Before the 2013 NFL Draft arrives, Pride Of Detroit is taking a look back at Martin Mayhew's past drafts as general manager of the Detroit Lions. First up is a review of the Lions' 2009 NFL Draft class.
Round 1, No. 1 - QB Matthew Stafford (Georgia)
The first pick of the Mayhew era gave the Lions their franchise quarterback. Stafford's first two seasons were derailed by injuries, but after starting every single game the last two seasons, he has ditched the "injury prone" label. He put up big numbers in the process, passing for 10,005 yards over the course of the last two seasons. He took a step back in terms of overall effectiveness last year (as did the Lions in general), but the future is bright for Stafford.
Round 1, No. 20 - TE Brandon Pettigrew (Oklahoma State)
After getting their franchise quarterback, the Lions set out to add some weapons around him. With their second first-round pick (acquired in a trade that sent Roy Williams to the Dallas Cowboys), the Lions gave Stafford a tight end by taking Pettigrew. He quickly became one of Stafford's go-to guys, and he put up impressive numbers in his first three seasons in the league. Drops and fumbles plagued Pettigrew's 2012 season, and he needs to work to eliminate those issues from his game going forward.
Round 2, No. 33 - S Louis Delmas (Western Michigan)
Delmas has been the emotional leader of the Lions defense since joining the team. He plays with a fiery passion and big-hit mentality. Unfortunately, the latter has often left him unable to play because he can't stay healthy. He only missed two games in his first two seasons in the league, but he's missed 13 in the two years since then. The Lions re-signed him to a new contract this offseason that includes incentives for playing time, highlighting the importance of him actually staying healthy.
Round 3, No. 76 - LB DeAndre Levy (Wisconsin)
Levy also was re-signed by the Lions this offseason. He has been a starter for the Lions in all four years of his career, playing both middle and outside linebacker. Since the Lions added Stephen Tulloch, Levy has been a starting outside linebacker, and he will continue to be at the top of the depth chart in 2013.
Round 3, No. 82 - WR Derrick Williams (Penn State)
We've arrived at Mayhew's first draft miss as GM of the Lions. Williams was drafted to give Stafford another weapon in the passing game, but he never materialized into one. Instead, he had a disappointing two-year career with the Lions that was brought to an end before the 2011 season. He spent the 2012 offseason with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is now a member of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts.
Round 4, No. 115 - DT Sammie Hill (Stillman)
Mayhew's decision to pick Hill turned out to be one of his greatest draft moves as GM. Hill was a raw, unknown player from a small school, and he became an important member of the rotation at defensive tackle. He actually started 12 games as a rookie, and from 2010-12 he served mainly as a backup. This offseason, he cashed in on his play with the Lions by landing a three-year deal with the Tennessee Titans worth $11.4 million.
Round 6, No. 192 - RB Aaron Brown (TCU)
Mayhew made his first try at finding a running back with speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield by taking Brown. He rushed for 131 yards and picked up 84 yards receiving in his rookie season, but he didn't do much of anything beyond that. He only appeared in six games for the Lions in 2010, and he was let go before the next season. The Lions brought him back for a month at the end of the 2011 regular season, but he only appeared in one game. Last year, Brown was with the Cincinnati Bengals in the offseason, and he most recently was with the UFL's Sacramento Mountain Lions.
Round 7, No. 228 - OT Lydon Murtha (Nebraska)
The Lions planned to let Murtha spend a season developing on the practice squad, but the Miami Dolphins ruined their plans by signing him to their active roster during his rookie season. The Lions lost him as a result, and Murtha went on to dress for one game for the Dolphins in 2009. A year later, in 2010, he actually started four games for Miami. An injury kept him out for the entire 2011 season, and he was released by the Dolphins prior to last season. Currently, he is a free agent.
Round 7, No. 235 - Zack Follett (California)
Follett started his career on the practice squad and was promoted to the active roster to help on special teams. Help he did, as Follett quickly became a fan favorite for his big hits on returns and his interesting personality on and off the field. Unfortunately, a hit on a kick return in 2010 brought Follett's career to an end, as he suffered a serious neck injury. He started two games for the Lions that season before suffering the injury, and he was a key contributor on special teams. The Lions released him the following summer, and he then decided to retire from football.
Round 7, No. 255 - TE Dan Gronkowski (Maryland)
Mayhew closed out his first draft as GM of the Lions by drafting another tight end. Gronkowski spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad, although he was active for two games. Prior to the 2010 season, the Lions traded Gronkowski to the Denver Broncos as part of a deal that brought Alphonso Smith to Detroit. Gronkowski dressed for 12 games and made four starts in his one season with the Broncos. In 2011, he played for both the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns. He was released by the Browns before last season, but he re-signed with them earlier this year.
2009 by the numbers
Of the Lions' 10 picks in 2009, Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas and Levy are the only four still on the team, and all four of them are starters. One pick, Hill, left the Lions this offseason for a bigger contract elsewhere after spending four seasons in Detroit. He and Gronkowski are the only two picks currently in the NFL but not with the Lions. Two picks, Williams and Brown, are now in different leagues (the CFL and UFL, respectively), while Murtha is a free agent. Follett is the only pick no longer playing football, but that's because of his injury rather than his play on the field.
The Lions completed the following trades (picks are for 2009 draft unless otherwise noted):
- Traded Roy Williams and 210th pick (seventh round) to Cowboys for 20th (first round), 82nd (third round) and 192nd (sixth round) picks. The Lions used those three picks to take Pettigrew, Williams and Brown.
- Traded 65th pick (third round) to Jets for 76th (third round), 115th (fourth round) and 228th (seventh round) picks. The Lions used those three picks to take Levy, Hill and Murtha.
- Traded 101st pick (fourth round) and 111th pick (fourth round) in 2008 to Cowboys for 92nd pick (third round) in 2008. The Lions used that pick to take Cliff Avril.
- Traded 137th pick (fifth round) and Cory Redding to Seahawks for Julian Peterson.
- Traded 174th pick (sixth round) to Broncos for 235th pick (seventh round) and 146th pick (fifth round) in 2010. The Lions used the seventh-round pick in 2009 to take Follett and the fifth-round pick in 2010 to acquire Corey Williams from the Browns.
What did they get?
The Lions nailed their first four picks in this draft, as all four guys currently start. None of them have been to the Pro Bowl or anything like that, but Stafford is their franchise quarterback, Pettigrew can be a playmaker at tight end and Levy and Delmas are both key starters on the defensive side of the ball. The Lions also got four solid seasons out of Hill, who is no longer on the team but turned out to be a very good player.
The Lions didn't do so hot with their other five picks. Williams turned out to be a bust for a third-round pick, and Brown, Murtha and Gronkowski really didn't give the Lions a whole lot. (Murtha especially since he was swiped off the practice squad.) Follett was on track to be a regular contributor for the Lions before his career-ending neck injury, but it's worth noting that concerns about his neck dropped him into the seventh round in the first place, so it wasn't necessarily simply a case of bad luck.
Considering what Lions fans were used to in the Matt Millen era, the 2009 draft was a nice change simply because it produced four starters and one excellent backup. Mayhew certainly could have done better in the later rounds and with the pick that was used on Williams, but this was a very important draft for the future of the franchise, and I think Mayhew passed his first draft test. (And as you will find out in the coming days, this was probably Mayhew's best draft in terms of the players he picked.)