Detroit Lions: Grading Every Martin Mayhew NFL Draft from 2009 to 2011
Martin Mayhew's career is an interesting one to study. On one hand, he has been credited with turning around the Lions franchise that languished under the leadership of Matt Millen, and without a doubt he has proven a wizard in the trade talks, bringing in countless valuable players for next to nothing. He has also done a great job managing the roster despite being in cap hell due to all the early first-round picks from the old CBA still on the books.
However, he is also the architect of a current Lions roster with lots of holes, and if he does not remedy this soon he could be out of a job. This article will look at all the drafts that he has spearheaded, and grease his best and worst picks in the draft, as well as a do-over and an overall grade.
2009 NFL Draft
Best Pick: Matthew Stafford (QB): 1.1
Worst Pick: Derrick Williams (WR): 3.12
The 2009 draft was an interesting one for the Lions. There was talent on top in Matthew Stafford, and in hindsight Mayhew did a great job avoiding the minefield of top 10 busts that could have been taken first overall. They also got a lot of starters later in the draft, with Louis Delmas, DeAndre Levy and Sammie Lee Hill getting picked.
However, this could be largely due to the lack of talent on that 0-16 team, and out of all the players that Mayhew took only Hill, Stafford and Delmas have become good contributors, and even all of them struggled with consistency.
All in all, the 2009 draft was not a deep one, and only four players from it remain with the team now. However, the Lions got their franchise quarterback in it, and if Stafford cleans up his mechanics and plays more like he did at the end of last year, then no one can complain about how the draft turned out.
Overall Grade: C+
Do-Over Pick: Jairus Byrd instead of Louis Delmas with the 33rd overall pick
While Delmas has had his moments over the years for Detroit, he remains to this day a better athlete than safety who has struggled with missed tackles and deep coverage while suffering a litany of injuries. Byrd was only taken a few picks later, but has turned into the best deep safety in the NFL already. Blessed with burst, instincts and elite ball skills, Byrd is the perfect safety net, and on a shaky Lions secondary his skills in the deep zones would help cover a lot of cornerback mistakes.
2010 NFL Draft
Best Pick: Ndamukong Suh (DT): 1.2
Worst Pick: Jahvid Best (RB): 1.30
The 2010 draft is probably Mayhew's strongest so far. While he did not make many picks due to draft day trades, those he made were generally strong ones. Ndamukong Suh remains the most physically dominant defensive tackle in the NFL, and one of the most disruptive inside presences in the league. Amari Spievey has become a decent starting safety, Jason Fox is good enough to hold up an offensive tackle spot (more than enough for a fourth rounder), and Willie Young was a bonafide steal in the sixth round.
The only real whiff was the trade up and selection of Jahvid Best at the end of the first round. While he was electric when on the field, his concussion history has limited him to a very short career, and certainly not one deserving of a player who cost the Lions a first-, fourth- and seventh-round pick. However, this cannot be seen as too much of a black mark against the Lions front office; it is bad luck, and the new concussion rules have made it a poor pick, not the on-field product.
Overall Grade: B+
Do-Over Pick: Rob Gronkowski for Jahvid Best
The Lions do not have a great tight end on the roster, and Gronk is the most uncover able force in the NFL not named Calvin Johnson. His speed and size makes him a great receiver, but he is also one of the better blocking tight ends. Additionally, by not having to trade up for Best, the Lions would have had another fourth-round pick, which could have been used on Alterraun Verner, Mike Williams or Geno Atkins.
2011 NFL Draft
Best Pick: Nick Fairley (DT): 1.13
Worst Pick: Titus Young (WR): 2.12
This was certainly not an inspiring draft. While Fairley has flashed real potential on the field, and looks like a top-five defensive tackle, the rest of the draft class has arguably had a negative impact on the team. Titus Young was the definition of a team cancer last season, and the fact that he worked his way out of town in just two years despite being a high second-round pick shows the magnitude of his problems. Also, Mikel Leshoure has been anything but impressive coming off an Achilles injury, Doug Hogue has yet to play 10 snaps on defense in two years and Johnny Culbreath smoked his was off the roster.
This is the worst draft that Mayhew has been a part of, and if Fairley does not continue his development into a Warren Sapp-like force on the defense it will be right up there with the duds that Millen churned out.
Overall Grade: D
Do-Over Pick: Take Torrey Smith rather than Titus Young
Like many people, I was ecstatic when the Lions got Titus Young. However, given his spectacular implosion in 2012, it is clear that Torrey Smith would have been a better prospect to nab. Unlike Young, he has shown exemplary character in the NFL, and his deep speed and improving all-around game would be fearsome opposite a double-team magnet like Calvin Johnson.
While I believe that it is too soon to place a grade upon the 2012 draft class, especially since most of the players taken were developmental guys, I will say that I think it has the makings of a good one. Riley Reiff looked great last season as a right tackle, Ryan Broyles looks like an elite slot receiver if he can stay healthy and all three cornerbacks taken have the goods to be starters.
The other trend that you may notice is that Mayhew has done a great job in the first round of the draft. In four attempts he appears to have four Pro Bowl-caliber players. However, I have always said that great teams are built on Day 2 of the draft, and unfortunately Mayhew has more of less crashed and burned in that regard. Hopefully he can remedy this in 2013.