How Not To Build a Team: The Detroit Lions Draft History

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2008

There are many different ways to win in the National Football League.  Over the years, teams have won with spread offenses, Tampa Two defenses and this year even with the Wildcat offense.  There is, however, only one tried and true way to build a team- through the draft. 

In light of this year's Lions and their historically awful season, I decided to do some research into how truly horrendous our draft history has been. 

I could have analyzed all of former President Matt Millen's drafts, but instead i focused on the last six drafts, and the top two picks.  To go over all of the picks and all of the rounds would be too depressing, so i stuck to the top two picks, not rounds. 

I disqualified last year's draft picks because nobody cuts a top two pick in the first year.  So five years gives us a nice round number of ten (10) total picks.  So I wanted to compare our beloved turf cats with actual playoff teams.  What I found did not surprise me, but it did make me feel a little worse about my team.

Of the top two picks from the last 6 years, only 5 remain.  So, upon browsing the top teams in football, a trend materialized.  They used the draft to build up their team.  Amazing!  Of last years playoff teams, only three teams came close to our ineptitude-Green Bay, Tennessee and Washington.  These three had 7 remaining players. 

This seemed a little high given that the others had at least 8, so I dug deeper.  Washington lost a player, Sean Taylor, to death.  Truly unfortunate for all, and he would have certainly remained a Redskin since he was voted to the Pro Bowl. 

Tennessee lost a player, Pac Man Jones, due to a league imposed suspension.  The Titans loved this player, and had he not "made it rain" at a strip club, he most certainly would still be on their roster. 

So therefore, essentially all teams were missing only two of their top draft picks from the last five years.  Looking at this, I dug deeper still and found that most of those players were not castoffs, but rather had become too expensive for their teams to keep.  These players, such as Dwayne white, had become starters for other teams and were doing just fine.  

So then I looked at our beloved Lions and their picks.  It was kind of like when you had an ugly girlfriend and you just saw a supermodel on T.V.; you look at the supermodel, and then you look at your girlfriend and you kind of cringe. 

Of the Lions' 4 draft picks that are no longer with the team, two, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, are no longer in the NFL.  None of the playoff teams had even one player wavering between this line.  Another of our four, Kevin Jones, has not played since week 10 is on the verge of being cut.  The last of the four, Boss Bailey, was signed by the Broncos in part to appease his superstar brother, Champ.  Depressing.

So now, lets look at who is left.  Of the five remaining players from the last six years, only three are starters- Calvin Johnson, Daniel Bullocks and Ernie Sims. 

One is a quarterback project (Drew Stanton) that was injured for his entire rookie year and most of this year.  Also, he was mainly drafted by now former offensive guru Mike Martz...so his future is up in the air. 

One of the former draft picks, Shaun Cody, has been a bust thus far and will need to finish strong to avoid being cut. 

One of the former top picks, Daniel Bullocks, is average at best and would most likely not start for any team but the Lions. 

That leaves only Ernie Sims and Calvin Johnson as the only truly viable draft picks.  Only Ernie Sims and Calvin Johnson as the building blocks for the future.  Depressing.

Now, take a look at the Super Bowl winning New York Giants.  They retained all ten of their top two picks over the past six years!  All ten, including Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, and such studs as Osi Umenyiora and Chris Snee.  That is how you build a team. 

Before you hire your next general manager and head coach, look into that Mr. Ford!