It was the nightmare scenario for finicky Detroit Lions' fans everywhere. In the second round of the 2012 NFL draft, the team took a wide receiver for the second year in a row and the umpteenth time in a decade. One round later, they followed that selection up with a defensive back no casual fan has likely ever heard of from a conference deemed largely insignificant.
"Is Matt Millen running this draft? There's no plan!" From restaurants to living rooms and even live chats, you could feel the panic commencing across Michigan as each pick rolled in. Yet, when taking a step back and ignoring the surface details, both of these selections don't look so bad. In fact, they're light years from terrible.
First came Ryan Broyles, perhaps the best receiver ever to play for the Oklahoma Sooners, who also happens to be the leading pass catcher in the history of college football (349 career receptions? Gaudy). Since 2009, he's also put up double-digit touchdown receptions while also showcasing himself as a versatile special teams threat. There's no questioning his hands or more importantly, his work ethic. Is there a marijuana addiction? Google, as well as memory cannot find one. Is there a penchant for laziness or overeating? The track record sure doesn't show one. Broyles' only real wart is the torn ACL he's been rehabbing since the fall of 2011.
However, that injury leads to perhaps the most brilliant aspect of this move, which is how Broyles can be eased into action. When general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz said they will rehab him at their own speed, this is what they are talking about. With Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Titus Young in the fold, there's no rush for Broyles to get into game speed fast or learn anything in a hurry. He can study the playbook at his own pace, heal completely and be better prepared. There's no pressure for early greatness with this stacked offense, so the "one size fits all" assumption he will fail like most of Millen's wide receivers certainly doesn't fit here.
Dwight Bentley, the third round pick, was a big performer at the Senior Bowl. He may not have made the loud interception that day or jumped off the stat sheet, but he was physical and constantly ball hawking. For a defensive back playing behind the Lions' attacking frontal scheme, that's the most important element of the game. Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith have made a living the past two seasons by being in the right place at the right time in coverage.
Best of all, Bentley has 4.3 speed, and elevated his game against top competition. He played well against San Diego State, Ryan Lindley and Ronnie Hillman. Mayhew and Schwartz spoke about how he impressed them going against Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden and his wide receiver Justin Blackmon. He secured two interceptions that day, one for a touchdown. Those are the kinds of physical specimens Bentley will meet consistently at the next level, and he's already passed a big early test.
The point? There's no need to discount a player just because he's coming off injury, is from a smaller school or plays at a position where a team is seemingly "loaded." This isn't Millen's production anymore, which means there's no sideshow in the war room. The current front office may not hit on every one of their picks. but they've got a plan and it shows. Most importantly, they've proven the ability to identify football players, most of whom can make an immediate difference. Don't forget, this group has already panned for gold and found DeAndre Levy, Titus Young, Willie Young and Sammie Lee Hill in drafts past.
So go ahead and be shocked, stunned and floored by these picks today, but if Broyles and Bentley end up panning out as hoped tomorrow, don't be surprised.
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