It’s not a stretch to say the Detroit Lions haven’t drafted well the past few decades outside of a few home-run picks, and finally, there’s a metric to show just how bad the team has been.
Most realize thanks to the way the team has finished recently that the Lions haven’t been great at identifying talent. Pro Football Focus just proved once and for all how miserable the Lions are when it comes to using their first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
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Recently, the site put together an interesting look at ranking every team by how well they draft in the first round. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Lions were very low on the list, 31st overall in terms of finding talent early in the draft even in spite of all the high picks they have enjoyed.
Writer Ian Hartitz provided a glimpse at the WAR metrics from 2010-2020, and the Lions were in their usual dubious place well down the draft board. Only Frank Ragnow, T.J. Hockenson and Ndamukong Suh earned positive WAR ratings during that span.
“One of the league’s perennial worst franchises unsurprisingly finds themselves at the bottom of the list, although they do deserve credit for hitting on Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in previous drafts. Ragnow, the 2020 Pro Bowl center, is the team’s only player over the +0.2 threshold, and Hockenson figures to join him before too long. The larger issue for the Lions has been their failure to get more out of top-tier picks; Okudah needs to turn things around in a big way after a tumultuous rookie campaign.”
Detroit wants to start to build through the draft, which is a huge reason the team hired Brad Holmes to be their general manager. With some of the moves Holmes has made, it’s clear he’s going to rely on scouting and grabbing the right players to try and make up for some of these classic failures of the franchise lately in terms of securing draft talent.
At the very least, it’s hopeful that the Lions seem to realize they have a problem and are taking steps to fix it.
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Recent Lions Draft History
Detroit’s had a mixed bag in the draft in the last decade since 2010. For as many picks as have been home runs, they’ve had just as many strikeouts or worse on the ledger. Names like Ndamukong Suh, Darius Slay, Quandre Diggs, Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow aside, the team hasn’t been adept at finding big-name talent in the draft for the last 10 years, especially in the first round. There’s been far too many reach picks, such as Jarrad Davis, Eric Ebron, Riley Reiff and Nick Fairley in order to judge the team a successful talent producer over that span of time.
Last season, the Lions picked up Jeff Okudah, and it’s clear that Okudah has pressure on him to turn things around quickly after a tough rookie year. All-told, it’s been a tough run for the Lions in terms of getting talent into the mix lately.
Lions Biggest Draft Needs in 2021
The bet at this point is the Lions may look to load up on the wideout spot early and often in the draft. It’s a deep class for wide receiver, so it’s obvious to think the Lions could look to address it very quickly when all is said and done. Offensively, the team could look at a lineman or a tight end as well.
In terms of what the Lions could do to transform their defense, the answers vary. The team has added players such as Charles Harris and Michael Brockers to their defensive front while keeping Romeo Okwara in free agency, so that spot is a strength for 2021 where it was a question mark before. At linebacker, the Lions could do some more heavy lifting and the secondary has taken hits with cuts in recent weeks, so the potential for another safety and cornerback do exist.
Obviously, whomever the pick is, Detroit had better hope they can hit on the first one. Great NFL teams can be built in the later rounds, but if a team isn’t hitting more than they miss in the first round, things can and do get ugly for a franchise.
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