by Adam Fournier, Ourlads’ Intern
The Lions were one of the worst teams in the NFL in the first decade of the new millennium that included a zero win season. The Lions struggles had a lot to do with a number of failures in the NFL Draft. The past five years have been a bit better for the Lions, but they have been a very up and down team. Detroit has had two playoff appearances but finished below .500 in the other three seasons. While the Lions more recent drafts have not been as bad as the 2000s decade, the past five drafts have not been that great.
The 2010 and 2011 draft classes as a whole were not very good. The most unfortunate case was 2010 first round pick Jahvid Best. Best’s NFL career was extremely short due to concussions playing his final game in Detroit on October of 2011. Sadly this was his last game in the NFL as the concussion issues forced him out of football. The 2011 2nd round pair of Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure was also a big miss in the draft for Detroit. Young contributed at wide receiver for only two seasons before his release. His numerous legal issues were part of the reason his career ended after two years. Leshoure had injury problems, and 2012 was the only season of his career in which he made a contribution.
It was not all bad as the Lions drafted one of the best defensive players in the NFL over the last five years in 2010 with the selection of Ndamukong Suh. Suh was one of the best defensive college football players in the past decade winning numerous awards. Suh was also nominated for the Heisman in his final year. He came into the NFL with huge expectations as the number two pick and did not disappoint. Suh took the NFL by storm winning the AP and PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year Awards. Suh did not slow down there as he continued his dominant play over all five years with the Lions making four Pro Bowl appearances. Suh became the highest paid defensive player in the NFL in the 2015 offseason but it was with Miami, a big blow for Detroit’s 2015 hopes. The following year the Lions picked Nick Fairley to pair with Suh at the interior of their defensive line. However, this pick was not nearly as successful, as Fairley was good but not great. Fairley was by no means a bad player but did not quite live up to his 13th overall selection. Fairley left Detroit in the 2015 offseason signing a one-year deal with St. Louis. The departure of Suh and Fairley means no player from the 2010 and 2011 drafts will be on the team in 2015.
While the 2012 draft was pretty average, the 2013 draft seems to be a good one. The 2013 draft class is projected to play a big part in the 2015 season and has made a solid contribution to the Lions in their two years in the league. Ezekiel Ansah, Darius Slay, Larry Warford, and Sam Martin are all expected to start in 2015 with Theo Riddick and Corey Fuller expected to contribute as well. This draft seems so far to be a home run and will be need to be huge for Detroit in 2015. The 2014 draft class, on the other hand, did not make a huge impact in their rookie campaign. Tight end Eric Ebron certainly did not live up to his tenth overall selection and will need to step up his play in the future. The rest of the draft was not much better as most of them failed to make a big impact. It is way too early to write them all off and the entire class will get their chance to step up in 2015. Kyle Van Noy, Travis Swanson, and Nevin Lawson will be starting in 2015 at linebacker, center, and nickelback with Ebron as a contributor at tight end. The Lions already have one confirmed miss from 2014 as well with the 7th round selection of kicker Nate Freese. Freese was released after only three games in which he missed four field goals.