ChatWrap: Lions late-round drafting

Our SportsNation chat brought fair criticism, and reasonable debate, to the Detroit Lions' late-round drafting in the five-year tenure of general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz. The relevant exchange:

Jordan K. (Newark, Ohio)

Do you think the Lions are sub-par at developing young talent? It seems as though unless they are natural born studs, our draftees don't seem to grow as players as much as other teams'.

Kevin Seifert (2:29 PM)

I'm not sure how they compare with the rest of the league, but I see what you're saying. Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Suh, Fairley, etc. have all become good players but were all first-round picks. Players like Ronnell Lewis, Travis White and Tahir Whitehead seem to be treading water. It's always a chicken or egg argument: Were they poor draft picks or were they not properly developed? I think the answer for the Lions lies in between.

Jordan K. (Newark, Ohio)

I'm trying to think of one player this Lions regime has drafted in the 4th round or later that is a significant contributor...my only thought is Jason Fox, but that's only this year and a maybe. Who am I missing?

Kevin Seifert (2:40 PM)

Sammie Lee Hill was and is a pretty good player. He was a fourth-rounder in 2009. But yeah, overall, not a sparkling record.

Here is a one-step link to every draft in Lions history. Between 2009 and 2012, the Lions drafted 19 players in the third round or lower. Ten are still with the team. (Hill departed via free agency last spring.) Only one of them, linebacker DeAndre Levy, is an established starter. Cornerback Bill Bentley and Fox could have significant roles in Week 1 if they are not starting.

To be fair, we would need to do a much larger study to understand where this performance ranks in context with the rest of the league. Everyone wants their teams to find good players in the later rounds of the draft, but many more of those players fail than succeed. And we shouldn't just write off the success of the Lions' first-round picks, and some of those selected in the second. They are not immune to failure, either.

In the end, however, we can look at the Lions' starters and other key contributors and conclude that no more than 11 came from the drafts between 2009-12. That has left the Lions searching elsewhere -- free agency, trades, undrafted rookies -- to find the majority of players they plan to use regularly this season.