Summing up the 2011 NFL Draft for the Detroit Lions, the organization strengthened strengths and stayed true to their board rather than specifically targeting weaker positions.
“(We need to draft) players that fit,” said Head Coach Jim Schwartz. “(We can’t) get overwhelmed by the immediacy of some of those needs.
“There’s still a lot of different ways we can (address needs) and a lot of time before we play our first game. Worry about the strengths of your team, worry about the guys that you drafted rather than worry about the guys that got away.”
The Lions did not expect defensive tackle Nick Fairley to be available when they picked at 13, but were beyond thrilled when he was.
“The talent was so much that it didn’t give us any hesitation to draft him,” said Schwartz.
Day two included the drafting of wide receiver Titus Young and running back Mikel Leshoure, two players whose ability to compliment Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best, respectively, could reap significant reward.
The final day’s selections – linebacker Doug Hogue and offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath – are players with raw talent who also fit the profile Detroit is looking for.
“We feel good about the two guys that we got today,” said Mayhew. “Hogue, probably a slightly better athlete than he is linebacker right now – he was playing running back two years ago. He’s played linebacker for two seasons now, but he has a lot of upside.
“Culbreath is a very good developmental offensive lineman. Very athletic; 6-5, 320. He’s a real good guy to work with.”
Ultimately, the Lions are more than pleased with their 2011 draft class, even though they didn’t address what those outside the building consider significant needs.
From the organization’s perspective, the Lions would prefer to take a player who fits exactly what they’re looking for at an already-strong position than reach for a player at a position of need.
“Filling a need doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a good player,” said Schwartz. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting a player that best fits; it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting a player that’s better than what you have already.”
The Lions are garnering attention for their draft-weekend “steals,” but it is difficult to gauge the overall impact of these picks without knowing what will happen in free agency.
Typically, the Lions would have addressed specific needs prior to the draft taking place, but this year presented a very different situation.
“We have a lot of needs,” said Mayhew. “There are a lot of areas where we can try to improve, but I find, most of the time, opportunities come from (all over).
“We’re just ready to try to improve whether it’s through trade, free agency, waiver claims, we’re always looking for players.”
When the Lions will be permitted to explore those avenues will have to be based on a wait-and-see approach.
As of right now, teams are not permitted to explore the acquisition of free agent players, rookie or otherwise.
“You have to prepare for everything and we’re pretty prepared to proceed down any avenue.”
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