Ryan Broyles has never taken a snap in the NFL, yet the very mention of his name creates a substantial wave of controversy for Detroit Lions fans, and has done so since the day he was taken with the 54th overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Everyone in Detroit has an opinion on the 24-year-old wide receiver out of Oklahoma University. The Lions went with the “best player available” strategy in selecting Broyles but many have argued that with such a need for defense (the Lions allowed the fifth most points per game in 2011) and having already spent their first round pick on offensive tackle Riley Reiff, drafting a defender was a no-brainer. Particularly a defensive back, as the Lions allowed the fourth most passing yards per game last season. Plus, they have a guy named Calvin Johnson who plays the same position as Broyles, and he’s pretty good at what he does. Not to mention Nate Burleson, Titus Young and tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, all of whom are regular targets for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. And if all that is not reason enough to scratch your head at the Broyles pick, know that he tore the ACL in his left knee in a November game against Texas A&M, and although he was recently activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list, it’s fair to question the notion that he is 100% ready to play football.
Those defending the Broyles pick are quick to point to his college stats. And his credentials speak for themselves. In four seasons for the Sooners, Broyles amassed nearly 5,900 total yards from scrimmage and scored 48 career touchdowns. He also holds the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record for receptions with 349. There are some that feel like his major injury was actually a blessing in disguise because it gave the Lions the opportunity to take him with their second round pick. Had he never gotten hurt he more than likely would have been one of the top three receivers selected in the first round.
Unfortunately for Broyles and those who support the Lions decision to draft him, Aaron Berry lost his mind this off-season. Already ridiculously thin at cornerback, Berry went ahead and got arrested for the second time in one month this summer, leaving the Lions no choice but to hand him his walking papers.
So what does this have to do with Broyles?
Well, had the Lions known that Berry would go all Pacman on them, they probably would have made the secondary more of a priority when drafting in April. Yes they selected Dwight Bentley in the third round, but they let talented defensive backs like Casey Hayward, Trumaine Johnson and Josh Robinson slip away by using their second round selection on Broyles. And even with Detroit’s need for defense aside, we’re looking at a 5’11, 188-pound receiver who doesn’t possess game-breaking speed at the NFL level and has already logged a lot of miles in his young career. With the aforementioned surplus of talent that the Lions already boast in the passing game, it’s fair to wonder how effective Broyles will be in a Lions uniform. At least right away.
Now I will gladly eat my words if Ryan Broyles becomes a star player. Not an impact player. A star player. He needs to be the Terrell Owens to Calvin Johnson’s Jerry Rice for his place on this roster to be justified. Because even if he has a solid rookie campaign, how many passes is he going to break up this season? How many tackles will he make? How many interceptions will he have? The Lions are going to put up a lot of points this year, that’s a given. But we saw in their final two games last season against Green Bay and New Orleans that they can put brilliant offensive showings together and still lose football games.
As good as Ryan Broyles may one day be, he just isn’t a smart fit for this team at this point in time.