Mayhew sticking to his draft plan
I'm resisting the urge to hand out draft grades this year. They're pointless. I won't be able to tell you how the Lions did until three years from now (minimum) when I see what kind of players Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew and Louis Delmas turn out to be, and for that matter how good they are in relation to Aaron Curry, Michael Oher and Rey Maualuga.
I like the Stafford pick. I think he fits what the Lions want to do and I believe you go as your quarterback goes. The Lions have proven that for decades. I like Pettigrew and Delmas as players, too. Pettigrew excels at the most underrated aspect of the game, blocking, and Delmas has a chance to be a playmaker in the secondary, something the Lions sorely lack currently.
I also think the Lions should have drafted Maualuga to fill their canyon at middle linebacker. I probably would have taken him at pick No. 20. I definitely would have taken him at 33. But I'm not a talent evaluator and it appears I liked the USC product more than most of the 32 NFL teams, who employ much smarter men on the subject than me.
I can't hammer the Lions for Day 1 of their draft, though. Sorry if this is redundant. I know I've written it a thousand times. But there are dozens of ways to win in the NFL. The key is not that you choose a certain one (though the Patriot and Steeler ways have their privileges), but rather that you stay disciplined within whatever you plan you have. OK, unless it's the Al Davis Plan. That one never works.
Like it or not, the Lions did that Saturday. They went best player available with each of their picks. At 20 and 33, they probably went safest available, too. (Oher and Maualuga have more red flags than the Russians.)
They didn't make the splash pick and surely didn't win over fans, but they did take the top players in the draft at three different positions. No other team can say that.
If the goal is to win this year, I'd say the Lions are in trouble. Stafford will start the season as a backup, who knows who'll start at middle linebacker, and Pettigrew and Delmas play low-priority positions (at least compared to Oher and Maualuga).
But general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz have made it clear they're building for the long term. Three years from now, when the real grades come out, they see Stafford throwing passes to Calvin Johnson, Pettigrew sealing off the edge for Kevin Smith, and Delmas covering ground in the secondary behind
OK, so they still don't have much in the way of defense, but Mayhew said the Lions weren't going to fill every hole in one draft. I can't gush about his work yet, but I can't slam it, either. Not until I see the vision take a little more shape.