In the weeks leading up to the draft, Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz made it clear that the Lions were going to make picks based on talent, not need. I assumed need would still play a big part in the picks, with talent determining which needs are filled. What I mean by that is when the Lions went on the clock, I figured they would have a couple positions in mind and then draft the best player available. That way they can get the best of both worlds, addressing both a need and adding talent at the same time.
I can't deny that the above strategy is exactly what the Lions did, though I am a bit surprised as far as which "needs" they chose to address. Going into the draft, defense was the biggest concern of mine. Probably the second biggest issue I saw with the Lions' roster was the offensive line, as Matthew Stafford needs to be protected whenever he does play. Considering that, how many of the previously mentioned needs did the Lions fill after picking Stafford? Well, technically they did draft a defensive player, but it was at a position that didn't have that pressing of a need. Also, they did fill a need on offense, but like the defensive pick, it was for a position that I didn't feel should have been a top priority. I guess that's part of drafting talent over need.
Here is more detailed look at how day one of the draft played out for the Lions:
Round 1 - Pick No. 1 - QB Matthew Stafford (Georgia)
There's not much to add to this selection. Stafford was quickly introduced as the top pick of the draft and quickly went through the photo ops with his family and Roger Goodell. After that, he did a bunch of different interviews and was put on the backburner for Lions fans. We already had talked about him enough, and the Lions still had another first-round pick.
Selecting quarterbacks this high in the draft is really like a coin flip, so I can't go any higher than a C for this pick. I almost went lower just because the contract Stafford got is so ridiculous, but like I said, it's really 50-50 if he'll be any good or not. I guess that can be true for any player, but I just think someone like Aaron Curry is a less risky move. The Lions obviously weren't concerned with risk, though. If they were, they would have drafted Curry or Jason Smith, who both would have been safer picks. When we look back at this pick in a few years, it will probably be either an A or F, as quarterbacks usually turn out to be great players or busts. That is the main reason why I went with a C. I really don't know if he will be any good, but at the same time, I don't know if he will be bad, either.
Round 1 - Pick No. 20 - TE Brandon Pettigrew (Oklahoma State)
Leading up to this pick, the majority of commenters on Pride of Detroit were hoping that Rey Maualuga would fall to No. 20 so the Lions could finally fill their need at middle linebacker. Well, we got our wish, as Maualuga fell far beyond the 20th pick, but the Lions decided not to pick him. They also passed on Mississippi offensive tackle Michael Oher, who could have filled the Lions' need for a new left tackle. Like Maualuga, though, the Lions decided to go in a different direction.
That different direction was tight end Brandon Pettigrew, the top player in the draft at his position. Initially, I was very upset with this pick, as I didn't understand why the Lions passed on Rey Maualuga and Michael Oher. Looking back, though, I'm not quite as upset anymore. Pettigrew, barring any unforeseen issues, should be the Lions' starting tight end this season. He is athletic, can catch the ball, and is a great run-blocker. I'll expand on the type of player he is next week when I post a scouting report, but the Lions finally appear to have a solid tight end.
Even though I'm not greatly upset with the pick, I still believe the Lions would have been better off addressing their need at left tackle rather than tight end. Michael Oher was available, and I would have preferred to see him get picked. Even so, it's not like they passed on Oher for some no-name that doesn't help the roster at all. Pettigrew should be a starter, so at least the pick upgrades the roster. I still don't think tight end should have been a higher priority than LT or one of the many defensive needs, but then again, I also thought Rey Maualuga should have been the pick (more on him in a second).
I'm not really comfortable giving out an A for this pick simply because the Lions decided to fill a need at TE over improving the defense or upgrading the offensive line. As solid of a player as Pettigrew may be, I just can't ignore the fact that he is only a tight end. Don't get me wrong, having an elite tight end can make your offense that much better, but the Lions aren't a team in position to worry about upgrading their tight end over one of their many other more pressing needs. I hate to keep harping on that same point, but that's what I keep coming back to. Even if Pettigrew turns out to be great, I think this pick could have been spent on helping out a more important position. Even so, it still was a decent pick, especially once it became a realization that there was a problem with Maualuga.
Round 2 - Pick No. 33 - S Louis Delmas (Western Michigan)
After experiencing the disappointment of the Lions passing on Rey Maualuga with the 20th pick, there was shock when he was still available at the No. 33 selection. I started to think that Martin Mayhew made a great move by waiting for Maualuga, as he could still end up a Lion. That thought quickly vanished after the pick was announced, though. Maualuga's name wasn't called, and the realization set in that something was up with him. It took until the Bengals made the 38th pick for Maualuga to be taken off the board, which is just shocking to me. There were no real red flags mentioned publicly going into the draft, and I don't think anyone expected him not to be a first-rounder. He ended up dropping big time, however, and it's obvious there must be something wrong we don't know about.
Even though the Lions passed on a middle linebacker, they did pick a defensive player. Specifically, they took WMU safety Louis Delmas, who is regarded as the top player at his position by many. Delmas was expected to be taken sometime in the second-round, but not by the Lions. I figured Detroit would address one of its needs at middle linebacker or defensive tackle/end, but they opted to upgrade the safety position instead. I say upgrade because there wasn't really a need at safety. The position could use some help, but not to the point where they have a need. That is my biggest issue with this pick. They still don't have a middle linebacker coming out of the first day of the draft, and they had a shot at James Laurinaitis along with Rey Maualuga. I realize they probably took Maualuga off their board for whatever reason, but Laurinaitis would have been a good value pick at No. 33.
As far as Delmas goes, he seems like a solid player. Like the other picks, I will have more on him in a scouting report next week. In the meantime, I think the best way to sum Delmas up is by saying that despite his lack of size, he plays a very physical style of football. That is probably a big reason why the Lions picked him. They want to become a more physical team.
Similar to the Pettigrew pick, I had a hard time going above a B- for the Delmas selection because safety should not be as big of a priority as other positions on defense for the Lions. The Lions must know they can get a solid middle linebacker on the second day of the draft, and that's fine. I guess I just don't like seeing positions without any talent being ignored for positions where the Lions can get by for the time being. That's not to say that if a talented enough player is there you don't pick him because need is more important, but I don't see Delmas as someone that makes you ignore need. This obviously goes back to the Lions' strategy of drafting talent over need, but I just see Delmas more as someone that will compete for a starting job rather than be a near lock to start like Pettigrew is.
It's no secret that I'm not thrilled with the Stafford pick, but his grade is really based on the uncertainty that comes with drafting a QB with the top pick. As for Pettigrew and Delmas, they reflect the strategy of drafting talent over need. I would have liked to see the Lions focus more on building the offensive line or linebacker corps, but they did pick up a pair of talented players. As stated already, Pettigrew should be a starter as a rookie, and Delmas will probably compete for a starting job. And I guess anytime the secondary is improved is a good thing.
In general, the Lions' performance during the first two rounds of the draft had lots of room for improvement, in my opinion. At the same time, though, they could have done much worse. Based on most pre-draft rankings, the Lions have the top quarterback, tight end, and safety. That is not bad by any means, though I still think the Lions would have been better served addressing needs at positions other than QB, TE, and S.
See you back here at 10 a.m. ET for day two of the draft!