Analyzing Second-Year Leap Scenarios for the Lions' 2011 Draft Class

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 01:  Nick Fairley #98 of the Detroit Lions awaits the snap against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 1, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 45-41.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Neither flu nor back pain nor whatever the heck is wrong with me will keep me from (most) of my appointed rounds. So it's time to move on in our tour to take a look back at the NFC North 2011 Draft classes and talk about the Detroit Lions.

It wasn't a big haul—just five players—but all five are still with the team and poised to make an impact in 2012.

Assuming they can all stay out of trouble. 


Round 1, Pick 13 DT Nick Fairley

The Lions didn't need a defensive tackle, especially after drafting Ndamukong Suh the year before. Yet when Fairely fell to the 13th pick, they didn't hesitate. Fairley is an athletic freak, with some off-the-field issues that cropped up this offseason with his arrest for possession of marijuana. If he can stay out of trouble—and healthy—he could be an interesting player this year.

It would start with pushing Sammie Lee Hill and Corey Williams for playing time, if not a permanent job. Fairley needs to get on the field more frequently for him to take a leap forward, get into the rotation a little more.

Fairley has a lot of upside and will probably be groomed to pair with Suh on a more permanent basis in the future. He needs to get on the field more to prove it though. 


Round 2, Pick 44 WR Titus Young

Young had a decent first year, getting on the field and compiling some nice catches when it counted. He's likely to get a little bigger role in the offense this coming season, and while rookie Ryan Broyles is a threat down the road, he's still recovering from injury.

In order to leap forward, Young will have to be a little more consistent in hauling in the passes thrown his way. Young caught just under 56 percent of the balls thrown his way and that's too low. Sure, a guy like Roddy White only had the same amount but he's already a top receiver. You can't be a No. 3 and have those numbers.

It's not like Brandon LLoyd with Sam Bradford or Larry Fitzgerald with the parade of muppets in Arizona—Young has Stafford throwing to him.

So consistency in his catch to target ratio has to come up if Young is going to solidify his role as No. 3 (or better at some point) in the coming years. 


Round 2, Pick 57 (From Seattle): RB Mikel Leshoure

LeShoure's 2011 was a wash due to injury and coupled with Jahvid Best's season-ending concussions, it really hurt the Lions' ground attack.

LeShoure was poised to be a bruising, exhausting back before he was hurt—it will be the same this year. The difference will be, a potential No. 1 slot is on the line.

With Best's concussion history at this point, the Lions are looking to take some of the carries away from Best and in all likelihood, take a Thunder and Lightening approach.

But LeShoure can be much more than role player if his leg stays healthy. Unlike Best's concussions, LeShoure's injury was a freak thing. It's not likely to be a repeating problem. So if he can stay healthy otherwise, he could prove to be the most reliable player in the backfield.

The other thing LeShoure needs to do is avoid off-the-field trouble. Two arrests for drug possession in two months is going to catch the NFL's attention. He has to keep out of trouble off the field if he's going to be a force on the field.

If LeShoure can do that, he can secure that No. 1 spot in the backfield. 


Round 5, Pick 157 (From Baltimore via Seattle): LB Doug Hogue

Hogue started 2011 on the Practice Squad before being promoted in October, but never really had a huge impact. Let's start there—making the team, not the practice squad this year is a must.

His likely role will remain on Special Teams and he has to make his leap there. Consistency and aggression are what he needs to show. If he can stay off the injury list and on the field, he can have a tremendous impact on kickoff and punt coverage. 


Round 7, Pick 209th (From Cleveland via Seattle): OT Johnny Culbreath

Ladies and gents—meet the Lions' third player arrested for drug possession this offseason. Seventh-round players cannot make that mistake and survive for long.

Culbreath has shown ability though, and could carve out some more playing time this year. He is unlikely to take a starting job away from someone, but can certainly put himself in a position to step in (reliably) if someone goes down.

Showing he can handle that role, and staying out of trouble, will earn him a solid spot as a backup for years to come.