Draft Grader: Detroit Lions

Khaled Elsayed looks at how the underachieving Lions became that way, with top picks and mid rounders failing to live up to expectation.

| 1 year ago

Draft Grader: Detroit Lions

draftgraderDETfeatDraft season is upon us as free agency quiets down and prospect watch goes into overdrive. But the reality for us is that we’re not that involved in the College side of things, but that doesn’t mean we’re not fans of the draft.

For me though that means reflecting back on drafts gone by to tell you which teams made the best picks and which ones the worst. So as I do every year I’m grading every draft pick from 2009 through to 2011 on the PFF rating scale (-2 to +2), factoring in where they were drafted, injuries and a host of other things.

We’re moving in draft order so it’s the Detroit Lions up next.


+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round

Nope …

+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!

Move along now …

+1.0: The scouts nailed it!

Ndamukong Suh, DT (2nd overall pick in 2010): One of the most hyped prospects in years, there was a time when we at PFF wondered if perhaps that hype (and some character questions) would swallow him up. But Suh has become a more rounded and destructive player, his 2013 season being his best (and good enough to see him ranked number two overall).

Willie Young, DE (214th overall pick in 2010): If you can find a solid role player in the seventh it’s a win. So if you can find a guy who can hold down a starting job and look good in the process, well then I like the pick very much. Young was our 16th-ranked 4-3 defensive end and amassed an impressive +13.6 grade in his 1,419 snaps as a Lion.

+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor

DeAndre Levy, LB (76th overall pick in 2009): Levy isn’t the best when blockers get their hands on him, but his work in coverage means this third-rounder has been worth the price. He’s gotten better in every year, culminating with a fine 2013 where his coverage grade was third highest of all 4-3 outside linebackers.

Sammie Lee Hill, DT (115th overall pick in 2009): Had a tough rookie year when too much was asked of him. A reduced role, however, really brought out the best of him and in the three following years he really delivered with a +20.7 grade.

Nick Fairley, DT (13th overall pick in 2011): Just a 0.5 and that’s somewhat frustrating because with his Albert Haynesworth-esque skill set you thought he could deliver more. His +32.2 grade in 1,478 is certainly impressive but he’s nowhere near consistent enough (except when it comes to drawing flags).

0.0: It could have been worse

Matthew Stafford, QB (1st overall pick in 2009): At times has looked worth so much more, but a slow start and some erratic performances leave you wanting more out of this former first overall pick. His career grade of +4.9 only begins to tell the story.

Louis Delmas, S (33rd overall pick in 2009): Another who has, at times, impressed but struggles with injury and consistency have hampered his production. About what you’d expect out of an early second-round pick, though his upside would suggest the team should have got more out of him.

Aaron Brown, RB (192nd overall pick in 2009): This sixth-rounder would hang around long enough to play 197 underwhelming snaps. To expect anything else would be extremely optimistic.

Lydon Murtha, OT (228th overall pick in 2009): Stolen away from the practice squad in his rookie year by the Miami Dolphins.

Zack Follet, LB (235th overall pick in 2009): Injuries saw him retire early, but not before he’d featured for 172 snaps and made 12 special teams tackles.

Dan Gronkowski, TE (255th overall pick in 2009): Best known as part of a trade that saw him swap places with former second round pick Alphonso Smith.

Jason Fox, OT (129th overall pick in 2010): Hung around for a while and even managed 231 snaps. But he’s proved little more than depth and is closer to a negative than a positive.

Tim Toone, WR (256th overall pick in 2010): Would fail to get on the field missing most of his first year on injured reserve after ending up on the practice squad. Cut the following year.

Doug Hogue, LB (157th overall pick in 2011): Wasn’t the answer at linebacker, managing just 13 snaps on defense. Waived midway through the 2012 season with nine special teams tackles to his name.

Johnny Culbreath, OT (209th overall pick in 2011): Spent year one on injured reserve but a run in with the law was all the team needed to severe ties.

-0.5: That pick was not put to good use

Derrick Williams, WR (82nd overall pick in 2009): It took the Lions just 317 snaps and a -10.8 rating  for the team to move on.

Amari Spievey, DB (66th overall pick in 2010): Had his chance to start at safety in 2011. It did not go well, ending with a -8.4 grade and losing his starting job the following year. That was it in regards to his Lions career.

-1.0: What a waste!

Brandon Pettigrew, TE (20th overall pick in 2009): Was seen as a sure thing prospect-wise and something of a get when the team landed him with the 20th overall pick. But this tight end, who admittedly is asked to do a lot more than most, has struggled with his blocking, with his catching and with penalties. At times he looks the part but all too frequently he’s failed in this regard. A slightly below average tight end is a bad use of a first-round pick.

Jahvid Best, HB (30th overall pick in 2010): Concussion issues ended his career, but even before that his lack of playmaking had seen him turn 878 snaps into a -11.5 grade.

Titus Young, WR (44th overall pick in 2011): What can you say about Titus Young? There are issues with him that few in the game will really understand, but even when he was on the field it was hardly eye catching. There he earned a -14.6 grade.

Mikel Leshoure, HB (57th overall pick in 2011): Drafted to be a feature back, he’s so far managed just 540 snaps. He hasn’t looked bad in action but that really isn’t anywhere near enough when you’re looking at a second-round pick.

-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time! 

Nothing to report …

-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!

Nor here …


Here are links to the teams that have been through the Draft Grader to date:

HOU | IND | JAX | KC | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI
PIT | SL | SD | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WAS


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

  • Anchorman

    Matthew Stafford, Lol, career grade of +4.9 ehhhrmmageeerd!!! Hey Khalid, why don’t you subtract his horrible rookie season on a terrible team and then tell me what his career grade is. That would certainly be more indicative of his performance. Oh and by the way, he was this sites fourth rated last year in “pass grade”, which is what QBs are supposed to do… You know, pass the ball. So, either your analysis sucks or your grades do.

    • Jason Pevitt

      Stop it. Stafford at a 0 is exactly what his “draft grade” should be. Highly touted prospect, he was the FIRST OVERALL PICK. He should be in the discussion of elite quarterbacks, but he’s nowhere close. One great season is not enough. Decision-making needs to improve and we’ll see. The 0.0 is more of an incomplete in regards to him than anything else.

      • Dohkay

        In fairness to Stafford, with the exception of Calvin Johnson he’s never had a WR grade positively on PFF (from 2011 through 2013) and had only Scheffler in 2011 and Fauria in 2013 grade positvely for TEs.

        Nate Burleson, Titus Young, Kris Durham, and Brandon Pettigrew are below average or among the worst at their positions. With Golden Tate in the mix, and potentially another WR or TE in the draft, I’m sure he’ll have plenty more great seasons.

      • Clayton_Bigsby

        While I agree where he grades out is appropriate, it’s only because he was the #1 pick overall, but, he’s proven to be the best QB from that draft—which is why he comes in as “Could have been worst”.

        Also, to say he’s nowhere close to Elite is incorrect. He’s exactly one season of putting up the same yardage numbers, cutting his turnovers in half and getting a first round playoff win from getting in the discussion. That’s close. Conversely, Mark Sanchez, Christian Ponder, Jake Lockler, etc. all first round picks are no where near. That’s the difference.

      • Terry Welsh

        BS Jason, he might have been an elite quarterback, but he just a decent QB.

      • Terry Welsh

        He got a lot of yards in the system he used to be in with Linehan but he he has played better in this system. Had he played the old system last year he had a defense that could have kept him in games.

  • wva88

    I think you are awfully generous when it comes to Titus Young – especially since the “off the field” issues didn’t exactly come “out of the blue.”

  • smilerz

    The scoring feels awful arbitrary. Is it possible to do an average contribution by position/round as at least one of the components? I look at +20 or +30 and that feels like more than a “solid contributor” especially for a mid-round pick.

  • Clayton_Bigsby

    Those are indeed some arbitrary grades. Willie Young is “Scouts Nailed It” in the 7th??? How many teams get 7th Round starters? Noting that Jahvid Best lacked playmaking? The Lions have been sub-.500 since them lost him. And how does Titus Young not rate JaMarcus Russell status? He was found in a neighbors house in the middle of the night. In their house…I mean c’mon, he was a 2nd Round pick!

    There are others that I disagree with as well, but, in general your grading is a mess.

    • Lelouch vi Britannia

      You think Young should be a Leaf-Russell because he was a 2nd rounder? You do realize they were drafted in the top two and had worse on-the-field careers with just as much off-the-field criticism, right? Nah, you have to be top 16 to be a -2.
      And sub.500 after Best, man, he’s one of 55 players and subsequent RBs performed better than he did. He doesn’t get the credit for the team’s success… SMH.

      • Clayton_Bigsby

        Best was one of 55 and Calvin is one of 55. And while I am not comparing him to Megatron, I thought I would highlight how silly your, “one of 55″ argument is. You do realize that defenses approach players differently, right? You get that concept? So, the next time you end with the overused, “SMH”, consider there is more to a player than his stats—namely his ability to make explosive plays. As far as Young, yeah, if you’re insane, someone should have figured that out with a little investigative research. So, while it is your prerogative to disagree, your off-handed “SMH” makes you appear quite cliche. I’m sure you can do better.

        • Lelouch vi Britannia

          Actually that illustrates exactly how valid the argument is. Megatron has proof of his value in his stats and grades, while the only thing you put forward in favor of Best was that the team performed worse after he left. When you can’t come up with anything more than that, he is just “1 of 55″, especially seeing as how he posted sub-4.0 yards per carry as a Detroit Lion and subsequent running backs (Reggie Bush) achieved better numbers.
          You don’t like SMH? How about I end my comment this time with something you’ve clearly forgotten: Correlation does not imply causation.

          • Clayton_Bigsby

            I think what really illustrates your point is that it appears you answered my last note almost immediately—as if you were sitting in front of your computer with nothing better to do. I’m sorry, this is the first opportunity that I’ve had to catch up on casual emails. But, as for Best—they missed him in the year prior to Bush. There was no replacement. There’s your correlation. And, the fact that they had to burn FA money on Bush instead of other needs, there’s your causation. So, you can chatter all you want and use a few terms to appear like you know more than you do, but, I stand by my point. And no need to respond right away, I likely won’t check emails again for the next few days. Take your time, SMH.

          • Lelouch vi Britannia

            Hahaha, oh, you’re sooo important because you don’t check your e-mails often (and are you really bragging about that when it took you all of one day to respond to me?). Really, I’m intimidated by such proof of success, especially combined with your apparent obliviousness to tablets and smartphones- after all, anyone who responds to a comment must be wasting away in front of a screen, not periodically checking their cellphone. That’s crazy talk.
            There was no need for a replacement, Clayton. 3.7 YPC don’t need to be replaced, but if someone really wanted to, all it would take would be a waiver wire pick-up for the veteran minimum. And behold! They promptly averaged 4.1 YPC rushing the year after Best’s departure. Defenses don’t focus on the run when a team is consistently top 3 in passing attempts, and any football strategist worth his salt would devote far more resources to stopping such a passing offense (with Megatron!) than to a statistically sub-par running back. In fact, that’s what they did: eight-in-the-box pretty much wasn’t in the playbook when you faced the Detroit Lions. It makes sense that you would fill up your comments with personal attacks, hoping it would hide how few the arguments in favor of keeping Best really were. Maybe you should use SMH 50 more times in your next comment instead.

          • Clayton_Bigsby

            Yet, I see you waited to respond…you’re officially on my pay-no-mind list. Go away.

        • jack_sprat2

          “As far as Young, yeah, if you’re insane, someone should have figured that out with a little investigative research.” Say what?! Certain mental illnesses are progressive. As well you should say that a young bride, now coping with her love’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease, “should have” investigated further, so it only “serves her right”. Man, think before you type.

          • Clayton_Bigsby

            “Her love’s descent into Alzheimer’s?” What are you—some paper-back romance novelist?
            Think before I type? Are you familiar with Young’s history prior to being drafted? That he was thrown off the team twice for behavioral issues prior to be drafted? That’s not a red-flag? Respond if you’d like, but, don’t assume to have the moral high ground or intimate background on the Young pick to lecture me on what I should think or type. Just drop your opinion and move on.

  • BJR

    I’d hardly say ‘the scouts nailed it’ with Suh. It was a complete no-brainer pick. He’s become one of the best DTs in the league, but that’s exactly what you’d expect out of the no.2 overall pick.

    • Lelouch vi Britannia

      Everyone’s “a sure thing” until they hit the field. I would say out of the top 10 picks, 15% end up being bad players, 30% okay to slightly-above-average, 25% very good and 30% elite. Seeing as how Suh ended up in the latter category, I would say the scouts nailed it. You only have to look at the #1 pick that very year to see that “sure things” are rarely that.

    • Ryan

      Aaron Curry was a sure thing at LB, he’s not even in the league anymore.

  • NorthLeft12

    Rating Stafford the same as guys who never played a snap for the Lions is ridiculous. He has started every game over the last three years, been rated by PFF and others as a top fifteen QB over that time, and just turned 26? Yes, he is not torching the league, but he has carried a heavy burden for this team and does not deserve to be lumped in with Culbreath, Murtha, Fox, and Hogue.

    • Lelouch vi Britannia

      Draft position matters. That’s why he is expected to perform better.

  • frank

    i don’t agree with this rating system at all. it is very subjective. you rated tj yates better than matthew stafford (+0.5) based on one year! “T.J. Yates, QB (152nd overall pick in 2011): Yates isn’t a starting caliber NFL talent and likely won’t be with the team much longer. But he gets a positive solely for his work in 2011 when, as a rookie, he had to fill in for an injured Matt Schaub and did well enough to lead the team to their first playoff win.” what a joke! your description says it all…you speculate he is about to be cut but rate him a solid contributor. wow

  • bobrulz

    I do personally agree that 0 seems harsh for Matthew Stafford. Yes, he was a #1 pick, so a lot was expected of him, but considering the failure rate of other quarterbacks picked #1 (look at Tim Couch, David Carr, JaMarcus Russell, early-career Alex Smith, etc), and it looks pretty good. Yes, the expectations are high, and he’s still a highly inconsistent player, but in reality, he’s still out-performed the average #1 pick, and brought the Lions more success than any other period of time in recent history.

    If 5 years from now he hasn’t progressed and/or no longer has a starting job, maybe then I could see it. But now, with what he’s done, he deserves at least a +0.5.

  • mitch696969

    If you draft best player available and can’t make a functioning team everybody on the team loses

  • mitch696969

    Stafford is good enough to win on a good year, with help from his defense and perhaps the one thing they can do to go up another level is just get better running the ball, at the correct times…..

  • Terry Welsh

    Brandon Pettigrew hasn’t been anything more than a high payed blocker the last few years, but there was a time he was a big part of the offense. His bad hands knocked him out of that spot.

  • Terry Welsh

    Guess waddles didn’t give the Lions more than they bargained for aye?

  • Terry Welsh

    You’re talking about the fastest QB to get to 20 thousand yards, Period.