It is no secret to anyone that pays much attention to the NFL that the Detroit Lions and the St Louis Rams have been two of the worst franchises in recent years.
During the 2008 and 2009 seasons they combined for a whopping five wins; including zero wins in 2008 for the Lions, and only one for the Rams in 2009. That's right, two teams in a combined 64 games and only five wins.
The upside to going through such dismal seasons is that you get to pick very high in the draft, and these two teams seemed to have found a system that at the very least is leading them in the right direction.
In 2010 the Rams came within one win of going to the playoffs, but ended the season with a 7-9 record, and the Lions finished the season at 6-10—which isn't too bad after three total wins in the two previous seasons combined.
There are so many factors that play into any team's success that there is no way to look at all of them in one short article. However, there is something interesting about each of these team's first round draft picks that other teams near the top of the draft may want to consider.
Over the last three years both teams have drafted a quarterback, a defensive lineman, and an offensive lineman with their first picks in the draft. It is hard to argue with the improvement that these two teams have had during this time.
It is hard to quantify the value of solid offensive linemen, but as was so beautifully shown in the recent movie The Blindside, teams have quickly come to realize how valuable they are, and how essential they are to a successful team.
Chris Long has had a great impact on the Rams in his three years, tallying 17 sacks and five forced fumbles, and his numbers continue to improve each season.
Ndamukong Suh had as much impact as just about any rookie can have on a team. Suh's rookie campaign included 66 tackles, 10 sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble; leading to him being named the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Matt Stafford has shown great ability thus far, but dealt with multiple shoulder injuries last year that left everyone wondering how many games the Lions could have won with their starter there for the whole season.
Sam Bradford performed as advertised in his rookie season, recording more than 3,500 yards and 18 touchdowns. He too was named Rookie of the Year, but on the offensive side.
As a team they have both moved from the absolute bottom of the league in points allowed and points scored, to now ranking near the middle of the league in both categories. In 2010 both teams improved by more than 100 points in both categories.
Only time will tell if these teams will continue their improvement, especially now that they aren't picking at the beginning of the rounds, but it is clear that they made some great picks in the past.
As teams prepare for the upcoming draft it would serve them well to look at the vast improvements of these two teams and consider the types of picks they will make.