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32-team challenge: Which NFL teams have drafted well the past five years?

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Detroit Lions

NFL: Detroit Lions-Minicamp
Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) listens to linebacker coach Bill Sheridan during practice at Lions Headquarters and Training Facility.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After reviewing the Chicago Bears’ draft history in the last article, let’s move further into the NFC North to review the Detroit Lions. Have they had successful drafts in the past five years? Are they an organization we can trust to rebuild through the draft?

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson isn’t walking through the door. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is getting older. The Detroit Lions are on the clock.

2012

Round 1: No. 23 Riley Reiff (OT), Iowa

Round 2: No. 54 Ryan Broyles (WR), Oklahoma

Round 3: No. 85 Dwight Bentley (CB), Louisiana-Lafayette

Round 4: No. 125 Ronnell Lewis (DE), Oklahoma

Round 5: No. 138 Tahir Whitehead (LB), Temple

Round 5: No. 148 Chris Greenwood (CB), Albion

Round 6: No. 196 Jonte Green (CB), New Mexico State

Round 7: No. 223 Travis Lewis (LB), Oklahoma

Tahir Whitehead has been a decent selection for the Lions by falling just shy of 100 tackles last season. His struggles show he’s not a starting middle linebacker, but Whitehead will have a chance to show his talents as the weak-side linebacker this year — a position change that may help him perform at a higher level. Riley Reiff didn’t develop into the anchor of Detroit’s offensive line, but he’s a quality tackle who still has a lot of football left. He’ll serve as a starting tackle for the Minnesota Vikings in this upcoming season. The 2012 draft was a bust for the Lions.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2013

Round 1: No. 5 Ezekiel Ansah (DE), Brigham Young

Round 2: No. 36 Darius Slay (CB), Mississippi State

Round 3: No. 65 Larry Warford (G), Kentucky

Round 4: No. 132 Devin Taylor (DE), South Carolina

Round 5: No. 165 Sam Martin (P), Appalachian State

Round 6: No. 171 Corey Fuller (WR), Virginia Tech

Round 6: No. 199 Theo Riddick (RB), Notre Dame

Round 7: No. 211 Michael Williams (TE), Alabama

Round 7: No. 245 Brandon Hepburn (ILB), Florida A&M

Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is an excellent pass rusher, and Darius Slay is arguably a top 10 cornerback in the NFL. After some inconsistent seasons for Larry Warford, he had a strong performance last year, showing he’s a very reliable guard. His high quality of play earned him a big payday from the New Orleans Saints. Theo Riddick is a decent scat-back who offers change of pace and versatility for an offense. The Detroit Lions hit a home run in the 2013 draft with the talent they acquired and developed.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (94) pressures San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2) during the fourth quarter at Ford Field.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

2014

Round 1: No. 10 Eric Ebron (TE), North Carolina

Round 2: No. 40 Kyle Van Noy (OLB), Brigham Young

Round 3: No. 76 Travis Swanson (C), Arkansas

Round 4: No. 133 Nevin Lawson (CB), Utah State

Round 4: No. 136 Larry Webster (DE), Bloomsburg

Round 5: No. 158 Caraun Reed (DT), Princeton

Round 6: No. 189 T.J. Jones (WR), Notre Dame

Round 7: No. 229 Nate Freese (K), Boston College

Nevin Lawson battled highs and lows last year, but he has potential to be an adequate starting cornerback. Travis Swanson returns as the starting center after suffering a brutal concussion. Eric Ebron had a slow start to his career, but showed signs of a break through last season after totaling 61 receptions and 711 yards. But, selecting Ebron at 10th overall was a huge mistake. He’s still young (24), but he has a lot of room for improvement to warrant such a high first-round pick. A few starters is OK, but Detroit missed on a lot of opportunities in this draft. For everything the Lions got right in 2013’s draft, they got wrong in 2014’s.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron (85) runs after a catch during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

2015

Round 1: No. 28 Laken Tomlinson (G), Duke

Round 2: No. 54 Ameer Abdullah (RB), Nebraska

Round 3: No. 80 Alex Carter (CB), Stanford

Round 4: No. 113 Gabe Wright (DT), Auburn

Round 5: No. 168 Michael Burton (FB), Rutgers

Round 6: No. 200 Quandre Diggs (CB), Texas

Round 7: No. 240 Corey Robinson (OT), South Carolina

The Lions chose recognizable draft prospects in 2015, but had none pan out the way they would’ve hoped for. Robinson and Diggs are rotational players, but it remains to be seen if they’ll crack the starting lineup. Ameer Abdullah had a terrific career for the University of Nebraska, but the jury’s out on if he’ll become a franchise running back for Detroit. Laken Tomlinson has struggled mightily at guard, and was demoted to a backup role in 2016. It’s rumored that he’ll be in danger of getting cut from the roster. Another brutal draft class for Detroit.

NFL: Preseason-Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars
Detroit Lions guard Laken Tomlinson (72) gets ready to block Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Ziggy Hood (92) in the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game at EverBank Field.
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

2016

Round 1: No. 16 Taylor Decker (OT), Ohio State

Round 2: No. 46 A’Shawn Robinson (DT), Alabama

Round 3: No. 95 Graham Glasglow (G), Michigan

Round 4: No. 111 Miles Killebrew (S), Southern Utah

Round 5: No. 151 Joe Dahl (G), Washington State

Round 5: No. 169 Antwione Williams (LB), Georgia Southern

Round 6: No. 191 Jake Rudock (QB), Michigan

Round 6: No. 202 Anthony Zettel (DT), Penn State

Round 6: No. 210 Jimmy Landes (LS), Baylor

Round 7: No. 236 Dwayne Washington (RB), Washington

Most of the players from this draft have ceilings as rotational players. Guard Graham Glasglow has a chance to be a starter based off the potential he’s shown in games last season. Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson was a highly coveted prospect coming out of college, and has proven worthy of the starting three-technique role for the defensive line. Taylor Decker is coming off of a major shoulder surgery, but the offensive tackle is expected to be the long-term starter. It’s too early to tell if Robinson and Decker will reach their potential, but there’s belief in the organization that both players can be key pieces to Detroit’s future success.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson (91) is called for a personal foul after slamming Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) to the ground during the second half at AT&T Stadium.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Overall assessment: Fail. The Detroit Lions have made some good draft picks in the past, but they’ve missed on way too many. Ansah, Slay and Stafford are excellent players who are key pieces to Detroit’s success, but there are tons of unanswered question marks on the roster. The Lions have some talented players, but not nearly enough talent to compete with Green Bay or Minnesota for the division title. Detroit must draft better. The defense needs help, and so does Stafford.