit him in their 4-3 scheme. Every off-season people around the Lions were saying that this was the year that he would finally put it together and this obviously didn’t work and the Lions shipped Van Noy to the Patriots in a mid season trade. And once he was traded he finally put everything together and was a key contributor to the Patriots championship team (Kyle is thanking Bob Quinn for his Super Bowl ring).

3rd Round: C Travis Swanson (still on the Lions)

Swanson started the 2014 season as the predecessor to Dominic Raiola with the plan that he would take over in 2015 and be the future for the Lions at the center position. In 2015, Swanson did not play nearly as good as people expected but he finally put together a solid 2016 season and is expected to be the center for years to come.

4th Round, Pick 1: CB Nevin Lawson (still on the Lions)

Lawson has actually been pretty solid for Detroit over the last couple of seasons. He was originally drafted to be the Lions nickel corner to help them cover receivers in the slot but has been playing out of position on the outside across from Darius Slay. Very solid player for the Lions in the 4th round, good job Mayhew.

4th Round, Pick 2: DE Larry Webster (on the Panthers)

Tell me why after the Lions let Suh and Fairley walk in free agency, management waited until the 5th round to address the D-Line in the draft? Mayhew took way too long to address the defensive line and you picked a player that has only played in one game in 3 seasons and has only recorded 1 tackle, not very good.

5th Round: DT Caraun Reid (on the Chargers)

Again Mayhew, I have no idea how you don’t go DT early in this draft to make up for the loss of Suh and Fairley, I know they did get Haloti Nagta but still that’s unacceptable. Reid had some flashes of potential but never paned out in D-town. He ended up notching 1 sack and 5 tackles in 7 games last year.

6th Round: WR T.J. Jones (still on the Lions)

Yes, Jones is still on the Lions but he’s just a depth piece trying to fight a roster spot in 2017. 6th round picks don’t always workout so I guess if he’s even still on the team it’s a good thing… Maybe.

7th Round: K Nate Freese (out of the NFL)

After losing Jason Hanson (best kicker in franchise history) it was time to find the kicker of the future. Nate Freese was not it. He played in three games for the Lions and ended up going 3 of 7 in field goals, enough said.


While 4 out of the 8 picks are on the Lions and 5 out of 8 are in the NFL, this was not a good draft for a couple of reasons. First off, how the hell do you draft a tight end at number 10 when there are players like Aaron Donald, Odell Beckham Jr., and a couple other all pros still on the board? Aaron Donald would have been an ideal choice to take the place of Suh and OBJ could have given the Lions have the best duo of receivers in the league (take a second to imagine Calvin and OBJ together). And second, even if you don’t go defensive line in the first round how do you wait until the 5th round to try and replace arguably the best player to ever play in Detroit in Suh? Nowhere near as bad as the 2012 draft but this could have been the draft that changed the future in Detroit and it was not.

3rd time is the charm:

Once again the Lions made the playoffs in 2016. They have the best QB in franchise history, have a new and improved offensive line, have an All-Pro, play-making defensive end (Ziggy Ansah), and also a shutdown cornerback (Darius Slay). We’ve seen the Lions make the playoffs and then in the following draft management has done little improve the team. So what do you say, Bob Quinn? Are you going to draft some players that will start making the Lions a year in, year out playoff team? Or are you going to make questionable draft decisions that cause Detroit to fall back into obscurity?

Next: 5 Best Case Scenarios For Lions in 1st Round