It’s easy to lament Detroit Lions draft history, but their recent run in the first round actually hasn’t been too bad.
With one playoff win in the Super Bowl era, it’s safe to broadly say the Detroit Lions have often made mistakes in the NFL Draft. At times it’s been bad luck, at times maybe it has been ignoring traditional positional value and plenty of times it’s just been making a mistake with the benefit of even a little hindsight.
But it’s safe to say Brad Holmes has done pretty well in his first two drafts as Lions general manager, with the expectation he’ll have a third nice run through the draft in a few weeks. The roster is filled with young talent, which has kicked the rebuild into higher gear entering the third year post-Matt Patricia.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus has compiled what he sees as the best and worst NFL teams at making first-round picks going back to 2014.
The Lions have to be among the worst, right?
Detroit Lions’ first round work since 2014 thought of highly
The Lions made the “Best 5”.
"Players selected: 2022: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, WR Jameson Williams2021: OT Penei Sewell2020: CB Jeffrey Okudah2019: TE T.J. Hockenson2018: C Frank Ragnow2017: LB Jarrad Davis2016: OT Taylor Decker2015: OG Laken TomlinsonBest pick: C Frank RagnowA couple of Detroit’s first-round selections became better players outside of Detroit than they were for the Lions, which makes determining how good the picks were difficult, but generally speaking, there has been one outright miss on this list and another player that has struggled to live up to his expectations. From the mid-way point of his rookie season, Aidan Hutchinson was ranked alongside the big-three edge rushers — Micah Parsons, Nick Bosa and Myles Garrett — in PFF grade last year while Frank Ragnow is one of the best centers in the game when healthy. Penei Sewell allowed just two sacks in his second season and has been one of the best run blockers in football since entering the league."
Laken Tomlinson would be one fairly recent first-round pick who turned into a better player elsewhere, and I assume Monson is using Hockenson’s partial first season with the Vikings to make him the second.
Jarrad Davis had a couple decent seasons as a Lion, and has fallen off since, so he’s the “outright miss.” Okudah would be the “has struggled to live up to his expectations”, with injuries that wrecked his first two seasons as the big factor, but he is moving quickly toward the “miss” category.
Jameson Williams is still a mystery, but Hutchinson, Sewell, Ragnow and Decker were clear-cut first-round hits for the Lions. Within the scope of the league, where maybe half of each year’s first-round picks justify that draft status with their performance, the Lions have done pretty well the last chunk of years.