As the Detroit Lions enjoy a season of relative success, it is easy to get lost in the euphoria that our hometown team may be on the up and up. With a young team that will only get better in the coming years, the Lions have re-invigorated the city of Detroit; an about-face for a community that was on the edge of revolt in 2008 when the Lions went 0-16.
One of the greatest pastimes NFL diehards enjoy is the game of ‘What if…’ For Detroit Lions fans, complaining about the past is just as important as is complaining about the present. What if Barry would have played a couple more years? What if the Ford Family chose someone else besides Matt Millen to be their general manager? What if we drafted this player instead of that player?
It is impossible to believe that a player would have performed the same in Detroit as they did with their chosen team. With that being said, also employed is the power of retrospect, which comedian Mike Birbiglia would so eloquently say, “I’m in the future also…”
Without further ado,
The Top 10 players the Detroit Lions should have drafted in the 2000s:
#10 – Steve Breaston, WR (Detroit picks: A.J. Davis, CB) 2007
The Lions drafted Davis in fourth round out of N.C. State hoping to find a reliable option for their secondary. Like many other unfortunate late round picks, Davis was released from the practice squad by mid-September. Breaston, who played at Michigan and fans thought was an easy pick for Detroit, was selected by the Arizona Cardinals at the beginning of the fifth round. More recently, Breaston has matured into a dangerous receiver in the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense opposite Dwayne Bowe.
#9 – DeAngelo Hall, CB (Detroit picks: Roy Williams, WR) 2004
Roy Williams, big receiver out of Texas, was a seventh overall draft pick that came with mixed feelings for Lions fans. It was the second consecutive year that Detroit had used its first pick on a wide receiver. There were bigger holes to fill elsewhere on their porous defense. A couple admirable seasons later, Williams began underperforming and was eventually traded. DeAngelo Hall was a marquis corner coming out of Virginia Tech and was selected with the very next pick. Hall proved over and over that he could be put on an island and succeed. He is a consistent cornerback and is currently playing for the Washington Redskins.
#8 – Clinton Portis, RB (Detroit picks: Kalimba Edwards, DE) 2002
Edwards was selected in the second round to help improve the defensive front. Like Roy Williams, Edwards had a great rookie year with expectations for great things in his future. Unfortunately, like Williams, his performance fell off drastically and was eventually released by the Lions in early 2008. Clinton Portis was selected later in the second round by the Denver Broncos and enjoyed 1,200+ yards rushing six out of his first seven seasons in the NFL. Portis could have helped fill part of the hole in the running game that Barry Sanders left when he retired a few years earlier.
#7 – DeSean Jackson, WR (Detroit picks: Jordon Dizon, LB) 2008
The Detroit Lions were the first team in the modern era to finish a season winless, going 0-16. This was heartbreaking because of the nine quality draft picks, Jordon Dizon included, and a 4-0 record in the preseason. Dizon turned heads by running one of the top times for a linebacker in the 40 yard dash in the Combine. The Lions took a chance on him even with the concerns about his overall strength and NFL potential. Two years later, he was placed on IR and eventually released. Jackson was drafted four picks later by the Philadelphia Eagles and doesn’t need much of an introduction. Jackson has become one of the most dangerous receivers playing in the NFL today.
#6 – Clay Mathews, LB (Detroit picks: Brandon Pettigrew, TE) 2009
The Lions had two first round picks to use in the draft. The first was used to select QB Matthew Stafford. The second was to select Pettigrew, a big tight end out of Oklahoma State. A torn ligament in his knee and inconsistent play has many questioning the choice to use a top pick on the tight end. Clay Mathews was a great player out of USC and was selected six picks later by the Green Bay Packers. Mathews has quickly become the Packers’ top linebacker including a solid performance in Super Bowl XLV.
#5 – Chris Snee, G (Detroit picks: Kevin Jones, RB) 2004
A late first round pick, Kevin Jones, a promising back out of Virginia Tech, was expected to come into Detroit and become the feature back for the offense. All signs were pointing in that direction with a great rookie season. The future was not so kind to the runningback as injuries and performance issues resulted in Jones being released in 2008. At the same time, the New York Giants were selecting G Chris Snee out of Boston College four picks later. Snee has gone on to start every game he’s played (currently 115 games). He has been selected to the previous three Pro Bowls and is an elite lineman who could have come into Detroit and been an anchor for the offense for years.
#4 – Joe Flacco, QB (Detroit picks: Gosder Cherilus, T) 2008
This selection is paired with #7 on this list. The Lions tried convincing themselves that Jon Kitna was a franchise quarterback. Something no one in Lions Nation bought into during Kitna’s tenure in Detroit. Cherilus was the 17th overall pick with Flacco being chosen next. Joe Flacco wasn’t the best quarterback in the draft, but he has become a franchise quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. In fairness, Cherilus has been a reliable lineman for Detroit. However, the Lions would not have gone 0-16 in 2008 if Joe Flacco and DeSean Jackson were paired with Calvin Johnson.
#3 – Mike Wallace, WR (Detroit picks: Derrick Williams, WR) 2009
The middle rounds are for trying to find a superstar in the shuffle or future non-skill position starters. The Lions took a shot on Derrick Williams, a promising wideout from Penn State, with a pick in the beginning of Round 3. Williams never lived up to his NFL potential and was released by the Lions in 2011. Two picks later, thePittsburgh Steelers selected Mike Wallace, a sub 4.4 receiver with a vertical of 40″. Wallace is the ultimate deep threat receiver and would have been a great compliment to Megatron in the passing game.
#2 – DeMarcus Ware, DE (Detroit picks: Mike Williams, WR) 2005
The confusion of the Detroit Lions drafting strategy continued in 2005 when they picked WR Mike Williams out of USC in the first round; the third straight year selecting a wideout with their first pick. Williams was only a sophomore when he declared for the draft and may have been a superstar receiver if he stayed in school and matured as a receiver. It took less than a year for the Lions to realize their mistake and Williams was traded after his second season in Detroit. The Lions, always in need of defensive improvement during this decade, missed another opportunity. DeMarcus Ware was drafted with the next pick by the Dallas Cowboys. Ware has only missed one game since being drafted and continues to terrorize offenses around the league.
#1 – Andre Johnson, WR (Detroit picks: Charles Rogers, WR) 2003
The beginning of the Detroit Lions’ drafting woes began with its biggest mistake. Charles Rogers was a great wideout coming out of Michigan State but some questioned his durability; a question that proved to be costly for the Lions. Back to back season ending injuries his first two seasons effectively ended the chance of Rogers living up to his second overall pick expectations. Rogers was released in 2006 and washed out of the NFL. At the same time, Andre Johnson was picked third by the Houston Texans and quickly became one of the most dominate, efficient and defensively frustrating wide receivers in the NFL.