The Detroit Lions ended the season in strong fashion before losing to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC playoffs. On the strength of young players selected in the past few NFL drafts, the Lions finally started to see that talent come together on the field making for a bright future.
The Lions 2011 draft class was largely based on talent over need, and those need areas in the defensive backfield and offensive line in particular,showed up as weaknesses at times during the season. The draft class did show promise, though when the players could make their way onto the field. ESPN's Mel Kiper re-graded the 2011 draft based on how this past season went, and the Lions didn't fare as well in hindsight as they right after taking talent on draft day. Here's what Kiper had to say.
Post-draft grade: A-
Summary: The Lions did incredibly well when it came to drafting value based on my rankings, but I had them at only a C-plus for need. At the time, I wondered whether the fact that they didn't get a cornerback, an offensive lineman or a linebacker would be an issue. The amazing thing is that, even though everybody significant in the class got hurt, this draft comes out looking not too bad, even in the short term. Nick Fairley had surgery in August but showed late in the season that he could become an impact player. Titus Young also was dinged early but managed 48 catches and more than 600 yards. Young has a really bright future. Mikel Leshoure's injury was really a shame, and you hope he can come back strong in 2012. And that's really it for the Lions. They can't live up to the post-draft grade, but at least there is plenty of promise, as it looks as if they'll get two impact players out of it despite the bad luck early.
New grade: B
That seems fair, although with those injury issues an "incomplete" grade may be more appropriate. Regardless it will be exciting to see how the rookies this season impact the Lions as they move forward.
For more on the Detroit Lions heading into the offseason, check out Pride of Detroit. You can also head over to SB Nation's main NFL hub at SBNation.com/NFL.