2012 NFL Draft: Reviewing the Detroit Lions' NFL Draft Strategy

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2012

NEW YORK - APRIL 28:  Wide receiver Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech poses for a photo with his family after being drafted by the Detroit Lions during the 2007 NFL Draft on April 28, 2007 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, New York. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Once upon a time, this was such an easy joke. The punchline was always something like, "take a wide receiver" or "ask Matt Millen."

Not so funny now, huh?

It all really started with Calvin Johnson, ironically the one pick former GM Matt Millen seems to have gotten right.

That said, when Martin Mayhew took over, the Detroit Lions started a very smart rebuilding process that may have produced a few lumps, but overall has been solid.

I got into a debate with another B/R writer today on the Lions not drafting for need. While Matt Stafford, Gosder Cherilus and Ndamukong Suh were definite need picks, you could argue the need for a playmaker in Brandon Pettigrew (though I wouldn't look down my nose at the counter argument that it was BPA) and Nick Fairley was a pure value pick even if Corey Williams is getting long in the tooth.

To me, there is plenty of need there. There is also (for the most part) low-risk, high-reward players. Cherilus has had issues, and Fairley as well, but much of the rest of the drafts have been pretty solid.

If there seems to be an issue, it's the off-the-field stuff. Fairley, Mikel LeShoure and Johnny Culbreath all were arrested for marijuana possession this offseason—LeShoure twice.

I've said it before, but I wonder if it's a sign that teams know—and don't care—that many players smoke pot. At least, not in the sense that as long as it doesn't hurt the on-field performance, it's not a big deal.

So that could be it, in which case they might want to alter their outlook. Not that it's a big deal in general, but three guys caught with weed while driving? That's just plain dumb.

We won't get into trying to eat the evidence.

Ultimately though, the Lions have built a solid team based around some heavy hitters.

While there are weak points—the offensive line can be improved, the running backs are thin and oft-injured and the secondary needs help—it has largely been built by drafting needed players who are also picked in the right spot.

They don't ignore value when it tumbles to them, as with the Fairley pick, but they will address needs they see throughout the whole draft.

Of course, perhaps their needs and our belief in what their needs are will diverge severely. Rest assured, though, that every pick will fill a hole they see.

By and large, Mayhew has so far proved to be a pretty smart GM. I expect him to make some solid decisions, which will be backed up more often than not—if not immediately, then down the road.