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Detroit Lions need recent draft picks to contribute


The Detroit Lions have been pleased with their high draft picks for the most part. Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Louis Delmas and Brandon Pettigrew are all productive and full of potential. But mistakes have been made along the way by a team that has made the playoffs just once in the last 13 seasons.

Jahvid Best (first round) might never play again because of concussions. Titus Young (second round) was released because of behavioral issues. Mikel Leshoure (second round) has only shown glimpses when healthy. Amari Spievey (third round) has been average at best.

That has to change if the Lions want to consistently resemble the 2011 team that went 10-6.

"When you talk about building a team through the draft, those draft choices have to continue to develop as players," president Tom Lewand told the team official website on Saturday. "We've seen some of that ... and we certainly need to see more and more as we move forward both with last year's class, the 2011 class and this year's class. Rookies come in and contribute right away in this league and this year will be no exception."

There are expectations, especially, for that 2011 class. Nick Fairley was supposed to pair with Suh to form the most dominant defensive tackle duo in the NFL. Leshoure was supposed to be the pile-moving power back. Young also was part of that class.

Last year's first-round pick, Riley Reiff, should start on the offensive line in 2013. The Lions need one of the three cornerbacks they drafted last year to become a legit NFL starter. Ryan Broyles could have stepped right into the now-vacant No. 3 receiver slot, but he's rehabbing from a blown-out knee. They also drafted three linebackers last year who haven't made much of an impact.

Again, general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz are running out of time in Detroit. This is their most important offseason. They'll be active in free agency, but their investments in the draft need to show their worth.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.


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