Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers discuss the Detroit Lions as training camp continues, with the New York Giants in town for three practices and the second preseason game. The Detroit News, The Detroit News
Allen Park — Oh, what might have been.
The Detroit Lions botched the 2014 draft. Sure, we have the benefit of hindsight, but it's not like the first-round selection of tight end Eric Ebron was popular in real time. But little did we know how cruel time would be with the choice.
Ebron had some productive years in Detroit, but none matching his lofty draft position, prior to his release this past offseason. What truly made the pick so poor was the success of the players selected after him, with six of the next seven picks off the board having becoming Pro Bowlers.
The list includes All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, offensive linemen Taylor Lewan (Michigan) and Zack Martin and wide receiver Odell Beckham. There were voices in the room who wanted Donald and Beckham, but ultimately lost out to a push the coaching staff for Ebron, namely assistant head coach Ron Prince. The athletic tight end out of North Carolina was supposed to be Detroit's Jimmy Graham in coordinator Joe Lombardi's offensive scheme.
Beckham, who spent the last three days practicing in Detroit with the New York Giants, admitted he thought the Lions were going to take him with the 10th pick that year.
"Going into the draft is a crazy process, I had no idea I was going to be where I’m at today," Beckham said Wednesday. "I thought that Tampa Bay was a possibility, I thought Buffalo was a possibility — then they traded up and got Sammy (Watkins). Tampa took Mike Evans, I think, who was right before Detroit with the ninth pick. I can’t remember.
"Tenth, I thought, 'All right, I’m going to go to Detroit,' " Beckham said. "It didn’t happen, then fell to 12th to the Giants. I think it worked it out perfectly, but I do remember that."
Beckham's recollection is slightly off. Evans was taken No. 7 by the Bucs. But things have definitely gone well for the former LSU standout in New York. He averaged 96 catches for 1,374 yards and almost 12 touchdowns his first three seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors each year. Injuries limited him to four games last season.
Does Beckham ever wonder what might have been had he gone to Detroit, where he would have been paired with Calvin Johnson and the newly signed Golden Tate?
"Pssh, not reality right now," he said. "I’m sure I thought about during that time, and I’m sure it would have been a great opportunity, but everything happened for a reason."