The Lions are close to becoming a perennial winner, with name brand stars surrounded by young, cheap, drafted talent

The Lions could be one of the NFL’s best next season, depending on how they address the elephantine defensive tackle in the clubhouse. Accommodate Ndamukong Suh without jeopardizing the rest of the roster, and you may see the outline of a Super Bowl contender if you step back and take in the long view of the team.

That should sound insane to anyone who has closely followed Detroit. Every hint of promise shown by the Lions tends to be dashed rather quickly. The last time the team strung consecutive winning seasons together was 20 years ago, a time now far away, before Wayne Fontes and Barry Sanders got burnt out on Detroit and left the Lions in a mire.

The Lions are close to becoming a perennial winner, with name brand stars surrounded by young, cheap, drafted talent. It isn’t a perfect team, but it’s close to being a very good one if the Lions focus their efforts correctly. With the right free agent moves and a little re-branding, Detroit may finally kick its downtrodden reputation.

Running backs Dri Archer and Jerick McKinnon were the only players last year among the fast 15 who were not defensive backs or receivers.

Two quarterbacks have clocked in among the fastest players in their draft classes since 2006. Reggie McNeal, who ran a 4.35 in 2006, was Tampa Bay’s sixth-round pick that year. He found his way to the Bengals practice squad by September and was out of the NFL completely a year later. The other quarterback on that list was none other than Robert Griffin III, who ran a 4.41 at the 2012 Combine.

The average draft position for the Combine’s fastest 15 players was 84.5 in 2006, a mid-third rounder. A year later that average draft spot inched all the way to 65, thanks in part to four first-rounders (Calvin Johnson, LaRon Landry, Leon Hall and Robert Meachem). After a big dip in 2009, it’s leveled off over the last five years, with the average draft spot at 88 last spring.

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