Martin Mayhew says Lions 'best player available' philosophy will stand

Posted Jan 7, 2013

Despite a 4-12 record, Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew says the organization will continue to draft for long-term talent instead of simply filling an immediate need.

The Detroit Lions will not draft a quarterback with the fifth overall pick in April's NFL Draft.

General manager Martin Mayhew made that declaration last week when speaking with beat writers. Beyond that though, every position seems in play.

Since Mayhew took over in 2009, he and head coach Jim Schwartz have had a specific philosophy when it comes to the draft and even a 4-12 season won't make them waiver from it.

The Lions' philosophy is best player available on their board. As maddening as that can be for fans at times, that's the way it is and it's the way it'll continue to be under Mayhew.

"Our philosophy will be the same. We'll look for the best player available. We won't change our beliefs about that." Mayhew said.

Now there's a bit of common sense that goes along with that philosophy, which is why Mayhew declared the quarterback position off the board. There are plenty of other positions in play, though.  

The Lions have their fair share needs and are likely to find an immediate impact player with the No. 5 pick.

The team needs an impact edge rusher, secondary help from both the safety and cornerback positions, an upgrade to the interior of their offensive line, a speed element to their backfield and potentially another receiver.

Mayhew said he wouldn't enter the evaluation process for April's draft with an eye for addressing any one of those specific needs in particular.

"It's not just about getting ready for the first game of the season, and I think that's short-sighted when you start saying 'well we don't have any (of a certain) position and I've got to draft one of those in the first round because we don't have one,'" he said.

"Your draft is supposed to build your team for the future, in my opinion, when you're getting your team ready for every season to come, so I think you've got to take the best players you can find."

Last season, the Lions' biggest needs heading into the draft were in the secondary and getting a speed element to their backfield with the uncertain future of Jahvid Best.

Instead, Martin Mayhew kept with his philosophy and chose offensive tackle Riley Reiff and receiver Ryan Broyles with the team's first two picks.

The secondary was addressed later in rounds three, five and six with the picks of cornerbacks Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green, respectively. A speed back wasn't one of the team's eight draft picks.

Riley Reiff played almost exclusively as an extra offensive lineman in a special package designed for him and made one start at left tackle when Jeff Backus suffered a hamstring injury.

Ryan Broyles, who was coming off an ACL tear at the end of his senior season at Oklahoma, did not contribute a whole lot early in the season but was filling in nicely for the injured Nate Burleson (broken leg) before he tore the ACL in his other knee Dec. 2 vs. Indianapolis.

Reiff, Broyles and the rest of the Lions' 2012 rookie class - eight players total - made 11 starts between them, with Jonte Green accounting for almost half of those starts with five.

"All the guys that we draft we expect to play," Mayhew said. "We don't draft guys with the thought that they're not going to play."

He said the team's high number of free agents (nine starters) or the expectation that they'll be close to the projected $120 million salary will not have an impact on the draft, either.

Mayhew makes the final decisions on draft day and believes his strategy is the right one.

"I think you've got to have some things that you believe in," he said. "Our drafts are what allowed us to go from two wins to six wins to 10 wins. That's the reality of it. I believe in the way that we're doing it.

"I think you would be hard-pressed to find a bunch of teams saying we draft for need - to find a bunch of GMs that say, 'that's what I do. I go out and just take whatever I need.'

"We're trying to find good players for the long haul.

"I think you've got to keep taking the best players available for you and for your organization and that's going to be our philosophy going forward."

The trick after 4-12, though, is to find impact players for years to come who are also ready to make an immediate impact on a team with the fifth-worst record in the NFL and did not win a single game in the NFC North.