Throughout most of the 21st century, Detroit Lions fans have looked hopefully toward April to watch their team make yet another top-10 draft selection. Thankfully, this trend has started to shift, and for the third-straight season the Lions will not be picking near the top of the draft. Instead they find themselves with the No. 21 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, a place where there is still a great opportunity for value. The past 10 seasons have seen mixed results at this spot, but the list should give Lions fans hope for what lies in store.
2016: Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans
The Texans drafted Fuller to play opposite DeAndre Hopkins, and the rookie saw a decent workload during his first season. He recorded 47 receptions on 92 targets in 2016, found the end zone twice and logged a punt return touchdown as well. Fuller was drafted immediately ahead of fellow receivers Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell who both had issues finding the field during their rookie year.
2015: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Cincinnati Bengals
After missing most of his first season due to injury, Ogbuehi started 2016 as the Bengals’ right tackle. Unfortunately the results were not great, as Pro Football Focus graded him as their ninth-worst tackle. Ogbuehi was eventually benched but did make one more appearance, this time starting at left tackle. The outcome was no better as he struggled again, and he ended the season on injured reserve.
2014: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Green Bay Packers
Lions fans are familiar with Clinton-Dix, who has already earned All-Rookie and second-team All-Pro honors in his short career. The safety has been excellent during his time with the Packers, notching eight interceptions, two forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks over the past three years. Pro Football Focus had him at No. 20 among safeties last season.
2013: Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Three years after selecting the first tight end in the draft (also at pick No. 21), the Bengals did the exact same thing in 2013 and grabbed Eifert. When he has been on the field, he has been electric, grabbing 20 touchdowns in 37 games played. However, he has had significant troubles with injuries and has already missed big chunks of two of his four seasons. The talent is clear though, and he already has a Pro Bowl appearance to his name.
2012: Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots
Jones was an immediate starter for the Patriots and put up monster numbers in four seasons with New England, including 36 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, an interception and a touchdown. He was traded to Arizona during the previous offseason and found success there too as a 3-4 linebacker, notching 11 more sacks with a couple of fumble recoveries. Jones ranked in the top 10 of all edge rushers per Pro Football Focus last season.
2011: Phil Taylor, DT, Cleveland Browns
In 2011, Taylor started all 16 games for the Browns and was regarded as one of the best rookies at his position, recording 59 tackles and four sacks. But after earning All-Rookie honors that season, he struggled to ever duplicate that success. Taylor was eventually cut by the Browns before the 2015 season and was not signed until the next offseason, when he was picked up by the Broncos. However, Taylor hit injured reserve before ever seeing the field with Denver.
2010: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
As hinted before, the Bengals took Gresham as the first tight end off the board in the 2010 draft. In five seasons with Cincinnati, he racked up 24 touchdowns and 2,722 yards while playing in almost every game. Despite back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2011 and 2012, the Bengals drafted Eifert in 2013, eventually leading to Gresham’s exit. He had saw a lot of time in Arizona in 2015 and 2016 but struggled to replicate the numbers from earlier in his career.
2009: Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns
Since joining the NFL, Mack has been one of the best centers in the game. He played every single snap in his first five seasons before an injury in 2014, and has started every game outside of that year. Mack has earned Pro Bowl invitations on four separate occasions and was ranked as the No. 3 center in 2016 by Pro Football Focus, anchoring the Falcons line during their run to the Super Bowl.
2008: Sam Baker, OT, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons traded a pair of second-round picks, as well as a fourth-rounder, to Washington to move up and snag Baker in the 2008 draft. In seven seasons with Atlanta, he was never able to live up to his expectations, often struggling with injuries. Only twice did he make all 16 starts, and his career came to a close after the 2014 season.
2007: Reggie Nelson, FS, Jacksonville Jaguars
In 10 professional seasons, Nelson has only missed six games, spending time in Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Oakland. Early on in his career he saw varying levels of success and has tallied 35 interceptions in total. His last two seasons have been his most productive, earning him consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2015 and 2016. Pro Football Focus put him in the top-30 among safeties last season.