Count me as one of the optimists that thought we would see significant improvement over last season’s debacle in terms of wins and losses. It’s obvious now that the Lions will not be a competitive team this year, but that four-letter word, hope, is crawling back into the picture. All hope for 2009 is lost, but the hope for 2010 is already developing for me and the 2009 draft class spurs it on.
While I was watching the Seattle game it became apparent that almost every big play made by the Lions came from a 2009 pick. Louis Delmas picks off Hasselbeck, Aaron Brown rips off a couple long runs, Stafford to Pettigrew for a touchdown, DeAndre Levy with a couple big hits, Sammie Hill clogging the middle on a 4th down attempt, Delmas making a big tackle for a loss, etc.
2009 wasn’t a great draft class, but the Lions may have found four or five starters and one or two solid role players. Let’s take a look.
1st Pick in the 1st Round Matthew Stafford: Stafford’s play has been inconsistent and he has made tons of rookie mistakes, but he’s also shown glimpses of greatness. He has stepped into the leadership role well; the next step is to have his play back it up. His major issues are technique and experience related, both of which can improve dramatically with playing time and practice. Potential Long-Term Starter
20th Pick in the 1st Round Brandon Pettigrew: He’s had a real up and down season so far, but he really stepped up and played a great game against the Seahawks. He was a weapon as the intended receiver and as a safety blanket and had some nice blocks. His numbers will most likely never tell the whole tale of how valuable a player he can be. Potential Long-Term Starter
1st Pick in the 2nd Round Louis Delmas: Delmas became the first Lions’ defender to win Defensive Rookie of the month and he has been a shining star in a dark secondary. He is a sound tackler, has a nose for the football and has stepped into a leadership role on the defense. He has the potential to be a game changing defensive player for years to come. Potential Long-Term Starter
12th Pick in the 3rd Round DeAndre Levy: Levy has exceeded everybody’s expectations thus far. He has a nose for the ball, he hits like a truck and he has elite instincts. He hasn’t cracked a veteran starting lineup yet, but it’s easy to tell when he’s on the field. He has forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, picked off a pass, broken up four more passes and recorded 35 totals tackles. Potential Long-Term Starter
18th Pick in the 3rd Round Derrick Williams: Williams has not distinguished himself in the return game, which was the main motivation behind drafting him. He has shown glimpses of being a strong receiver and he replaced Dennis Northcutt as the 3rd receiver last week. He was drafted primarily as a return man with good raw skills, but he would take some time to develop as a receiver. We still haven’t seen enough of him to make a determination, but he has taken advantage of his limited opportunities as a receiver. Jury is still out
15th Pick in the 4th Round Sammie Lee Hill: Hill has been a contributing factor to the Lions run defense surrendering over 50 yards fewer per game. More importantly, the defense struggled against the run in the games he missed. He was drafted as a project who could be a rotational player this year, yet he has started every game he’s been healthy. The Lions defensive line is easily the weakest position group, so the fact that he is starting may not be as significant as it would seem, but Hill has proven he can play and at the very least should be a solid backup. Solid Player with Potential to be a Long-Term Starter
19th Pick in the 6th Round Aaron Brown: Brown started the season as the starting kick returner, but lost that job after several inconsistent performances. He has come on the last couple of games as a change of pace back and the only thing preventing him from getting more playing time is his pass protection. Potential Solid Backup
19th Pick in the 7th Round Lydon Murtha: Murtha was hurt for a portion of training camp and then was signed away from the Lions practice squad by Miami. Bill Parcells knows good lineman when he sees them and if Murtha was good enough to crack the roster in Miami the Lions may have let a good player get away.
26th Pick in the 7th Round Zack Follett: Follett is an explosive hitter and an intense special teamer, but he has very limited upside as a full-time defensive contributor. He needs to ramp his intensity down a little to make sure he doesn’t whiff on a tackle when going for a knock out hit. Follett’s contributions on special teams could keep him around for a while as a special teams ace. If the Lions unearthed the next Scott Kowalkowski in the 7th round, that is a good find. Potential Solid Special Teamer
46th Pick in the 7th Round Dan Gronkowski: Gronkowski has not been activated from the practice squad, so it’s too early to evaluate him. Jury is still out