Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has repeatedly said that the goal for the 2009 draft, as he saw it, was to increase to overall talent level of his team. After day one with picks of Georgia QB Matt Stafford, Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew, and Western Michigan DB Lewis Delmas, no one can argue that the talent level at these three positions has been raised.
These three players were ranked by the Sporting News as the #1 or #2 players at their positions. The Lions have picked up many good pieces, but none of the glue that will hold them all together.
This is why their fans will undoubtedly rate this draft very low. They wanted this team to build from the inside out by drafting a few impact offensive and defensive linemen and maybe a linebacker who could serve as the face of the new Lions defense.
To really understand the Lions front office strategy one must first realize that one draft or even one offseason was not going to fix this team. This is a long term rebuilding project. By getting the top prospects at a few positions in this draft, next season the Lions will be able to go and attract top-tier free agents and make draft selections to get the glue that will hold all of these pieces together.
The problem with that strategy is this, the Lions have been so bad for so long the fan base may not be willing to give the team the time it needs to right that ship. On top of that Michigan is leading the country in unemployment rate already, and come April 30th Chrysler may be forced into bankruptcy. Furthermore, it may not be long before GM is forced into bankruptcy and they have already decided to shut all of their factories for 9 weeks this summer.
All of that means that the unemployment rate among the Lions fan base is going to skyrocket, come the 2009 home opener there may not be 60,000 fans willing to pay to watch the Lions play. There is also a good chance that there will not be 60,000 fans who can afford to see the Lions play.
For a team that just signed a rookie QB to the largest NFL rookie contract ever, that is not good news. This team already is losing money and the move to get Stafford may force them into a bankruptcy of their own. However with a patient draft day plan that Lions may have bankrupted all of their good will with their own fans.