Barry Sanders cast the brightest glow in the galaxy of former stars brought in by the NFL to announce the picks on the second night of the NFL draft.
The applause for Sanders was warm, long and sustained as he stepped to the podium at Radio City Music Hall Friday night. It was a well deserved reception for the running back who fulfilled the dictionary definition of unique – "without equal" – in his 10 seasons with the Lions.
The Lions could have benefitted from using Sanders' services awhile longer after he announced that they had drafted wide receiver Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma in the second round.
If only Sanders could have stuck around to explain why Broyles was a good pick for the Lions and endorsed it.
He might have helped calm the masses and keep the Lions' hierarchy from taking serious abuse from their fans for about two hours – until they drafted cornerback Dwight "Bill" Bentley of Louisiana-Lafayette in the third round (85th overall).
The immediate fan reaction on social media was decidedly unsocial – and understandable. They wanted the Lions to address the defense immediately on Friday - specifically the secondary - after taking offensive tackle Riley Reiff of Iowa in the first round Thursday night.
Alas, the chore of explaining picks falls on General Manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz. And frankly, taking a wide receiver – any wide receiver – over a defensive back was a tough sell.
Mayhew and Schwartz didn't really try to sell either pick - Broyles or Bentley - and that was probably the best strategy. It would have been contrary to their character to launch a defense.
Mayhew joked when he stepped to the podium to announce picking Bentley.
"It seems like everybody's a little happier now," he said.
The Lions' draft philosophy is no joking matter, though. They've had a "best player" approach since Mayhew took over as GM early in the 2008 season. Mayhew and Schwartz reiterated that Friday night.
"Best player on our board," Mayhew said simply of Broyles before taking questions. "Very productive guy. Tremendous production over a four-year career.
"Fits our offense. Will be a great fit for us and really helps our offensive skill. Another receiving weapon for our quarterback. We feel great about the pick."
There is no denying the statistics Broyles compiled in four seasons at Oklahoma. He set the NCAA career receiving record with 349 catches. He had 45 TD catches.
Broyles had a high of 131 receptions in 14 games in 2010 and was on his way to another big year in 2011 when his season ended early with a torn knee ligament in the ninth game.
Broyles' senior season ended with 83 catches for 1,157 yards and 10 TDs.
Mayhew and Schwartz both said they expect Broyles to play this season – that 2012 will not be a "redshirt" season for him.
"We have the luxury of being able to rehab this guy very thoroughly, very carefully," Mayhew said.
But drafting Broyles raised a legitimate question about which is the bigger need - a wide receiver recovering from a knee injury, or a secondary in serious need of repair?
Drafting Bentley a round later might have cooled some of the passions.
"He really caught my eye at the Senior Bowl," Mayhew said. "A very, very impressive Senior Bowl, playing against top competition."
Bentley stood out in the opening game last season against Oklahoma State, which featured two first-round picks in this year's draft, wide receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden. Bentley intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown.
The draft has become a compelling three-day show, and the NFL has done a masterful job of marketing it.
Draftniks have access to more information on prospects than any other sport, and they have forums – Twitter, talk radio, chat rooms, message boards, hand signals driving by their team's headquarters – to express themselves.
Under Mayhew's leadership, the Lions have not been caught up in showmanship. He doesn't play to the crowd or the emotions of outsiders.
Schwartz alluded to how the Lions hadn't always followed their board in the past. The implication was that drafting for need instead of quality led to the talent-depleted roster that produced the worst decade in franchise history.
"Good players play," Schwartz said. "You don't solve needs by drafting poor players. You have to be able to stay with that philosophy. The philosophy is, talent rules the board.
"Even in this organization in the past, I think everybody knows examples of when this organization reached for certain players because of needs. I don't see how that solves your need. When it's all said and done, that need's still there."