The Lions are essentially an expansion team; that needs to be understood. What Matt Millen did to deplete this roster is unbelievable. A trained elephant probably could have done a better job than Millen. The only past draftees that will be major contributors on the Lions in a few years will be Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith, Gosder Cherilus, Ernie Sims, and possibly Jeff Backus and Daniel Bullocks.
That said, the depth chart at every other position might as well be blank in the eyes of Martin Mayhew. I like the stop gap signings of Phillip Buchanon, Grady Jackson, Daunte Culpepper, Bryant Johnson, Ronald Curry, and Maurice Morris. Furthermore, I like the trades for Anthony Henry and Julian Peterson.
Matthew Stafford, QB: Jim Schwartz said that he had never seen such a consensus number one pick, so I am not surprised that the Lions broke and paid Stafford what he wanted. Before he was even hired, The Schwartz said that it was about time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne, and the Lions now have their guy. Martin Mayhew and Schwartz have staked their jobs with the Lions on this kid. If he does not work out, they will take heat and likely be fired. I am excited about the Stafford pick, but I obviously would have liked them to trade down and acquire more draft picks. Since that was not an option, you grab the best player. If they think that Matt-Staff is franchise QB, then I agree with the pick.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE: During the draft, I would have rather seen Michael Oher or Peria Jerry here, maybe Rey Maualuga. However, the only way they can justify this pick is if the Lions are looking at this team as having a blank depth chart at most positions. After further review, I would rather have the number one tight end from the last few years as opposed to the number two or three DT, or the number four or five OT. Pettigrew will help with blocking and give Matt-Staff another great option to throw to. A young QB’s best friend is a great TE. I am not sure that TE should have been the pick here or this year, but it will be needed in the next year or two, so why not now?
Louis Delmas, S: Again, the Lions took the number one player at a position. I like Delmas, and I think that if he had played a bigger football program in college, he would have been a mid-first round pick. This might be my favorite pick of the draft. He can play either safety spot, and played some corner at Western Michigan, so he has some good coverage skills as well. That type of versatility is exactly what The Schwartz wants.
DeAndre Levy, LB: Most "experts" had Levy going in the later rounds, but obviously the Lions had him rated higher on their draft board. The Schwartz said he will be moving inside to play MLB. He has good height, but will definitely need to add bulk to be able to play the middle. Hopefully the Lions sign Larry Foote after the Steelers release him, that should give Levy a few years to learn the new position.
Derrick Williams, WR: This was one of the puzzling picks the Lions made. For a team that needs so much defensive help, most figured they would pick a bunch of defensive players this draft. The only explanation is that he was the most talented player left on the Lions draft board, because WR is not one of the teams most pressing needs. The huge upside here is that he was rated as one of the best returners in the draft. He will probably be the starting punt returner Week 1, and will add depth to the WR corps. Hopefully he will learn under Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry and be able to step in as a slot receiver in a few years.
Sammie Lee Hill, DT: I like this pick here. One thing I know is that you can't teach size. Hill, at 6'4" 331 lb, is a large man. He played at Stillman College, a small school, and will need more time than most to adjust to the NFL. However, with Grady Jackson to learn from, and a few other DTs in the rotation, he can adjust slowly to taking on NFL o-lineman. Hill will probably only be a one down DT until he learns the nuances of the position.
Aaron Brown, RB: Another case of "best talent available" draft choice here. Like Derrick Williams, Brown is a return man. I personally think the Lions envision him as fitting the Darren Sproles role for the team: a change of pace back that will contribute on kick-off returns.
Lydon Murtha, OT: Murtha is a very athletic tackle, having the fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine. Again, you can't teach size, and he has it (6'7" 307 lb). He will probably just add depth to the tackle position his first year, but may be able step in and start at RT a few years down the road, if he can shake his injury bug.
Zack Follett, LB: I love this guy. He publicly stated that he wanted to make every team that passed on him to pay for doing so... by knocking their players out of the game. He made the All-Pac 10 first team as a senior (over Clay Matthews), and is a hard hitter. He will contribute on special teams, and get reps as an OLB on defense.
Dan Gronkowski, TE: Again, this had to be a case of "best talent available", because the Lions took Pettigrew in the first round. He might make the roster, but if he doesn't I am sure the Lions will sign him to the practice squad.
Grade: It is ridiculous to grade a draft immediately after it is complete; you have to wait about three or four years to accurately do that. However, I will do a twofold grade: In terms of the impact on this year roster, I give the draft a C. In terms of future potential, I will give the draft an A.
I think that the Lions didn't do too much to improve their defense with the draft, but the special teams looks to be significantly improved. However, the defense has been improved by all the transactions Martin Mayhew made before the draft. Also, the new coaching staff is so much better than the old one; that alone will improve defensive play.
Brandon Pettigrew will make an immediate impact on the offensive side of the ball, both receiving and blocking. Other than that, Williams and Brown will get some reps during the year, but will mainly be special teams guys. Stafford will probably just get clean up time late in out of reach games, so that won't really add anything to the offense this season.
Here is how I see this year's draftees contributing during the 2009 season [and a few years down the road]:
Matthew Stafford - Number 2 QB [Franchise, Pro Bowl QB]
Brandon Pettigrew - Starting TE [Pro Bowl TE]
Louis Delmas - Starting FS [Game changing Safty]
DeAndre Levy - Reserve LB, assuming Larry Foote signs with the Lions [Solid MLB]
Derrick Williams - Starting PR/KR, #4 WR [Solid PR and slot WR]
Sammie Lee Hill - Reserve DT [Solid DT]
Aaron Brown - Reserve RB, #2 KR [Same exact role]
Lydon Murtha - Reserve OT [Reserve OT, maybe the starting RT]
Zach Follett – Reserve LB, Special teams bowling ball [Starting OLB]
Dan Gronkowski -Practice squad, on 53-man roster by the end of the year [#2 TE]
If the Lions get even close to what I have listed there, this will go down as one of the best drafts in team history. To rebuild after 0-16, they will need the 2009 draft to result in more than just a few impact players.