This team is quickly becoming one of those that I expect to surprise in 2011. Detroit followed up an extremely solid 2010 draft class with a much more competitive 2010 season. Despite finishing 6-10, the Lions won four more games than they did the last two seasons combined.
Detroit is a team on the rise, make no mistake about it, and their 2011 draft class only adds to the emerging young talent this previously laughing stock franchise has on its roster. Today I am going to look at what many project to be one of the best draft classes from 2011.
1st Round, 13th Pick: DL- Nick Fairley Auburn
CBS Sports Line Ranking: 7 2010 Stats: 56 Tackles, 11.5 Sacks, 1 INT
Analysis: Fairley was considered a top three prospect just a couple weeks before the draft, but something happened after that. As the draft approached people started to question whether or not he was a "one hit wonder" at Auburn in 2010. Some question his ability to maintain the rigors of a full NFL season, as he seems to wear down towards the end of games. That said, the talent is there.
Fairley is freakishly strong and can overpower opposing linemen on pretty much every play. In addition to that, he has a motor that wont stop and gets pressure on the QB consistently. I am not really worried about the criticism of his endurance as I believe that will improve over time as he gains more experience and puts on a little more bulk.
Listen, this was both a value and need pick for the Lions because now they can match Fairley up with Ndamukong Suh up the middle, making one of the most feared DT tandems in the NFL. The two should anchor Detroit's front seven for years to come. Grade: A+
2nd Round, 44th Pick: WR- Titus Young Boise State
CBS Sports Line Ranking: 57 2010 Stats: 71 Receptions, 1215 Yards, 9 TD
Analysis: Another solid pick for the Lions at a need position. Young gives Matthew Stafford yet another weapon in the passing game to team up with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.
I really like what Titus Young brings to the table. He gets behind coverage on a regular basis and does a good job slipping past zone coverage. With so many other weapons on the field, it is going to be hard for other teams to account for Young. He doesn't have track start speed, but is deceptive when it comes to on field speed.
John Taylor is the name that first comes to mind when thinking about Titus Young. By this I mean being able to read the coverage well, deceive defenders with his speed and pretty much catch everything that comes his way. In Young, you are not looking at the most talented receiver. What you are looking at is a player that will do everything necessary to make himself better; that cannot be understated. Grade: A
2nd Round, 57th Pick: RB- Mike Leshoure Illinois
CBS Sports Line Ranking: 36 2010 Stats: 281 Attempts, 1697 Yards, 17 TD
Analysis: Eventually the Lions had to find a RB to share the load with Jahvid Best. So, they decided not to wait and traded back into the 2nd round for the Illini star. In my opinion Leshoure has the most upside of any RB in the 2011 draft class. He produced a great deal in a tough Big 10 conference, and will be stronger for that in the NFL.
Leshoure is extremely strong and athletic RB that could eventually become a start at the next level. He will come in immediately and help fill the vacuum in the backfield. Jahvid Best does not have the build to be an every down back, Leshoure does. You have to give the Lions credit for getting a possible all-pro player in the 2nd round no matter what it cost them in terms of value Grade: A
5th Round, 157th Pick: LB- Doug Hogue Syracuse
CBS Sports Line Ranking: 214 2010 Stats: 95 Tackles, 3 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 2 INT
Analysis: Three words define Doug Hogue: productivity, passion, and strength. This is a player that has produced at every level in which he has played. Hogue isn't the most athletic player you will ever see, nor will he pop out on tape. That said, he will produce in the NFL.
You are looking at a player here that will be a solid contributor in the NFL for years to come. Hogue adds depth at a position of need for the Lions Grade: A
7th Round, 209th Pick: OL- Johnny Culbreath South Carolina State
CBS Sports Line Ranking: 263
Analysis: This was an area of need for the Lions, so they decided to address it with their final pick of the draft. I am not entirely familiar with Culbreath, so I will reserve judgment Grade: INC
Synopsis: As you saw above the Lions draft class was pretty scarce in terms of quantity, instead they decided to look at quality. Detroit traded multiple picks in order to move back up in the 2nd round to select Leshoure. Additionally, picks were also traded away in the earlier acquisitions of Chris Houston and Shaun Hill; who both contributed a great deal in 2010. When grading the Lions draft you have to take those three factors into the equation.
For the second consecutive year the Detroit Lions had a great draft class. This year they decided to focus on getting Matthew Stafford some more tools on offense, and boy did they. If healthy, Stafford will be like a kid in a candy shop.
This is a team that will surprise many people in 2011 and possibly even contend for a wildcard spot. Just take a look at their skill position players for a second; Matthew Stafford, Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Calvin Johnson, Titus Young and Nate Burleson. They have a chance of being pretty dynamic if you ask me.