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Can Brad Holmes end the Lions’ second round curse?

Detroit hasn’t gotten enough contributions out of their second-round picks. Can Holmes turn their fortune around?

2008 NFL Draft Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are a team of many supposed curses. There’s the Bobby Layne curse. You know the old chestnut. Layne got traded and allegedly said something to the effect of “the Lions won’t win for 50 years” or something like that. There’s the Dagger Time curse. That’s one I just made up today to make it seem like the Lions have more curses. Although judging by the way this team was left after that slogan was created, it might be real.

The curse I want to talk about today is the second round curse. The story goes that the Lions drafted Harry Hopp in the second round of the 1941 NFL Draft and then released him two years later. He then said on the way out the door that “the Lions won’t have a successful second round pick for the next 100 years.” Truly harrowing stuff.

Okay, I made that part up. The reason I did is because there seems to be no real reason why the Lions struggle mightily with their second round picks, and that lie made me feel better about it.

I knew it was bad when I started to prep for this piece, but I didn’t know how bad it truly was. So I looked at the last 20 years of second round picks from the Lions to find out how long the picks played with the team and how long they played in the NFL.

Lions’ second round picks 2000-2020

Year Pick Years with team Years in NFL
Year Pick Years with team Years in NFL
2000 Barrett Green 3 7
2001 Dominic Raiola 13 13
2001 Shaun Rogers 7 13
2002 Kalimba Edwards 7 8
2003 Boss Bailey 5 6
2004 Teddy Lehman 4 5
2005 Shaun Cody 4 8
2006 Daniel Bullocks 4 4
2007 Drew Stanton 4 13
2007 Ikaika-Alama Francis 2 4
2007 Gerald Alexander 2 5
2008 Jordon Dizon 2 2
2009 Louis Delmas 5 6
2011 Titus Young 2 2
2011 Mikel Leshoure 2 2
2012 Ryan Broyles 3 3
2013 Darius Slay 7 8
2014 Kyle Van Noy 3.5 7
2015 Ameer Abdullah 3.5 6
2016 A'Shawn Robinson 4 5
2017 Teez Tabor 2 2
2018 Kerryon Johnson 3 3
2019 Jahlani Tavai 2 2
2020 D'Andre Swift 1 1

There’s a lot to take in here. First off, there were only six players that played with the Lions longer than four years. Even worse, since the selection of Ikaika Alama-Francis in 2007, just three of the Lions’ second-round selections have made it through the entirety of their rookie contract with the Lions (Louis Delmas, Darius Slay, A’Shawn Robinson).

Another startling discovery was that 12 of these players played two years or less for another team after leaving the Lions when their rookie deal was up (or they were released early). These players weren’t just unsuccessful in Detroit, they couldn’t stick around anywhere. There’s more. Six players played for the Lions and then never played again.

But let’s be fair. There are some decent players here. Darius Slay turned out to be one of the best corners in the NFL, Dominic Raiola started for the Lions for 13 years, Kyle Van Noy struggled in Detroit (where he was mostly misused), but he’s found success in New England and Miami, and D’Andre Swift could be a potential star.

But when it has been bad, it’s really bad. Titus Young had some mental health issues that led to legal problems that kept him out of football. Teez Tabor just didn’t have the physical tools to make it in the NFL, Mikel Leshoure and Ryan Broyles got bit by the injury bug really hard and never recovered.

Even the recent picks who remain on the team like Jahlani Tavai and Kerryon Johnson are guys who likely won’t be around much longer. What little free agency resources the Lions had this year, they spent on their replacements.

With all this in mind, it’s time to ask the question: Can new Lions general manager Brad Holmes end this curse? It’s hard to answer that right now. In all honesty, we won’t really know the answer to that question for a couple of years. Sure, a second-round pick can pop off in his rookie year, but sometimes it takes time to show up. What we can do today is take a look at the Rams’ second-round picks during Holmes time with Los Angeles as their director of college scouting. It won’t tell the full story—after all, he wasn’t making the direct picks—but it should give an idea of the Holmes’ ability to scout in this tier of players.

Rams’ second round picks 2013-2020

Year Pick Years with team Years in NFL
Year Pick Years with team Years in NFL
2014 Lamarcus Joyner 5 7
2015 Rob Havenstein 6 6
2017 Geral Everett 4 4
2019 Taylor Rapp 2 2
2020 Cam Akers 1 1
2020 Van Jefferson 1 1

The Rams haven’t used second-round picks very often lately, but there’s some stuff we can take from this small sample. First off, with the exception of Lamarcus Joyner and Gerald Everett, who just signed with the Seahawks, all these players still play for the Rams. Every pick has been a full-time contributor with the heaviest contributions coming from Havenstein (start Rams right tackle since 2015) and Gerald Everett (missed just three games in four years).

All these players seem to have gotten better over time too. Joyner became a full-time starter for two years before he left to be a free agent, Havenstein has become one of the best right tackles in the NFL, Everett got career highs in every category in 2020, and Taylor Rapp is likely to take over as the Rams full-time starter after John Johnson signed with the Browns this offseason.

Lastly, there’s Cam Akers. The running back had a pretty impressive rookie year. He led the team in rushing yards and is likely to continue to get better as he becomes the Rams lead back in 2021.

So with everything we see here, it’s still hard to deduce whether or not Holmes can fix this issue, but there’s a lot to be optimistic about here when you look at what the scouting Holmes has done has produced.

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