Drafting players, successful ones at least, has not been a a strength for the Detroit Lions' organization in recent years.
The Lions have just one player on their roster—Ernie Sims—left from the draft classes between 2002-2006. This was a crucial stretch in which the Lions were picking high and picking often. Yet, just Sims remains on the roster, and his time in Detroit could be coming to an end after this season.
Detroit's recent 48-3 pounding in Baltimore showed how little talent this team truly has. Teams only lose 48-3 for two reasons, they either quit or are facing a far superior opponent.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said Monday that he didn't feel like his team quit in the game, and that after watching the film he was confident his players gave effort on every play. A good sign in a sense. However, what that means is that the Lions lost because the 7-6 Baltimore Ravens are a superior team.
That shouldn't be.
In the salary cap and revenue-sharing era of the NFL, every team has the same resources. Franchises make or break their teams on Draft Day.
One positive thing Detroit can take away from this season, unlike in previous years, is that many of the Lions' rookies have shown clear signs of long-term success. I believe the Lions have five future starters and franchise cornerstones from their most recent draft class.
Matthew Stafford is the real deal. He's got a big arm and more confidence and moxie than any quarterback taken in the 2009 Draft. He also seems to fit well in Detroit, having already endeared himself to the city with his gutsy performance against the Cleveland Browns a few weeks ago.
Stafford's stats are less than perfect, having completed 53 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 10 games. He also has two rushing touchdowns. But he is a rookie. He will learn, and with a little help from his offensive line and another receiver to use, Stafford has the tools to be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL for a long time.
Brandon Pettigrew will also be a staple in the Lions' offense for years to come. The rookie tight end was just starting to hit his stride before suffering a season-ending injury on Thanksgiving. Pettigrew looks like Antonio Gates, and I have a feeling he will be catching a lot of touchdowns for Detroit.
On defense, the Lions snagged three current and future starters in the draft. Sammie Hill has the makings of a good run-stuffing lineman. With another big man to work with in the trenches and Dwayne White rushing from the outside, he could become a force up front.
Both Luis Delmas and DeAndre Levy (pictured) are also outstanding talents. Levy is better than Sims and will soon take his place, unless Larry Foote leaves town and Levy is forced to take over the middle linebacker position. Either way, he has big-time potential.
Delmas has been the only player in the secondary who has shown an ability to make plays. He's starting to gain a reputation around the league as a big-time hitter.
Other rookies Zack Follett, Aaron Brown, and even Derrick Williams have shown signs of being able to contribute—even if it is only on special teams.
Point being, new general manager Martin Mayhew has gotten off to a nice start with this draft class. Assuming he can avoid any Matt Millen-esque mistakes in the future, Detroit could be one or two more drafts away from having a solid football team.