Detroit Lions: 2009 Draft Reaction and Analysis
The draft started as expected, with the selection of Matthew Stafford. After that, it was quite unexpected for most fans.
The selection of Brandon Pettigrew at the No. 20 spot received mixed reviews. On one hand, he is the best tight end in the draft and is a solid support for a rookie quarterback. On the other hand, most feel there are bigger needs.
I liked the selection and had mentioned to many people I thought he might be the pick. If you have the chance to grab someone who is the best player at their position and who will make your team better than it’s a good pick. Pettigrew will help the run game with his solid blocking and will be a big target in the pass game that creates match up problems and keeps the opposing defense honest.
The No. 33 pick of Louis Delmas was arguably the biggest surprise. He, much like Pettigrew, is the best player at his position. Safety is certainly a need, but with the two best inside linebacker prospects available, I thought they would go with Rey Maualuga or James Laurinaitis.
I view the selection and it’s impact on the team this way: The Lions actually have talent and depth in the secondary. It’s been quite some time since that was the case. Delmas is an instinctual player that makes plays and is consistent.
He should provide an immediate impact. We may see a coverage sack this year. (If it’s been too long for you to remember what that is, that is when the secondary covers the receivers long enough for the defensive line to get a sack, even when the pass rush is slow.)
The Lions opened day two with a trade to the Jets; they gave up the No. 65 for the No. 76, and picks in round four and seven.
With the consistent depth of the draft, a trade down made good sense. I again expected to see defensive players come off the board, but was scratching my head when they selected DeAndre Levy, the outside linebacker from Wisconsin.
Levy is an interesting prospect. He has moderate size and has been productive in his college career. He would seem to be a late-round prospect but, much like Mike Mitchell, was drawing interest from numerous teams and was highly regarded in the middle rounds by all accounts.
Levy is a "wait and see" prospect. I see him adding some bulk in the offseason and competing for the middle linebacker spot, likely being the starter this year.
Coach Jim Schwartz was quoted as saying, “... Beanie Wells is such a downhill running back, and Levy knocked him back a couple times, and (that) caught our eye again.”
Levy was high on the Lions' boards, but when evaluating running back Chris “Beanie” Wells, they decided he needed another good look. More film study and watching him at workouts made him the favorite to man the middle.
Although another defensive pick was expected, the Lions looked at a situational starter with Derrick Williams at the No. 82 spot. Williams is a quick guy that is expected to be a slot receiver and a possible kick return man. He is a playmaker that should contribute early in his NFL career.
Typically, wide receivers do not break out until a year or two later, so I expect good things from him in 2010. It is another pick that supports the new rookie quarterback.
With an acquired pick in the fourth round, the Lions drafted a potential anchor for the defensive line. Sammie Lee Hill, a defensive tackle from Stillman, is one of my sleeper prospects. He is a beast with lots of upside. He played at a small school, but appears to have the tools to get the job done at a much higher level. Coaching will be key with Hill, but his impact could be felt very soon.
I expect Hill to rotate in for most of the year with Grady Jackson. He is on the quick side for his size, and I expect to see him on passing downs and next to Jackson on obvious short yard situations. He adds both youth and size to the defensive line and was a solid pick.
In the sixth round, the Lions again grabbed an offensive playmaker in Aaron Brown. Brown is a running back and return specialist out of TCU. He averaged over 30 yards per kick return and is capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. He possesses good speed and was productive.
Brown will likely be the main kick returner this upcoming season. If his speed and talent translate well to the NFL, then the Lions will be in much better shape. As important as field position can be it is nice to see the need addressed. Brown has a niche and will need to produce. I think he can be a decent return option, and he could develop into a third-down back.
The Lions, largely due to trades, had three picks in the final round. They picked up Zack Follett, Lydon Murtha, and Dan Gronkowski.
Follett is another linebacker prospect that is very versatile. He has experience at every linebacker position and was rated very highly. He was a great late-round selection. He brings quality depth and could develop if allowed to focus on just one position.
Murtha is a big strong and athletic tackle. He was projected to go in the middle rounds by most draft experts and was a pleasant surprise in the seventh round. Murtha could step in and contribute early. He has the physical tools and was a solid guy for Nebraska. He is a steal this late in the draft.
I think Murtha will be around to stay. He may not take over the starting position, but I think he will provide long-term depth on the offensive line and could develop into a good guard.
Dan Gronkowski was more of a luxury pick. He was the highest-rated player remaining in the Lions' eyes, and they took him because of it. He has some talent and ability. He may be used sparingly for two tight end sets and should see some action in special jumbo sets.
Gronkowski is a solid blocker and a decent pass catching option. I can see him making the team, but mostly for special teams. With some development, he could develop into a nice addition at the tight end spot.
Overall, I thought the draft was decent. It felt stronger and more competent than in years past. Other than Stafford, the picks felt honest and were not flashy. I sensed they knew what they wanted and knew whom to pick.
I would give them a B, overall. I am not sold on Levy and Delmas just yet. It is hard to say whether a trade down was an option, but a trade at No. 33 could have been a wise move. They must feel Delmas was someone they had to have.
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