As many of you have pointed out, the release of Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young pretty much wrapped up the "Have at It" debates we generated a few years ago about the best young receiver in the NFC North. (Hint: It wasn't Young.) It also opens the door for an inspection of the Lions' drafts under general manager Martin Mayhew, who took over the NFL's most barren roster when promoted to his current role after the 2008 season.
The chart shows the 20 Mayhew draft picks who remain on the roster. Eight were 2012 starters, and of the larger group, six are pending free agents whose return is at least uncertain.
On the whole, we can see that many of the Lions' best players are Mayhew draft picks, be it quarterback Matthew Stafford or defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh or even defensive tackle Nick Fairley. (Receiver Calvin Johnson was selected in 2007, the penultimate year of Matt Millen's tenure.) There have been some low-round hits, most notably 2010 seventh-rounder Willie Young, and two high-profile failures.
Young, of course, is one. The other is tailback Jahvid Best, whose complicated situation we discussed in depth last fall. Things have changed a lot since 2010, and given Best's history of concussions, it is highly unlikely he would be a first-round draft pick in 2013. The Lions gambled that Best's prior concussions wouldn't make him more susceptible to future ones, a passable projection three years ago that has since proved folly.
More than anything, Mayhew's drafts lack the kind of volume that would have been necessary to fully restock the Lions' roster over a four-year period. Compare their raw numbers to the recent drafts of the Green Bay Packers, who are the NFL's gold standard draft-and-develop program.
The Packers have 26 players on their roster from their past four drafts, including 14 who spent time as 2012 starters. In fact, the Packers had a former draft pick or undrafted free agent start at every position last season, including place-kicker and punter.
I won't suggest that the Lions have to match the Packers' draft practices to be successful. Good teams can be built in different ways. But as Mayhew approaches his fifth draft, we've already discussed the possibility of a defensive overhaul and noted that the team needs to beef up its depth at receiver, running back and offensive line as well. That's a long list of needs for a group that has been at this four years already.