Judgment day comes quickly in the NFL draft. The higher the draft pick, the quicker the judgment – and often the harshest.
The Lions are operating in familiar territory, with the fifth pick in the first round on April 25. It is a prime pick, in primetime, and they know what it's like to be in the spotlight on draft day.
In the last 11 drafts – from 2002 through 2012 – they've drafted in the top 10 eight times and in the top three five times.
Drafting at No. 5 should land a good prospect, but regardless of which player the Lions select there will be a debate over whether they took the right player or targeted the position that best fills their needs.
A look back at the last dozen drafts – from 2001 through 2012 – shows that there have been hits and misses for teams with the fifth pick.
This week's Monday Countdown looks at how teams fared with the fifth pick, and whether they could have done better. By my count – and judgment – most teams got it right.
There are some obvious winners – most recently the Arizona Cardinals taking cornerback Patrick Peterson of LSU in 2011. Another clear winner with the fifth pick were the Chargers taking LaDaininan Tomlinson in 2001.
The 2009 draft was another matter. The Jets took quarterback Mark Sanchez fifth overall. A better quarterback choice might have been Josh Freeman, taken 17th overall by the Bucs and the next quarterback drafted after Sanchez.
Some ground rules have been set in this week's Countdown. One is that the No. 5 pick is compared only to the No. 6 pick, and to the next player drafted at the same position as No. 5. That eliminates arguments, such as why the Jets took Chad Pennington 18th overall in 2000 when they could have had Tom Brady at No. 199. That's not a realistic argument. No team waits until the 199th pick to get its franchise quarterback.
Two other rules are iron clad:
1. The final judgment on if teams made the right pick at No. 5 are mine.
2. Readers are free to forget rule one and express their opinions.
We start with 2001 and work forward to 2012:
2001 – No. 5: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, by Chargers.
Next player drafted: DE Richard Seymour, Georgia, by Patriots.
Nest RB drafted: Deuce McAllister, Mississippi, 23rd overall by Saints.
Bottom line: The Chargers made the right pick.
Tomlinson had a Hall of Fame career as a running and receiving threat. Seymour was a dominant, consistent Pro Bowler. McAllister had four 1,000-yard seasons in a career cut short by injuries, but he wasn't in Tomlinson's class.
2002 – No. 5: CB Quentin Jammer, Texas, by Chargers.
Next player drafted: DT Ryan Sims, North Carolina, by Chiefs.
Next CB drafted: Phillip Buchanon, Miami (Fla.), 17th overall by Raiders.
Bottom line: The Chargers made the right pick – again.
Jammer is not a star, but a 12-year starter for the Chargers. Sims had only three seasons as a full-time starter. Buchanon lasted 11 seasons with the Raiders, Bucs, Lions and Redskins.
2003 – No. 5: CB Terence Newman, Kansas St., by Cowboys.
Next player drafted: DT Jonathan Sullivan, Georgia, by Saints.
Next CB drafted: CB Marcus Trufant, Washington St., 11th overall by Seahawks.
Bottom line: Newman and Trufant have had good careers, but the Cowboys got a slight edge with Newman.
Newman had 32 interceptions in nine seasons with Dallas and two more for the Bengals. He made two Pro Bowls. Trufant has played all 10 seasons in Seattle, with 21 picks and one Pro Bowl. Sullivan was out of football after four seasons, the last one with the Patriots.
2004 – No. 5: S Sean Taylor, Miami (Fla.) by Redskins.
Next player drafted: TE Kellen Winslow, Miami (Fla.) by Browns.
Next S drafted: S Bob Sanders, Iowa, 44th overall by Colts.
Bottom line: A case can be made for all three players being the best draft pick, especially for the Colts because they got Sanders in the second round. But Taylor was ascending to star status at the time of his tragic killing. The Redskins made the right pick.
Taylor was a great talent and had established himself as a premier player at his position when he was shot to death by an intruder late in the 2007 season.
Winslow had two big seasons for the Browns but never reached his potential because of injuries. Sanders was voted defensive player of the year in 2007 but played only 11 games the next four seasons because of injuries.
2005 – No. 5: RB Cadillac Williams, Auburn, by Bucs.
Next player drafted: CB Adam PacMan Jones, West Virginia, by Titans.
Next RB drafted: J.J. Arrington, Cal, 44th by Cardinals.
Bottom line: Compared to Jones and Arrington, the Bucs made the right pick – almost by default.
Williams was the third RB drafted. Ronnie Brown went to the Dolphins with the second pick, and the Bears took Cedric Benson at No. 4. None of them had great careers. Williams was more like a Yugo than a Cadillac. He had injury problems, and his only 1,000-yard season was his first.
Jones had talent and trouble in large doses and has played for three teams.
Arrington was a bust.
2006 – No. 5: LB A.J. Hawk, Iowa, by Packers.
Next player drafted: TE Vernon Davis, Maryland, by 49ers.
Next LB drafted: Ernie Sims, Florida State, ninth overall by Lions.
Bottom line: In terms of pure talent, Davis would have been a better pick, but Hawk's consistency means something, too. Chad Greenway, drafted 17th by the Vikings, would have been a better pick than Hawk or Sims.
Hawk has started 107 of 112 games for the Packers. He's reliable, but not a star. Davis has 40 career catches, but is not a high-volume receiver. He had 41 catches in 2012 and has had more than 67 only one time. Sims spent his first four seasons with the Lions and started all 16 games the first three years. He has played for three different teams the last three seasons.
2007 – No. 5: OT Levi Brown, Penn State, by Cardinals.
Next player drafted: S LaRon Landry, LSU, by Redskins.
Next OT drafted: Joe Staley, Central Michigan, 28th overall by 49ers.
Bottom line: Staley was quicker and lighter than Brown and might not have fit the Cardinals' profile as well as Brown, but Staley's career has been far superior.
Brown gave the Cardinals a big, strong right tackle. He spent the 2012 season on injured reserve. After five indifferent seasons with the Redskins, Landry made the Pro Bowl with the Jets in the 2012 season. Staley has been a mainstay and two-time Pro Bowl left tackle for the 49ers.
2008 – DT Glenn Dorsey, LSU, by Chiefs.
Next player drafted: DE Vernon Gholston, Ohio State, by Jets.
Next DT drafted: Sedrick Ellis, seventh overall Southern Cal, by Saints.
Bottom line: Ellis would have been a better pick than Dorsey.
Dorsey never lived up to expectations in five seasons with the Chiefs. He signed with the 49ers last month as a free agent. Gholston was a monumental bust. He did not have a sack in three seasons with the Jets and is out of football.
Ellis has been a consistent starter for the Saints, registering 12.5 sacks in five seasons – eight more than Dorsey.
2009 – No. 5: QB Mark Sanchez, Southern Cal, by Jets.
Next player drafted: OT Andre Smith, Alabama, by Bengals.
Next QB drafted: Josh Freeman, Kansas St., 17th overall by Bucs.
Bottom line: Sanchez has been hurt the last two seasons by the circus atmosphere that envelops the Jets. Freeman's career is ascending. He would have been a better pick.
Sanchez was a game-manager on Jets teams that made it to the AFC Championship his first two seasons. His game has regressed the last two years. Smith has had weight issues but started every game the last two seasons. Freeman has alternated bad and good seasons as a four-year starter, and was good in 2012 with 27 TD passes and 16 interceptions.
2010 – No. 5 – S Eric Berry, Tennessee by Chiefs.
Next player drafted: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma St., by Seahawks.
Next S drafted: Earl Thomas, Texas, 14th overall by Seahawks.
Bottom line: The overall draft winner is Seattle with two Pro Bowl players in the first round, but Berry vs. Thomas is a draw.
Player for player, it's a close call between Berry and Thomas. Berry played only one game in 2011 because of an injury but made the Pro Bowl his other two seasons and has five interceptions. Thomas has 10 picks in three seasons and made the Pro Bowl the last two. Okung has one Pro Bowl in three seasons.
2011 – No. 5 – CB Patrick Peterson, LSU, by Cardinals.
Next player drafted: WR Julio Jones, Alabama, by Atlanta.
Next CB drafted: Prince Amukumara, Nebraska, 19th overall by Giants.
Bottom line: A win for the Cardinals. They got an All-Pro cornerback. No wonder the Lions tried to trade up to get him.
Peterson was drafted 14 picks ahead of Amukumara. He should be better, and he is. It's no contest. Peterson has made the Pro Bowl twice. He's terrific on coverage and outstanding on returns. Jones is an important part of Atlanta's offense, with 18 TD catches in two seasons.
2012 – No. 5: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, by Jacksonville.
Next player drafted: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU, by Cowboys.
Next WR drafted: Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, 13th overall by Cardinals.
Bottom line: The Jaguars haven't won much lately. Give them a win with this draft pick.
Blackmon and Floyd suffered playing in substandard offenses with bad quarterbacks. Blackmon had the stats edge – 64 catches and 5 TDs, to 45 and 2 for Floyd. Claiborne, the cornerback, started 15 games and had one interception.
2013 – Judgment day is coming – and soon.