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Lions looked past character concerns in last year’s draft

Nick Fairley, Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, from left, first-round draft pick Nick Fairley, and head coach Jim Schwartz pose at the team’s headquarters in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 29, 2011. Fairley was selected 13th overall in the 2011 NFL draft. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


Three of the Lions’ five draft picks last year have been arrested for possessing marijuana since the season ended, and that’s bringing into renewed focus what many observers said about the Lions’ 2011 draft class at the time: Detroit brought in some talented players, but some questionable characters.

As Albert Breer of NFL Network wrote on Twitter 11 months ago, character issues were a concern for a number of the Lions’ draft picks. Nick Fairley dropped to the Lions at No. 13 in large part because there were red flags about his work ethic, and Mikel Leshoure dropped to the Lions at No. 57 partly because of character issues including a one-game suspension at Illinois for a violation of team rules that has since been reported as a failed drug test.

This week Fairley and Leshoure have both been in the news for marijuana arrests, and in January the Lions’ 2011 seventh-round pick, Johnny Culbreath, was also arrested for marijuana possession.

Just days before last year’s draft, Lions G.M. Martin Mayhew said he wouldn’t pass up a talented player just because that player failed a drug test.

“A failed drug test is a cause for concern, but it doesn’t knock you out of the running to be drafted,” Mayhew said.

It may sound like second-guessing after the fact to point out that the Lions looked past character red flags last year, but the reality is plenty of people questioned the Lions’ decisions at the time.

This year some mock drafts have the Lions using their first-round pick on cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was kicked off the team at Florida after, among other things, an arrest for marijuana possession. Maybe the Lions have learned a painful lesson this offseason and will pass on Jenkins. Or maybe he fits right in with the team they’re trying to build.