Detroit Lions: Judge This Draft Based On How Many Will Start

Keith SheltonAnalyst IApril 27, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:   Tight End Brandon Pettigrew #87 of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys is tackled by the defense of the University of Oregon Ducks during the Ducks 42-31 win over the Cowboys in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

You're an angry Detroit fan. This is nothing new. Except, the day after the draft is supposed to be a joyous time. It's been the apex of the Detroit Lions season since 1999.

The Monday after the draft, hope springs eternal. The team has replenished itself with hot rookie talent that will spearhead the resurgence, restore the roar, that sort of thing.

So why the long face? Wasn't what you were expecting?

Yeah, same here.

I'm still stunned that a tight end was taken at No. 20 with Michael Oher still on the board, that an offensive lineman wasn't taken until the seventh round, that two outside linebackers were taken, but no middle linebacker—you know, where the gaping hole is.

As fans, we're obsessed with judging drafts the following Monday. The things we look at are if the team's needs were filled, how good the player was in college, injury history, highlight reel, 40 times, arm strength, off-field personality and behavior, blood type, etc..

For the last few years under Matt Millen, that Monday after the draft was good times. The media slapped an "A" on the Lions flashy drafts filled with skill players with long highlight reels.

However, looking at those drafts a few years later, they're obviously "F" drafts. Few Millen draftees are still on the team, let alone even playing in the NFL.

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So, could it be a blessing in disguise that the overall media grade for this draft is a "C"?

The overwhelming voiced complaint from Lions fans is that the team didn't fill their needs. Honestly though, was there any one position on this joke of a team that was rock solid?

Amazingly enough, even the wide receivers needed help, which considering the past eight years of Millen drafts, is a complete joke.

So, the Lions took the approach that talent trumps need, and as par for the course, aggravated their fans yet again.

The fans wanted Curry, the Lions took Stafford. The fans wanted Oher, the Lions took Pettigrew. The fans wanted Maualuga, the Lions took Delmas, and as we've recently found out, they would have taken Chris "Beanie" Wells had the Cardinals not drafted him two spots earlier.

Imagine the Lions taking three offensive players in a row to rebuild a team that finished dead last in defense. It almost happened.

Lord knows I've written this team off over less in the past. I've since resigned myself to my fate as a sorry Lions fan for life and now spend my time searching for gold in the Lions river of awful.

So here's what we have to do as fans. Give the new regime a chance. That doesn't mean give them a mulligan on their first draft, they can and will be held accountable if it's a bust. I am curious to see if their draft insanity pays off in the long run though.

This is one draft that won't be judged by all that silly day-after hoopla. Instead, judge this draft based on how many of those players are starters.

I count four that will step in and start from game one, and that's not counting Stafford.

Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas, DeAndre Levy, and Derrick Williams.

Pettigrew gives the Lions a legitimate first-class tight end. He's a punishing blocker and also has the ability to catch the ball well. He's the complete package at the position and could be a Cory Schlesinger type player for the Lions down the road.

The Lions looked at this pick as partially filling the need for a pass-blocking lineman and also giving the team another offensive option at the same time.

Delmas is a shark, plain and simple. He was the highest rated safety in the draft and plays with little regard to his body. He'll put himself in harms way to deliver a punishing hit. Basically when the Lions got Kenoy Kennedy as a free agent a couple years ago, they thought they were getting Louis Delmas. So hopefully, Louis Delmas will be Louis Delmas for this team.

Levy is an outside linebacker, but will almost certainly be moved inside and shouldn't have much of a problem beating Paris Lenon for the starting job. The Lions drafted Levy based mostly on the job he did against "Beanie" Wells in college. He rarely gets caught out of position and while not the ideal man to captain the defense, he's an upgrade over Lenon.

Derrick Williams ideally will lineup alongside Calvin Johnson in the long run. For starters, he'll likely step in as the Lions' third receiver, and will also return kicks and punts.

If those four players come in and start immediately, than the Lions did an effective job. Sure, Oher and Maualuga would have both started as well, but no use pointing that out now. The Lions think a bigger immediate impact will be made with the guys they took. They might be right, I'll give them a chance to prove it.

I would still vehemently urge Detroit to sit Stafford for the entire season. This is one pick they can't afford to mess up. If that means tanking with Culpepper, so be it. I'd rather see Stanton take the field next season than Stafford.

The more seasoned the rest of the team is when Stafford inevitably makes his debut, the better. As has been pointed out ad nausem, this isn't Joe Flacco in Baltimore, or Matt Ryan in Atlanta. This is more like Wile. E Coyote trying to get the Road Runner.

Stafford will be playing the part of the Coyote if he starts at any point this season.

I'm not expecting any big improvement this year. I'm not going to be happy with a three wins, and I'm not going to be angry either. I'll just be patient.

If four Lions draftees start this season, and improve as the season progresses, and then start again next year too, then this was a good draft. In fact, it will have been the Lions most successful draft in almost a decade.