Lions GM concedes 2011 draft class was bust
Phoenix — With defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley leaving in free agency this offseason, the Lions have zero players on the roster from their 2010 and 2011 draft classes.
On Monday, general manager Martin Mayhew provided an honest assessment of the two classes while noting that there's a distinction between the two.
By any measure, the 2011 class was an abject failure. Fairley, the 13th overall pick who signed a one-year deal with the Rams this offseason, showed Pro Bowl potential as an interior pass rusher, but struggled to play consistently and keep his weight down.
Second-round picks Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure are both out of the league. Young, a wide receiver, was a promising rookie with 48 catches for 607 yards and six touchdowns, but once his mental health issues became too difficult to overcome, the team suspended him and put him on injured reserve, holding him out of the final six games of 2012. They cut him the following offseason, and he was later arrested three times in one week in California.
Leshoure missed his rookie season after rupturing his Achilles tendon, ran for nine touchdowns but a 3.7-yard average and three lost fumbles in 2012 and was active just three games in 2013 before being cut out of training camp last year.
Fifth-round linebacker Doug Hogue played 13 games in 2011 on special teams and five in 2012 before he was cut, landing with Carolina for the end of the season but not playing in the league since. And seventh-round offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath never played an NFL snap.
"I think '11 wasn't a good draft for us. I didn't do a good job in '11," Mayhew said. "I think I was overly aggressive. I learned a lot from that, and our drafts have improved since then.
Mayhew declined to explain what he meant about being overly aggressive.
"I'm just going to leave it at that," he said. "You can interpret it how you want to interpret it."
Four of the five picks all had off-field problems early in their careers — Fairley, Leshoure and Culbreath were arrested on marijuana-related charges — as well as dedication issues. Fairley's commitment issues are well documented, particularly with his consistent weight problem.
Young thought he was better than Calvin Johnson and became moody when he didn't play. Leshoure was late or inattentive in meetings and showed no signs of improvement during his time in Detroit.
Despite the problematic class, the Lions did go to the playoffs in 2011.
The circumstances that led to the exodus of the 2010 class were different. Suh, the No. 2 overall pick, left this offseason, but is one of the top players in the NFL. Fourth-round offensive tackle Jason Fox and seventh-round defensive end Willie Young are still in the league with the Dolphins and Bears, respectively.
Running back Jahvid Best, the 30th overall pick, left the NFL after two seasons due to concussions. Third-round safety Amari Spievey struggled and had injury issues, but lasted three seasons. Seventh-round receiver Tim Toone never played, but did bounce around the league briefly.
"I thought 2010 was a quality draft for us," Mayhew said. "We got some quality players in that draft, just don't have them coming back for various reasons."
The problem is the Lions couldn't keep the players they wanted from 2010.
"Well, obviously, you'd like to have all those guys back, you know?" he said, speaking about drafts in general. "You draft guys, and I think ideally you want them to be second contract guys and have them around."