I also have time now to sit and look back at all the changes the Lions made over the ifseason, and reflect on how well did they/did they not work out. I’m going to start with the much-maligned draft, and then move onto the FA acquisitions, and finally into the mid-season changes/shuffles.
Now, it is much too early to label any player as future canton enshrinee or bust — however, for once we can actually look at what the rookies are contributing, because…well…they are. Many have even been featured in the host of “Top Performing Rookies” stories including Stafford, Pettigrew,Delmas, and Levy.
1a. 1 Stafford, Matthew QB Georgia
1b. 20 Pettigrew, Brandon (from Dal) TE Oklahoma State
2. 33 Delmas, Louis S Western Michigan
3a. 65 Choice to NYJ
3b. 76 Levy, DeAndre (from NO thru NYJ) LB Wisconsin
3c. 82 Williams, Derrick (from Dal) WR Penn State
4a. 101 Choice to Dal
4b. 115 Hill, Sammie (from Was thru NYJ) DT Stillman
5. 137 Choice to Bal thru Sea, Phi and NE
6a. 174 Choice to Den
6b. 192 Brown, Aaron (from Dal) RB Texas Christian
7a. 210 Choice to Atl thru Dal
7b. 228 Murtha, Lydon T Nebraska
7c. 235 Follett, Zack LB California
7d. 255 Gronkowski, Dan TE Maryland
Just like in Millen years, Martin Mayhew made quite a few trades on draft day. Unlike Millen, most of those were trades back that worked out quite well (so far).
1a. Matthew Stafford: It is hard to argue with his contribution thus far. While experiencing the inevitable growing pains, it is also true he was continually improving prior to the injury. After he was out, it was even more apparent that he brings a poise and presence to the position, the offense, and the team as a whole. This is a different Detroit Lions football team when Stafford is not under center, and for a team that has had an interchangeable revolving door of mediocrity at QB for many years, that is saying something very positive.
1b. Brandon Pettigrew: We are too quick to judge these days in the NFL. There was a time not too long ago that 3 years was considered average before a rookie was really up to the speed of the game. Pettigrew is playing at least as well as Vet Will Heller in both the blocking and passing game. He has also shown flashes of something more; I wish (like all Lions fans) that the game would slow down for him sooner, but he is improving each week and by next season I have a feeling he will really begin to blossom away from average starting TE to something special. At the moment, however, he makes both first round picks from this draft making an immediate impact as a starter.
2a. Louis Delmas: Much the same can be said of Delmas as withPettigrew. Delmas is playing at the level of an above average starting Safety right now — but is showing hints of what is to come when he settles down into his role and is able to make tackles, instead of always going for the kill-shot. He has already made a difference in stopping some of the long-runs that were commonplace against last year’s team.
3a. No player, but talk about a contribution — This pick was parlayed into both DeAndre Levy and Sammie Hill. Martin’s best trade thus far.
3b. DeAndre Levy: While he has made some rookie errors, DeAndre Levy has earned a starting nod in what was undoubtedly considered the most talented starting position group – LB – at the start of the season. Levy is playing as well (or better) than the “blue chip”LB prospects Lions fans were angry Mayhew skipped over — and he was taken over a full round (almost round and a half) later the latest of the others. A total steal, he has already shown he is a versatile LB who can line up in any of the 3 spots and make in impact — rushing the passer, stuffing the run, covering the underneath and making an INT — Levy can do it all, and he’s only a rookie starting part-time. This pick drew a whole slew of “who the heck is he?”’s on draft day. Not anymore.
3c. Derrick Williams: Now we get to the first draft pick that has only been of minor contribution; he was picked as a returner but blew his shot in pre-season. While he’s getting second chance, he still hasn’t shown he is anything more than average at it. Though he is the starting KOR right now, and has actually contributed some as a WR — he is the first of the top 5 picks not to have earned a starting spot. Still, he has worked his way back on the field and that’s a start.
4a. Cliff Avril: Matt Millen traded this pick last year to move up and takeCliff Avril. Avril has been inconsistent, but is still in the rotation at DE. Whether that is more a testament to lack of depth or skill remains to be seen…
4b. Sammie Hill: Hill earned a starting nod in the ifseason, despite being a very raw prospect that himself acknowledged he had size and potential, but needed a lot of technique work. Hill put in the time, didn’t give up, and worked his tail off. His camp story started with word he was “out of shape” — but it turns out he just didn’t quite know what “in shape” really meant; at this point, all word I’ve heard is that he works his tail off on technique, his conditioning, and on film — oh yeah, he also was a key to the Lions run D before getting injured. I am hoping to see him back after the bye next to Grady Jackson and Landon Cohen so that the Lions have their 3-beef platter back. For a 4th rounder out of a small school, Hill can only be considered to have insanely exceeded expectations at this point.
6b. Aaron Brown: Despite losing his KOR duties after a stellar first game, he is still contributing as a change of pace back and outside speed threat. Brown has a lot of work to do — especially in regards to blocking assignments — but for a 6th round pick he has given the Lions offense some spark at times, and could develop into a dynamic situational player.
7b. Lydon Murtha: A project OT, he was recently signed off the practice squad to Miami’s roster. We’ll see how long he stays there, or if he ends up back with the Lions at some point. Injured through most of the ifseason, he was developing well (according to Killer) but not at a point to be a contributor yet on Sunday’s. It’s too bad Miami poached him, and it will be interesting to see how he does. No impact, but this is the 7th round – 80% never even make an NFL start.
7c. Zack Follett: This LB is more of a special teams demon than a LB. He was activated to the roster to help with the coverage units, and has indeed made a showing there. If he can improve on his special teams play, and become a consistent gunner/tackler for the coverage unit that will certainly be an impact the Lions need. At this point, he has been an improvement over Bing on special teams, but not by a lot.
7d. Dan Gronkowski: PS TE – the TE’s have stayed healthy, so Gronk is still on the PS. He showed some potential in pre-season, but hasn’t had a chance to impact the team yet in the regular season.
before the draft, most fans opined that while the Lions NEEDED to get at least 5 players who would contribute and/or start right away — but that was “impossible”, right? Wrong. By my count, of 10 picks:
- 5 are starting and making a major impact (Stafford, Pettigrew, Hill, Levy and Delmas)
- 3 are making a marginal impact (Brown, Williams, and Follett)
- 1 is still on the practice squad (Gronk)
- 1 is on the active roster of another team (Murtha)
By all accounts, 6 games into this season that can be termed as one heck of a draft — providing both an immediate boost to the talent level of the team, and long term potential as well. All 5 starting rookies look to be “answers” for their respective positions for many years to come. That is 5 less spots that need to be addressed next ifseason; While some of those positions weren’t the ones we wanted (as fans) to be filled, they have been filled with true talent and won’t need to be addressed next year — giving the Lions more options, and less holes. Oh yeah, and a better team.
Tags: 2009 NFL Draft, Aaron Brown, Brandon Pettigrew, Cliff Avril, Dan Gronkowski, DeAndre Levy, Derrick Williams, detroit lions 2009 news,detroit lions 2009 nfl draft, Louis Delmas, lydon murtha, Martin Mayhew,Matthew Stafford, Sammie Hill