I don't mean to steal Sean's thunder today and I certainly don't want to do what he is doing so lets do the opposite in the spirit of thinking positive about our Lions in the last 10 years. I will list MY thoughts on the top 10 draft picks since 2001. These will be from 10 to 1 in the order of their impact.
#10 Sammie Hill - I know this is a head scratcher for some but considering where we drafted him from and when we drafted him! This pick in my opinion was a 4rth round gem! Even during the off season last year when we basically had our D Line solidified, the coaches couldn't stop talking about how good he had looked in practice compared to his rookie season and how they were actually thinking about starting him over Corey Williams. In 2010 he proved that this was no fluke and he meant business. Even while being bumped from starter to back up, he managed to have a more productive sophomore year finishing with 21 tackles (14 as a starter in his Rookie Season) and 2.5 sacks (none as a starter in his Rookie Season).
#9DeAndre Levy - After an impressive Rookie Season, Levy is showing to be a solid MLB. His 2nd year was off to a bad start because of reoccurring groin injuries but once he got back in the game he finished the season healthy and had a solid presence in the middle including 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries.
#8Javid Best - As explosive as his is, he had a very hard time keeping himself healthy this year so I decided not to grade him in the top of the list just yet. He showed exactly what he is capable of against the Eagles this year and because of him, we almost damn near one that game. We can all agree that when he is healthy, he is practically unstoppable. Stay tuned for this year.
#7Roy Williams - Despite what everyone has always said, Roy Williams had actually played very well for us. He was the 2nd of 3 straight 1st round selections of WR's and proved to be a great receiver for us. He did sometimes drop the easy passes and his constant "1st down signals" may have gotten irritating for Lions fans... maybe just because of the fact that we lost most of the games he played in during his time in Detroit. Overall he was a good pick for us.
#6 Dominic Raiola - Drafted right after Jeff Backus in the 2nd round of the 2001 draft. Though he is said to be undersized, gets pushed back sometimes by D Lineman and may run his mouth a little too much, he has proven to be a solid Center for the Lions for a decade also not missing any games. His biggest attribute is his passion for his team and how he ALWAYS publically sticks up for his teammates.
#5 Ernie Sims - First round pick out of Florida State, Ernie made an immediate impact and in most years with Detroit, he led the team in tackles. Ernie never did anything extraordinary for the team and never quite turned into the game breaker that the Lions had actually hopped for but he did prove to be a solid fit at the Will position and probably would have blossomed had he still be playing for us this year.
#4)Jeff Backus - Like him or not; like his stats or not; he has been the one piece on this team that has NEVER been plagued with injuries. Jeff Backus plays the toughest position in the game; the buzz you hear about Left Tackle isn't overblown, it really is true. You are only as good as your team and for the longest time he had to pick up the slack for a LG that practically didn't exist until just last year and we finally saw what Backus can do.
#3)Shaun Rogers- The Former Long horn was a 2nd round pick in the 2001 Draft. Completely underrated at the time, Rogers came in and had a fantastic 7 years in Detroit earning 3 trips to the Pro Bowl and a 2nd Team All Pro spot in 2004. Shaun's presence was immediately felt as he once combined his strength with the likes of Luther Ellis, James Hall, Robert Porcher and eventually Corey Redding.
#2)Ndamukong Suh - I gave him the number 2 spot (for now) because the former Cornhusker dominated the trenches and is almost making it cool again to be a D-Lineman... but only being one year the Lions fans are still hoping for more from Suh. In his first year he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, a spot on the All Pro Team, and Rookie of the Year.
#1) Calvin Johnson - I don't have to even explain it... but it wouldn't be any fun if I didn't. As much as a Lions fan wanted to roll their eyes because Millen drafted his 4th WR in the 1st round; we didn't hate the pick so much. This guy was a no brainer and it was the ONE TIME that Millen drafted the right way. He took the best player available. There was a rumor that they were hoping to trade him to Tampa for another pick and Gaines Adams but it fell through. CJ has had an immediate impact since he's been in the league; not only does he have the "ups" to make any catch over any DB, but he also has such a scary presence that it forces teams to pay too much attention to him leaving more weapons wide open. Even in are darkest year in 2008, Calvin managed to finish the season tied for the most TD catches... would have been more significant if we actually won a game. Bottom Line, he will continue to scare the shit out of every team we play and a defensive scheme will always be based on stopping him.
Corey Redding - His first two years were huge including 39 tackles and 8 sacks in 2006. After his stats started to rapidly decline and would become evident that he plays better with a better supporting cast. He would ultimately be traded to Seattle for Julian Peterson.
Cliff Avril - He showed something his freshman year and was a sort of bright light in a dark season. His 2nd year was inconsistent and lost his starting position a few times though still managed to log some decent stats. His 3rd year was probably his best. He was the 4th piece in a completely revamped defensive line and at times would steal the show with his intensity and play. He finished the year with 8.5 sacks.
These are my picks and I'm sure I'll have lots of critics as always! I just figured with all the "Worst Pick Lists" and the "Top 10 Draft Busts" that we always see, why not put together a list that shows the few bright lights that have comes in the last 10 years?