Martin Mayhew has now completed five drafts as general manager of the Detroit Lions. His first draft was back in 2009, with the Lions coming off of a 0-16 season. Since then, the Lions have experienced a good deal of losing with a playoff appearance mixed in, and Mayhew hopes this year's draft will help get the Lions back on the playoff track. The Lions don't want to be picking in the top five again next year, and they especially don't want to be in a position where changes need to be made because of another disappointing season.
While the future remains unclear for Mayhew and company given what happened last season, this regime does now have five drafts under its belt. Considering how often general managers and coaches are fired nowadays, that alone is an accomplishment, and it has provided some interesting statistics for what the Lions have done in the draft since 2009. Take a look:
- Since 2009, the Lions have made a total of 38 draft picks. Of the 29 picks from 2009-12, 18 have started at least 1 game for the Lions. 13 have started at least 5 games for the Lions, and 10 have started at least 10. To take it a step further, 5 picks have made at least 40 starts for the Lions, all of whom are from the 2009 draft aside from Ndamukong Suh, who was drafted a year later.
- Of the Lions' 29 picks from 2009-12, 19 are still on the team and 23 are still on an NFL roster. This means that 4 picks are on an NFL team other than the Lions. Interestingly, the 6 picks no longer in the NFL were all drafted in either 2009 or 2011. Similarly, of the 10 picks no longer with the Lions, only Tim Toone was drafted in a year other than 2009 or 2011.
- The positional breakdown for the Lions' 38 picks is as follows: 1 QB, 4 RB, 5 WR, 3 TE, 4 OT, 1 OG, 4 DE, 3 DT, 6 LB, 4 CB, 2 S and 1 P. The Lions have picked 0 centers, kickers and long snappers in the last 5 drafts.
- The Lions used 10 picks in 2009, but they only had 6 in 2010 and 5 in 2011. Last year, the number went up to 8, and it went up again this year with 9 picks.
- Here's the round-by-round breakdown on the Lions' picks since 2009: 7 in first round, 5 in second, 5 in third, 4 in fourth, 4 in fifth, 4 in sixth and 9 in seventh.
- 32 of the Lions' 38 picks since 2009 have come from FBS conferences: 5 ACC, 6 Big 12, 5 Big Ten, 2 Independent, 2 MAC, 1 Mountain West, 2 Pac-12, 6 SEC, 1 Sun Belt and 2 WAC. Of the non-FBS picks in the last 5 drafts, the Lions have taken 4 players from the FCS, 1 from Division II and 1 from Division III. (Note: Conferences are based on what they looked like when the drafts took place. Suh, for example, is listed as playing in the Big 12 even though Nebraska has since moved to the Big Ten.)
- The school with the most Lions picks in the last 5 drafts is Oklahoma with 3. Interestingly, all 3 Sooners were drafted in 2012. In second place are California, Iowa and Nebraska with 2 Lions picks each. The other 29 picks from 2009-13 came from 29 different schools.
- Titus Young is the highest Lions draft pick since 2009 who is no longer with the team. He was selected 44th overall in 2011.
- Zack Follett holds the distinction of being the lowest Lions draft pick since 2009 to actually start a game for the team. He was drafted 235th overall in 2009.
- The Lions had the 255th overall pick in both 2009 and 2010, and they selected Dan Gronkowski and Toone. Interestingly, both of those players are still in the NFL (Cleveland Browns for Gronkowski and Atlanta Falcons for Toone), but they aren't with the Lions.
To take some of these numbers a step further, I divided up the picks from 2009-12 into categories by conference, position, year and round to see how many combined starts have been produced and how many players are still with the Lions and in the NFL. Again, these numbers are strictly for the Lions' picks from 2009-12 since this year's picks haven't actually had a chance to play.
The Big 12 led the way from 2009-12 in terms of how many players were picked by the Lions, and it also leads the way in number of combined starts going into the 2013 season thanks to Brandon Pettigrew and Suh. The Big Ten is just behind in both categories, and the SEC and MAC follow in the rankings for number of combined starts.
As much as I'd like to be able to make conclusions about picking players from certain conferences, the sample size is just far too small to do that. Plus, when it comes to number of starts, it has more to do with when a player was picked in the draft than what school he played at, as you will see a little bit later.
Simply in terms of total starts, the Lions have had the most success at safety thanks to Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey. They've also posted big numbers for total starts at quarterback (Matthew Stafford), tight end (Pettigrew), defensive tackle (Suh, Nick Fairley and Sammie Hill) and linebacker (DeAndre Levy). They haven't had nearly as much success at positions like wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive end and cornerback simply from a starts standpoint.
Several factors go into the numbers when you divide them up by position (i.e. a limited amount of starting spots), and the sample size is small. So be careful when trying to make any dramatic conclusions about how the Lions have drafted at a certain position.
Mayhew's first draft has been his best, as evidenced by it producing 221 starts through the 2012 season. Part of that stems from the fact that his 2009 draft picks have had more time in the league than the players in the years after, but in terms of landing long-term starters, Mayhew did a really good job by getting Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas and Levy in the first three rounds. Picking Hill, who signed elsewhere this offseason, in the fourth round was also a great move.
When it comes to finding players who can start or at least remain on the team for more than a couple seasons, Mayhew has done extremely well in the first three rounds. It'd be alarming if that weren't the case, but only two players picked in the first three rounds from 2009-12 aren't on the team anymore. Interestingly, both of those players are wide receivers: Derrick Williams (third-round pick in 2009) and Titus Young (second-round pick in 2011). (It's worth mentioning that 2010 first-round pick Jahvid Best will likely no longer be on the team in a couple years, but that's because of injuries rather than a lack of skill or character issues.)
The numbers in the final four rounds aren't nearly as good. Hill, as mentioned, was a solid selection, and he accounted for all 18 starts for the fourth-round picks from 2009-12. The Lions haven't had much mid-to-late-round success beyond him, though, at least not yet. Hopefully some of the picks from last year and this year will pan out and become regular contributors, because that is one area where the Lions need to do a better job of drafting. It's one thing to hit on most of your early-round picks, but the great teams are able to find gems in the later rounds on a consistent basis as well.