The Detroit Lions’ 2013 draft class may go down as one of the best in franchise history. This rings especially true after many have deemed that year’s overall class as one of the worst in NFL history. In that “horrible” draft class, the Lions managed to pick up a Pro Bowl pass rusher, a shutdown cornerback, an above-average guard who just got PAID in free agency, their punter for the foreseeable future and a matchup nightmare out of the backfield. Last year, CBS regraded the draft and gave the Lions the only A out of the entire league.
But what did analysts think of the Lions’ draft back then? We are already being told by expert after expert who from this 2017 draft class will be future Pro Bowlers and which picks in mock drafts are reaches. But is anyone really any good at analyzing picks at the moment they were made? Let’s take a trip back to 2013 to find out.
Round 1, Pick 5 — Ezekiel Ansah
- Pride Of Detroit approval rating: 67.0%
- Who got it right? CBS’s Pete Prisco: “My favorite pick of the draft. I love Ansah. He is this year's Jason Pierre-Paul. The Lions nailed it.” Grade: A+
- Who got it wrong? Bleacher Report’s Scott Kacsmar: “Drafting a player as raw as Ansah with the No. 5 pick just seems like a typical Lions move. Clearly, they have issues on defense, but taking a risk on another defensive lineman is hardly the solution.”
Overall: The most common phrase thrown around this pick was “boom or bust.” Many saw this as a good fit and a potential great pick from the Lions, but Ansah’s lack of experience had a lot of people worried, including you fine folk here at Pride Of Detroit. Ziggy would end up having the second-lowest POD approval rating in this draft.
Round 2, Pick 4 (36 overall) — Darius Slay
- Pride Of Detroit approval rating: 71.8%
- Who got it right? USA TODAY’s Nate Davis: “But it's hard to argue with the selection of Slay, who addresses another hole on the depth chart. And when you're facing Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and an improved Minnesota receiving corps on a regular basis, it's probably a good idea to get a better wingman to pair with re-signed CB Chris Houston.”
- Who got it wrong? NFL.com, who graded the selection of Slay as easily the worst pick in the top 13 of the second round:
Overall: This was a pick that took most people by surprise. Slay was coming off a torn meniscus, and even though most indications showed Slay would be more than ready to start the 2013 season, many worried about what this said about his overall health. Additionally, his teammate Johnthan Banks was held in higher regard than Slay according to a lot of experts. Banks, who ended up being selected seven picks later, ironically joined the Lions’ practice squad last season after failing to find success in Tampa Bay.
The biggest criticism of this pick, however, was that the Lions had more pressing needs. Detroit’s offensive line needed a lot of help, and many believed there was talent on the board for the taking. Riding on the hopes that Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood would finally reach their potential, many Lions fans believed Slay was a low-need pick.
Want to spend five minutes of schadenfreude? Look at the immediate reactions of the Slay selection in the comment section here.
Round 3, Pick 3 (65 overall) — Larry Warford
- Pride Of Detroit approval rating: 98.5%
- Who got it right? Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke: “My favorite pick of Detroit's draft: G Larry Warford in Round 3. He's a monster and the Lions badly need a player like him up front”
- Who got it wrong? Nobody.
Overall: This was the one pick that everyone got behind. Warford was the classic example of someone that every analyst had high on their list and couldn’t explain why he kept slipping and falling. As Lions fans panicked at the end of the second round when the Lions had still failed to address offensive line, the selection of Warford was as close to a unanimously praised pick as you’ll ever get with the Lions fan base.
This may be the only case in this draft in which Lions fans overestimated how good of a pick the team made. While Warford was fine over four years, the Lions chose to let him hit free agency this year, where he landed a fat contract with the Saints.
Round 4, Pick 35 (132 overall) — Devin Taylor
- Pride Of Detroit approval rating: 84.6%
- Who got it right? Garnet and Black Attack (South Carolina blog): “He is an amazing athlete, but he's not a player who keeps you guessing with a wide array of rush moves, and he never became that player over the course of his career.”
- Who got it wrong? DraftSeason.com, who listed Taylor as the defensive end on their “All Steal Team”
Overall: Lions fans were cautiously optimistic about Taylor after he was selected by the team. That turned out to be the appropriate reaction. Taylor had an incredibly high athletic upside, but people always knew he’d be a project. After hanging around Detroit for four years, it appears that project is over. Taylor is currently a free agent and the Lions haven’t shown any interest in bringing him back. Interestingly, his draft compatriot Cornelius Washington—someone a few Lions fans wanted instead of Taylor—has now essentially taken his place on the Lions roster. Washington ended up falling to the sixth round that year.
Round 5, Pick 32 (165 overall) — Sam Martin
- Pride Of Detroit approval rating: 60.5%
- Who got it right? POD commenter “Hans20”:
- Who got it wrong? This guy, among many, many unhappy Lions fans:
A punter are you freaking serious. The Lions bonehead move of this draft plus they did throw a WR and TE in there. Manhew botches day 3.— Jay Craighead (@jacraig22) April 28, 2013
Overall: This ended up being the most unpopular pick among Lions fans, and that should come as no surprise considering it’s a punter in the fifth round. You can still make an argument that no punter should be selected this high in the draft, but you can’t argue Martin’s worth with the team. Martin has been one of the best punters in the league over the past two years and it earned him a contract extension last year.
There weren’t a lot of talented players selected after Martin in this limited class, so just about everyone underestimated this pick.
Rest of the draft
Beyond Sam Martin, there wasn’t any noticeable takes about Detroit’s draft. Obviously, the Lions got a rare hit on their sixth-round pick with Theo Riddick, but that wasn’t a selection that got a lot of attention on the positive or negative side. Some were high on tight end Michael Williams, whose career never took off in Detroit, but did net the team a seventh-round pick in a trade with the Patriots, essentially eliminating any sunk costs.
Full 2013 Draft Class grades
- Pride Of Detroit: B+
- Detroit Jock City: B
- Sports Illustrated: B-
- NFL.com: B
- ESPN (Mel Kiper): B
- CBS Sports: C+
- Sporting News: B
- USA Today: C+
Overall: According to Football Outsiders, the Lions had the smallest standard deviation of draft grades in 2013. Almost everyone had the Lions between a C+ and a B+. Combining all of the grades, the Lions placed 17th among all 32 teams. Lions fans, per usual, were a little more optimistic about this draft class, but this is one instance in which they turned out to be right.
Almost no one saw this draft class as something special. I couldn’t find one analyst that gave the Lions an A, but now nearly every “regrade” article has this as the best draft class of 2013.
That’s probably something to keep in mind over the next few months.