Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News recently revealed that the 2009 NFL draft is shaping up to become one of the worst in recent history. Out of the 257 players selected, one-third have already been waived, traded, or retired.
But the results from the 2009 draft were very different for the Detroit Lions.
The Lions selected nine players in the 2009 draft. Seven of those players are still on the Lions roster, and all of them are still in the NFL. Five of the Lions 2009 draft picks have won starting spots So the team is pretty satisfied that the 2009 NFL draft went pretty well.
Several of the 2009 draft picks have already proved to the Lions that they are legitimate NFL-caliber talent. Certainly Matthew Stafford and Louis Delmas look very promising, since both appear to have Pro-Bowl level talent. Brandon Pettigrew may eventually be added as a Pro Bowler as well, but he has more left to prove than Stafford or Delmas.
DeAndre Levy also appears to be a legitimate NFL talent. It is probably a stretch to say he is Pro-Bowl caliber, but it is still possible he could develop to that level. We need to see more from Levy to tell. But he has shown he belongs, if he can get back on the field and avoid injury.
Zack Follett is also starting, but he is a project.
Follett's starting position is mainly because the Lions don't have anybody better to play in the position after you consider upside. We will have to be patient with Zack if we are to see his full potential, because he will be a work in progress for a couple seasons.
Sammie Lee Hill is a solid contributor to the defensive tackle rotation. He has been well worth the fourth-round pick that the Lions spent on him and he still has upside. If Hill continues to develop, he will be a valuable player for the Lions for a long time, and he is heir to Corey Williams' starting position when he retires.
Derrick Williams has been a bit of a disappointment so far. He is still on the roster but he needs to make some impressions during this season. Williams was initially drafted to be a dual-threat return specialist because of his speed. So far he has not developed into that role for the Lions, though he has shown flashes of promise as a receiver.
While Aaron Brown is on the roster, he probably will not see much time in the games as a running back. Jahvid Best has taken his role on the team, and that is not likely to change, barring injury. But Brown has shown some promise as a speed back, and the Lions may be able to get something for him in a trade if they decide he no longer fits into their plans.
Lydon Murtha was claimed by the Miami Dolphins from the Lions practice squad. Murtha is still on the Dolphins roster. While he did not benefit the Lions, he was not a bad pick, since he has managed to stay in the NFL. This is the only lost 2009 pick for the Lions so far.
Dan Gronkowski was traded by the Lions to the Broncos in order to get cornerback Alfonso Smith. This was a good trade that swapped players that were not going to make the roster for the teams that originally drafted them. Both players potentially fill a role for their new team.
While Gronkowski would count as one of the players that were traded, in Gosselin's analysis, that is misleading. The Lions were not unhappy with Gronkowski. He was simply the odd man out in a very deep group of tight ends.
The Lions should be very happy with their payback from the 2009 draft. They have done rather well in a year where the NFL did not fare well overall. This is a tribute to the hard work put in by the front office, scouting department, and coaches.
We have not been able to say that the Lions out-performed the rest of the NFL very often, but this is one case where they have. If the Lions are going to compete for the Super Bowl, they need to continue to draft this well in the future.