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Lions Draft Review – 2008

With the latest NFL Draft weekend a couple weeks in the rearview mirror, pundits around the league are looking at which teams were the winners or losers in 2011.  However, as most draftniks will tell you, the real review of a draft comes three or four seasons down the road.  With that in mind, let’s take a look back to the 2008 Lions Draft – the last with Matt Millen at the helm.

(Note:  The grades are done on a curve based on draft order.  Therefore, higher round picks are expected to perform better than lower round picks, and are graded accordingly)

Gosder Cherilus, RT Boston College

Round 1, Pick 17

Gosder Cherilus was considered something of a reach at the time, but not a huge one as he was graded as a first round pick on most boards.  His struggled in his first season to adjust to the pro game, and spent most of his time backing up Damien Woody.  He showed improvement in his second and third seasons, but has been hampered by injuries.  He underwent micro-fracture surgery this past year and though reports state that his rehab is progressing well, that type of procedure is always concerning.

Final Grade:  B-

Jordon Dizon, LB Colorado

Round 2, Pick 14

This was a puzzling pick since, even though the Lions had a need at linebacker, they had needs in lots of places and Dizon was generally considered a mid-round pick.  Dizon struggled to break into the starting lineup despite numerous chances his rookie season.  His value has mainly come on special teams.  He suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 2010 preseason game.  Depending on what moves the Lions make in free agency this year, Dizon will likely get one more chance to prove that he has what it takes to play the pro game.

Final Grade: D

Kevin Smith, RB Central Florida

Round 3, Pick 1

Smith’s gaudy yardage production in college outshone his average triangle numbers at the combine to catch Detroit’s eye.  He was drafted right around where most observers had him pegged, and he had a strong rookie season rushing for nearly 1,000 yards (4th among rookies).  Despite that, he never quite seemed to be able to sustain momentum.  After a mediocre sophomore year and an injury plagued 2010, the Lions declined to tender him as a restricted free agent and he will not be with the team in 2011.

Final Grade: C

Andre Fluellen, DT Florida State

Round 3, Pick 24

With Big Baby Shaun Rogers leaving for Cleveland, Fluellen had big shoes to fill.  Unfortunately, he never quite got there.  Nonetheless, over three years, Fluellen has been a good piece of the defensive rotation, and he also has the flexibility to play defensive end in some situations.  Still, with the addition of Ndamukong Suh last year and Nick Fairley this year, “Flu’s” days may be numbered in the Honolulu Blue.

Final Grade: C

Cliff Avril, DE Purdue

Round 3, Pick 29

Although Avril played as a linebacker in college, he was primarily a pass rush specialist.  Therefore, the Lions drafted him to play defensive end hoping he would emerge into a lightning-quick sack artist like Dwight Freeney.  Although he flashed some potential his rookie and sophomore years, it wasn’t until 2010 that he came into his own.  He put together a solid season, amassing 8.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.  Avril promises to continue to be an important cog in what is becoming an elite defensive line in Detroit.

Final Grade: A

Kenneth Moore, WR Wake Forest

Round 5, Pick 1

Moore was a dual threat receiver out of the ACC since he was a full-time return man for the Demon Deacons in addition to his receiving duties.  Unfortunately, he failed to crack the Lions lineup and spent most of his rookie year on the Carolina Panther’s practice squad.  His most recent notoriety came in 2010, when he was release by the Colts after fumbling twice in one game against the Redskins.

Final Grade: F

Jerome Felton, FB Furman

Round 5, Pick 11

Felton was drafted to be a short yardage crusher, either as a blocker or as a ballcarrier.  A touchdown machine in college, he has yet to find the endzone in a Lions uniform.  What is worse is that he has had problems hanging onto the football resulting in some very costly fumbles.  A bruising halfback in college, Fulton has yet to show that he is more than an average fullback in the pros.

Final Grade: C-

Landon Cohen, DT Ohio

Round 7, Pick 9

Cohen has proven himself a willing and high-motor player, and performed admirably in the defensive tackle rotation for the Lions for two years.  However, he was pushed out early in the 2010 season to make room for Suh.  He played briefly for the Jaguars before being signed by the Patriots late in the season.  For a 7th round pick, he has proved himself to be a journeyman pro.

Final Grade: B-

Caleb Campbell, LB Army

Round 7, Pick 11

Campbell’s pro career got off to a rocky start when the Army required him to serve two years of active duty before being allowed to join the NFL.  Campbell was re-signed to the Lions in 2010, and spent much of the season on the practice squad before being signed to the active roster.  If Campbell stays with the Lions, he will have to compete for a starting spot but also could make the roster on special teams.

Final Grade: TBD

Overall, the 2008 draft netted a couple players who found their way onto the starting roster, one mid-round gem, and handful of role-players and backups, three players who are no longer on the team, and a couple more who likely won’t be Lions in 2011.  If Cherilus and Avril can post a couple more seasons of good starting work, and if Jordon Dizon and Caleb Campbell can become more than special teamers, this would turn out to be a better than average draft.  However, if after 2011 Avril is the only player left with a future in Detroit, then this draft will be like most others we have seen from the Millen era:  Fail!

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