As the 43rd pick of the 2011 draft approached, the Detroit Lions zeroed in on a talented player they had identified for a specific role in their offense. The Lions wanted an explosive vertical threat who could capitalize on the chunks of yardage available for anyone playing opposite Calvin Johnson, and they believed Boise State's Titus Young was best suited for that role.
Young was drafted ahead of three other receivers in the round. Most of us who watched him over the past two years would agree he has the talent to rival Torrey Smith (No. 58 overall to the Baltimore Ravens), Greg Little (No. 59 to the Cleveland Browns) and Randall Cobb (No. 64 to the Green Bay Packers). In the end, however, Young will go down as arguably the worst mistake Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has made in his five-year tenure. Releasing him Monday was an obvious, inevitable and overdue move -- a stunning fall for a high-second-round draft pick.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but it seems clear Mayhew underestimated the character issues that all teams were aware of prior to the 2011 draft. Young had been suspended in 2008 for behavior issues, and it wasn't difficult to find an NFL personnel man who privately expressed concern about his personality quirks.
Young's implosion included acts of violence and insubordination that you don't often see, even in a rough-and-tumble industry. His primary and known offenses -- sucker punching safety Louis Delmas last spring and reportedly lining up in the wrong position intentionally last December -- are not just examples of immaturity. They are signs of a troubled soul who isn't equipped at this point in his life to function in the NFL's high-pressure world.
I hope he spends some time getting his life together before pursuing a new NFL team. Last month's bizarre set of tweets suggested Young has much work left to do. Those of you who have been asking if the Minnesota Vikings, or any other team, should claim him are missing how serious of a situation he is in.
Is it fair to say Mayhew should have recognized those issues before the draft? Maybe not. But it is absolutely part of the business to hold him accountable for using a valuable asset, not to mention committing to a $1.8 million signing bonus along with two years of base salaries worth a total of $840,000, on a player who caused much more trouble than he did good in his short time. It would have been embarrassing to the franchise if the Lions keep him on the roster one day longer than required under NFL rules.
In the end, this episode leaves the Lions right back where they started in 2011. They need a receiver who is explosive enough to eat up the yards available when defenses focus on Johnson. The Lions have some hope that player could be Ryan Broyles, but he is recovering from his second torn ACL in as many years.
As wild as it sounds, wide receiver needs to be near the top of the Lions' list of draft priorities. By definition, that makes Young's two seasons in Detroit a total waste.