North Drafts: Worst to First

After digesting the big picture for the last week,'s team publishers and NFL Scouting's Michael DiJulio provide their insight on the NFC North drafts. Which team came in second in our rankings with one first-place and one last-place vote, and what picks got us talking? publishers Nate Caminata (Detroit), Bill Huber (Green Bay), Jeremy Stoltz (Chicago) and Tim Yotter (Minnesota), along with NFL Scouting's Michael DiJulio, break down the drafts of the four teams in the NFC North.

We ranked the teams, from worst to first, with each publisher not allowed to vote for his own team. Detroit, with one first-place vote and one last-place vote, is emblematic of just how good these teams appeared to have drafted. Here is what our experts had to say about the Lions' five-player class.

Michael DiJulio, NFL Scouting

1 (13) Nick Fairley, dt, Auburn.

2 (44) Titus Young, wr, Boise State.

2 (57) Mikel Leshoure, rb, Illinois.

5 (157) Doug Hogue, lb, Syracuse.

7 (209) Johnny Culbreath, ot, South Carolina State.

The Lions added just five players to the mix, but made those selections count. Nick Fairley is the perfect complement to Ndamukong Suh and could give Detroit one of the most dominant interior combos in the league. The Lions also got much more explosive on offense in the second round. Matthew Stafford has a complete group of weapons with the dynamic Titus Young working out of the slot. Mikel Leshoure brings a power element to the running game and will help keep Jahvid Best fresh, allowing the team to fully utilize the talent of both players.

Detroit finished 21st in total defense last season and added just one more player to that side of the ball in linebacker Doug Hogue. It would've been nice to see them bring in some more defenders, but the Lions let the draft come to them and went with quality over quantity.

Tim Yotter, Viking Update

Detroit might come away with the biggest boom-bust draft of the four NFC North teams. Pairing Fairley with Suh likely will lead to the most explosive pairing of defensive tackles in the league for several years to come … if Fairley is motivated. But there are two potential problems here: Fairley needs to work hard to show that concerns over his work ethic were unfounded or overblown; and the Lions need to make sure their defensive tackle tandem doesn't become a liability in the run-stopping game. If those two factors work in their favor, it should be a lights-out pairing for years to come.

After that, the second-round additions of Young and Leshoure should give the Lions a little more variety in their offense. While Calvin Johnson offers Stafford a beast of a target on the outside, Young should prove to be a good slot option, and Leshoure is the anti-Jahvid Best. Leshoure can pick up the hard yards while providing a breather for the speedster, who will need to prove he isn't injury-prone.

Detroit only had five picks, so the overall success of their draft will rest largely with Fairley and his work ethic. None of the other selections are game-changers. Fairley could be next to Suh, if he's self-motivated.

Bill Huber, Packer Report

The Packers' run to the Super Bowl almost never got started. On Dec. 12 at Ford Field, Detroit's defensive line overwhelmed the Packers' front wall and Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion during the a second-quarter scramble. By day's end, an offense that moved the ball up and down the field against Pittsburgh's juggernaut defense in the Super Bowl gained a grand total of 258 yards and scored six points.

The Lions arguably had one of the top three or four defensive lines in the business last season with Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch at end, Corey Williams and the indomitable Suh at tackle, and Turk McBride and Sammie Lee Hill providing depth. With Fairley added to the mix at defensive tackle, it's almost unfair. If Fairley is hungry — playing alongside Suh at practice and in the games should help — how on earth is any team going to handle that tandem in the middle? Good luck, Green Bay, with mediocre starter Daryn Colledge or unproven youngsters T.J. Lang or Nick McDonald getting the call at left guard.

Add Young's game-breaking speed at receiver and kickoff returner and Leshoure's punishing running as a complement to the speedy Best, and the Lions suddenly are a major, major threat in the NFC — not just the NFC North. Assuming, of course, Stafford's doesn't get hurt taking out the trash or carrying his helmet.

Jeremy Stoltz, Bear Report

The Lions were arguably the biggest beneficiaries of the early quarterback run, which allowed them to grab Fairley, the most dominant defensive lineman in college football last season. He gets to join a defensive tackle rotation that already boasts Suh, Williams and Hill. Putting Suh and Fairley on the field together could create one of the foremost interior defensive fronts in the league.

Young is a playmaker. His straight-line speed gives the Lions a legitimate deep threat that should take some of the pressure off Johnson. Leshoure is a solid back that can be the thunder to Best's lightning. Hogue was a great value pick and should be able to contend for a starting linebacker spot as early as this year.

Detroit made the most out of its five picks, selecting quality players in each round. It will need to be aggressive in free agency to upgrade the offensive line, though. If it's not, and Stafford again goes down for a significant period of time, the additions of Young and Leshoure, taken in lieu of some quality front-five prospects, won't have nearly as much impact.

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