3 Detroit Lions players made ESPN’s list of the 50 best NFL steals of the past decade.
The Detroit Lions seem to be turning a corner with their franchise, and the NFL Draft is a big reason for that. General Manager Brad Holmes did an excellent job of selecting his top draft picks and then rounding out the roster with solid value picks on Day Two and Day Three.
But Detroit’s ability to find diamonds in the rough has been on display for some time now. ESPN dropped the top 50 NFL steals of the last decade, and the Lions found themselves on the list three times.
Amon-Ra St. Brown – arguably Holmes’ top pick – makes the list in 48th place overall. St. was taken. Brown in the fourth round—112th overall—and was the 17th receiver taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. In two years, St. Brown had more receptions (196) than any other receiver of this draft class, and ranked fourth in receiving yards (2,073), and fourth in receiving touchdowns (11). He made his first Pro Bowl last year, and there’s a good chance he’ll be higher on the list with a longer resume. So give it a few years.
The other two on this list were selected courtesy of former general manager Martin Mayhew. Coming in at 23rd on the list is cornerback Darius Slay, who was the 36th overall pick by the Lions in 2013. In that draft, Slay was the fifth cornerback off the board—behind Dee Milliner, DJ Hayden, Desmond Trufant, and Xavier Rhodes. Now entering the 11th year of his NFL career, Slay has five Pro Bowls to his name and is still considered one of the best male coverage angles in the league.
Of course, Sly acquired Lions coach Matt Patricia and was later traded in the third and fifth rounds in 2020 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
This is something to share with last The Lions chose who made this list: 2015 sixth-round draft pick Quandre Diggs, who landed at No. 42 on the list. Diggs became a three-time MVP, but all three of those accolades came after Diggs was traded from Detroit midway through the 2019 season. Diggs is still considered the heart of the Seahawks’ secondary as he enters the ninth year of his career.
So what does this tell us about the way the Detroit Lions drafted? Well, on the one hand, it shows us that Mayhew did a better job than some would recall. He will always be haunted by Eric Ebron’s pick over Aaron Donald, but he was also responsible for building one of the best Lions teams of the modern era in 2014, which included strong draft picks like Ndamukong Suh, DeAndre Levy, Matthew Stafford, and Ezekiel Ansah.
It’s also telling that this list wasn’t picked during the Bob Queen era. Instead, that era was responsible for trading two of the Lions’ top picks. This is not to say that Quinn was completely terrible at his job. The only reason the Lions’ offensive line is as dominant as it is today is because Quinn drafted Taylor Decker, Frank Ragno and Jonah Jackson. However, there are still plenty of those Quinn drafts left.
Finally, when it comes to drafts of Holmes, the early outlook is positive. He has already scored one undeniable draft pick at the St. Louis Cardinals.