The 2012 NFL draft is officially in the books, and the Detroit Lions certainly left their mark.
General manager Martin Mayhew and the Lions' front office stuck by their "best available" draft strategy. Mayhew and Jim Schwartz refuse to draft based on team needs creating a slipper slope for the Lions' future. However, the "best available" draft plan continues to work in the favor of Detroit moving forward.
The Lions made some smart picks as well as some puzzling ones, but Mayhew and his franchise were winners of the draft. Here are three reasons why Mayhew and the Lions succeeded with their selections.
Riley Reiff was a can't-miss prospect, and the Lions made a smart decision drafting him with their first-round pick. Reiff can play any position on the offensive line and could produce right away if Jim Schwartz decides to plug him into the rotation.
With an aging and inconsistent offensive line, Detroit was in a dire need of an upgrade, especially at tackle. Jeff Backus was re-signed to a short-term two-year contract extension this offseason, hinting the Lions were still in hunt for younger talent on the offensive line. Left guard Rob Sims has been the most consistent offensive lineman for Detroit while Backus, Gosder Cherilus, Stephen Peterman and Dominic Raiola have been shaky for quite a few years.
Reiff fell to the Lions because of his short arms and lack of athleticism, but he was still a bright prospect Detroit had to have. The Lions will continue to stress the passing game more than the running game. With this strategy moving forward, it's imperative for the Lions to protect Matthew Stafford.
Reiff will push for playing time next season and has a chance to be a starter in Week 1. I believe Reiff will start at right tackle by the end of this season and will be the starting left tackle in 2013. The offensive line needed to get younger and better, making Reiff a tremendous select moving forward.
After falling out of the first round, Janoris Jenkins became the hottest option available in the second. When he was drafted with the No. 39 pick by the St. Louis Rams, the Lions were forced to look in a different direction.
Instead of drafting the best available cornerback, Detroit selected three quality defensive backs.
Dwight Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green are all products of small schools but have great potential to beneficial for the Lions. They won't make an immediate impact, but the athletic ability and potential of all three players will translate to future success.
Considering none of these players are true shutdown corners, the Lions need to improve all around in order to bring out their potential. With a healthy Louis Delmas at safety and a much-improved pass rush, Bentley, Greenwood and Green will get better and benefit from an improved team defense.
With Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick off the board, the Lions didn't panic. Instead of settling for one quality defensive back, Mayhew selected three sleepers with a chance of making an impact in the future.
Based on the Lions' progress from last year, the rookies of 2012 won't be forced to make an immediate splash on this team. In the Lions' favor, however, they still have players who can play right away or be groomed for the future.
The Lions' three best picks in the draft were Riley Reiff, Travis Lewis and Ronnell Lewis. Reiff was one of the top offensive lineman and was essentially a no-brainer pick who can play right away. Travis and Ronnell Lewis are both hidden gems who can play special teams, as well as rotational players on the defensive side of the ball.
Travis Lewis is a versatile linebacker who can drop back in coverage against running backs or tight ends. He could see time behind DeAndre Levy on third down and make an impact on special teams.
Ronnell Lewis played as a 3-4 outside linebacker for Oklahoma and could used as a 4-3 edge rusher in Detroit. Don't expect game-breaking, starters numbers, but he could be as productive as Willie Young was in his second season.
On the other side, the Lions selected guys who will need time to live up to their potential, including Ryan Broyles.
Broyles was arguably the most confusing pick the Lions made as they gambled with their second-round selection. He is coming off a devastating ACL injury at Oklahoma and won't see many reps as a starter due to the Lions' crowded depth chart at wide receiver. On a different team, Broyles is talented enough to play right away with his sure hands, crisp route running and game-breaking ability. However, his value won't be shown until his second or third year in the league.