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Did Lions make right draft picks?

May 3, 2011
By CRAIG REMSBURG - Senior Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

Flipping through some television channels before I reported for work Monday afternoon, I saw something that caused my jaw to drop.

On ESPN's First Take, the commentators said the Detroit Lions had the best draft of any team in the NFL Thursday through Saturday.

The Detroit Lions? The best at anything?

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I nearly choked on an orange slice. It certainly made me more alert.

Being able to grab defensive tackle Nick Fairley of Auburn at No. 13 might have been a steal.

Why the Lombardi Award winner who many "experts" said was a top-five draftee slid all the way to No. 13 can be questioned.

I'd like to think all the NFL teams picking before the Lions had other needs that needed to be addressed and that they didn't have questions about Fairly's ability or character.

But the Lions needed help at cornerback, outside linebacker and along the offensive line. Drafting a defensive tackle - a position the Lions were already showing some strength, especially with 2010 All-Pro rookie Ndamukong Suh - could be puzzling.

But Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew insisted before the draft he'd select the best player available at any position other than quarterback with his No. 1 pick. He stuck to his guns.

Fairley could give the Lions an awesome pass rush with Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Suh, Corey Williams and Lawrence Jackson in the mix.

Making an opposing quarterback run for his life or hurry his passes in fear of a sack would take a lot of pressure off the rest of the Lions' defense.

The secondary, especially, wouldn't have to cover its opposing receiver, tight end or running back as long.

Of course, hurried QBs could continuously dump off flare passes to a running back in the flat, which would tax the Lions' outside linebackers. But that's another story.

The Lions picking wide receiver Titus Young of Oregon State with their No. 2 pick and the 44th selection overall could be questioned. He was rated the seventh-best wideout by one national publication.

But the Lions needed someone to take some pressure off Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. Young, the team's brass believe, can do the trick.

Trading their third and fourth-round selections to move up to draft Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure 13 spots after Young could be a stiff price for the Lions.

But they think the 6-foot, 227-pound Leshoure will complement the quick Jahvid Best in the backfield, not only as a power runner, but a blocker.

I'm not convinced Leshoure was worth the cost and the Lions should have addressed a weakness, instead. But we'll see.

The team finally addressed its shortcomings by picking linebacker Doug Hogue of Syracuse in the fifth round and No. 157 overall, as well as offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath in the seventh round at 209th overall.

They won't likely make much of an impact even if they make the Lions' roster. The farther down the draft list you go, the chances of making an NFL splash drop significantly.

If Mayhew addresses the Lions' shortcomings via free agency signings once the NFL labor mess is cleared up - assuming it will be - the Lions may have done well in the draft.

But if he doesn't make a significant move or two, Mayhew and Lions' fans may regret the draft moves made.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.



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