With the NFL Draft quickly approaching this Thursday, everyone is focused on who the Detroit Lions might pick. Excitement is always high at this time of year. Let’s face it – as a Lions fan – the draft is our Super Bowl. Hope Springs Eternal as the Honolulu Blue and Silver look to grab the next superstar to roam Ford Field.
Drafting is not an exact science. Even the most sure-fire young players sometimes end up being a bust in the NFL. That said, there have certainly been some famous whiffs by the Detroit Lions front office in the draft over the years.
Let’s take a look back at some strange draft decisions made in the Lions War Room and what could’ve been if a different choice had been made. And, no…it’s not just a rehash of every single decision made by Matt Millen.
2014 — Eric Ebron #10 overall
The One That Got Away: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, #21 overall (Green Bay)
This pick left most of Metro Detroit scratching a collective temple. The Lions roster already contained Tony Scheffler, Brandon Pettigrew, and Joseph Fauria at tight end. The Lions went ahead and drafted Ebron anyway.
Meanwhile, eleven picks later, the Green Bay Packers picked up Clinton-Dix. He is a Pro Bowl player and could’ve helped the Lions fill a tremendous need in the defensive backfield.
2010 — Jahvid Best, #30 overall
The One That Got Away: Dexter McCluster, #36 overall (Kansas City)
Many people hail Jahvid Best as a solid pick by the Lions. Certainly, Best had all the tools and speed to be a tremendous pro running back. However, was it wise for Detroit to draft Best, a player who finished his last collegiate game being taken off the field on a stretcher? Sadly, his concussion issues eventually led to an early retirement from pro football in 2013.
Only six picks later the Kansas City Chiefs cashed in on Dexter McCluster. The tough running scat back was an instant success returning a punt 94-yards for a touchdown in his first NFL game.
2005 — Mike Williams, #10 overall
The One That Got Away: Darren Sproles #130 overall (San Diego)
Let’s face it, everyone was impressed with Mike Williams in college. A man among boys at USC, He seemed like he was going to develop into an amazing receiver in the pros. Unfortunately, early draft entry Williams never put it all together. His NFL career consisted of him bouncing from team to team and making the Lions look foolish for picking him at #10.
Maybe I’m just fond of quick running backs, but, Sproles was one of the biggest whiffs of the draft in my opinion. A lot of teams missed on him, not only the Lions. This makes sense as a Detroit fan. We’ve all been waiting for the next runner to come along and create highlight reels in the wake of Barry Sanders. Darren Sproles was certainly a candidate to do that. The speedster from Kansas State was passed over by many teams only to become a perennial All-Pro. He has been setting records for all-purpose yards his entire career. If only he could’ve done that in a Detroit Uniform.
2004 — Roy Williams, #7 overall
The One That Got Away: Ben Roethlisberger, #11 (Pittsburgh)
I watched Roy Williams play in person in college. He ran up and down the field seemingly at will when the Longhorns visited my Baylor Bears. He certainly seemed like a sure fire impact player to me.
Of course, who knew that a 5-time Pro Bowler and 2-time Super Bowl Champion would be chosen 4 picks later. Ben Roethlisberger would overcome some immediate off-field issues and blossom into a solid leader of a championship team.
Wait…what am I thinking? The Lions didn’t need a quarterback. Detroit was all set a signal caller with Joey Harrington, Rick Mirer, and Mike McMahon…
2003 — Charles Rogers, #2 overall
The One That Got Away: Andre Johnson, #3 (Houston)
I’m all about the local flavor during the draft. I pay much closer attention to collegiate football players from Michigan than I do from other states. In 2003, Charles Rogers had more hype than anyone in the state and maybe the country. He was all-everything after two years at Michigan State University.
While Rogers is generally known as a major draft bust, people forget that before his injury issues, he was producing as a wideout for Detroit. He caught 3 touchdowns in his first 5 games as a Lion before getting hurt in practice his rookie year. Sadly, injuries and immaturity were the eventual downfalls for the talented kid from Saginaw. He now seems to have found peace working a day job in an auto shop.
One pick later, the Houston Texans chose Andre Johnson. Another wide receiver, Johnson certainly had a different career trajectory than Charles Rogers.
[stats provided by The Football DB]