Every year after the NFL draft there is a reaction to the selections a team makes. Even though it is far to early to make any kind of informed judgement, draft grades and criticism are measured out by pundits and fans alike. Because the Detroit Lions have not selected this low in the draft with their own pick since 1992, when they selected Robert Porcher 26th overall, many of the Lions faithful may need a bit of perspective on the 23rd pick.
The first measure of success should be past performance. Going back ten years in the NFL draft should give us some insight. Here are the year by year selections since 2001.
2001: New Orleans Saints - Deuce McAllister, RB, Ole Miss
2002: Oakland - Napolean Harris, OLB, Northwestern
2003: Buffalo - Willis McGahee, RB, Miami (Fla.)
2004: Seattle - Marcus Tubbs, DT, Texas
2005: Oakland Raiders (from Seattle) - Fabian Washington, CB, Nebraska
2006: Tampa Bay - Davin Joseph, G, Oklahoma
2007: Kansas City - Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU
2008: Pittsburgh - Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
2009: Baltimore (from New England) - Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
2010: Green Bay - Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
2011: Philadelphia - Danny Watkins, OG/OT, Baylor
The first thing you notice when looking at that list of names is the amount of success general managers in the NFL have had at that selection. There is no need to look at numbers here, anyone who knows football and the players in it knows that the Lions have a high standard of success to meet with this selection in the draft. However, to be thorough we do need to take a look at just how high the standard is. Keeping it simple, games started should give us a nice baseline stat to measure by.
Duce McAllister: 76 games started over 8 years
Napolean Harris: 73 games started over 7 years
Willis McGahee: 80 games started over 9 years and still active
Marcus Tubbs: 29 games started over 3 years
Fabian Washington: 58 games started over 6 years was on IR all of last year
Davin Joseph: 83 games started over 6 years and still active
Dwayne Bowe: 70 games started over 5 years and still active
Rashard Mendenhall: 44 games started over 4 years and still active
Michael Oher: 48 games started over 3 years (every game) and still active
Bryan Bulaga: 24 games started over 2 years and still active
Danny Watkins: 12 games started over 1 year and still active
So there you have it, over the last 10 years, with the 23rd pick in the NFL draft there has been only one true bust with Marcus Tubbs. Many of these players were limited by injuries or pushed into a backup role by a more talented player. On top of that there is no point in averaging numbers since there are still so many active players on that list. Even with that, it is possible to come up with a good idea of what would be a successful pick. Somewhere in the range of 50-60 games started and a 5-6 year career would be about normal for a player selected at this position in the draft.
It is clear that the Lions brain trust feels they have found thier left tackle of the future, a guy that will start for them for the next 8 to 10 years. If that is so, it is also clear that they will have hit a home run on this draft pick. Even if Riley Reiff is the starting right tackle or guard for that long it is still a home run pick. Heck lets face it, if the guy plays out a second contract as a starter that is still pretty good by historical standards.