My friend called up the other day to complain about the Lions win over the Cardinals. After talking about what a boring affair the game was, he went on to say that all hope is lost since we won’t have a high draft pick. Especially if they find ways to keep winning.
Now I’ll be the first to agree that a higher pick is always preferable in the draft because it opens up a world talented options. But it also doesn’t guarantee success.
In 1967 the Detroit Lions selected talented running back Mel Farr out of UCLA with the 7th overall pick. Farr was a good back, but injuries help keep him from becoming a transcendent player. Kind of like Ezekiel Ansah. Meanwhile, the Lions selected cornerback Lem Barney in the second round of the ’67 draft and he became one of the best in the game.
And while 1968 first round selection quarterback Greg Landry did have one Pro Bowl season and receiver Earl McCullouch, the Lions other first round pick that year was certainly a contributor to the passing game, neither lived up what third-round pick tight end Charlie Sanders accomplished.
Today both Barney and Sanders are in the Hall of Fame while those the Lions drafted ahead of them were never able to produce at the same level.
There is a point here; getting high-quality players at the top of the draft is great if they pan out, but consistently finding players throughout the draft is the real key to a successful roster. Something the Lions haven’t done much of over the last 60 years.
If the Lions are going to turn things around then-general manager Bob Quinn will need to be successful in the draft. The Lions current rookie draft class is actually considered among the most productive in the league with the contributions of Frank Ragnow, Kerryon Johnson, Da’Shawn Hand and Tracy Walker.
Continued draft success like that will certainly help turnaround this franchise. But it is about more than just a high pick. It’s using that pick wisely and following up with more astute picks in the ensuing rounds.
In 1983 the Lions had the 13th pick in the first round and bypassed Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. Imagine if the Lions had used good sense and passed on fullback James Jones to take either one of those signal-callers?
Instead, they waited until 1986 to select quarterback Chuck Long who never panned out, then it was Andre Ware in 1990 who couldn’t hit a receiver to save his life and Joey ‘Blue Skies’ Harrington in 2002.
You see the pattern here and the importance of using draft picks wisely?