2. Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle (2014)
First off, I understand why the Lions passed on Aaron Donald.
- Many scouts felt Donald was undersized for the position.
- The Lions already had the best defensive tackle in the game and were hoping to re-sign him.
- The offense had incredible potential but had sputtered for two years in a row.
- The run defense was by far the best in the league the next year even without Donald.
This would have been a luxury pick and a longer term investment for a team that was nearing the end of what felt like a championship window of opportunity. They went into the 2014 draft looking for someone to help them win in 2014, so it’s hard to fault them in that regard.
Still, when you look at what having Donald could have meant to the team between 2015-2017…
- Donald was a first team All-Pro all three years.
- Suh left after 2014 and the defensive line never fully recovered.
- Matthew Stafford had a great three year stretch and put the entire offense on his back.
- The Lions had some okay teams (7-9, 9-7, 9-7) but not enough depth or star power.
I know it’s stupid to get nostalgic over a past that never even happened, but yeah, that kind of hurts to think about. The fact that Donald and Suh did end up playing together and did end up going to the Super Bowl, but with the Rams instead of the Lions? I don’t know what that’s supposed to be a sign of, but it’s gotta be some sort of perverted symbolism.
Lions drafted instead: Eric Ebron
During his four seasons in Detroit, this drafted-way-higher-than-he-should-have-been tight end was always a target for criticism. He was an average player when they thought he could develop into a generational level talent and bring the offense over the top.
It’s not Ebron’s fault that he was overrated and overdrafted, as it’s not his fault that Donald vastly outperformed expectations and turned out to be even better than Ndamukong Suh. Still, it’s not a stretch to say that one tough draft day decision could have vastly changed how we feel about the Lions and Matthew Stafford’s overall legacy right now.