Lucas Walker Breaks Down The Different Colleges That Have Produced Detroit Lions.
This is the sixth article in a 12 part series that will examine which colleges have been the best at producing Detroit Lions in the 21st century. Today will be a look at Lions players from the University of Georgia.
Cornelius Washington played for four years at Georgia. As a freshman, he burst out and had a very good season as a rotational player, recording five tackles for loss and four sacks. In his sophomore year, he would make 24 tackles, but regress in the pass rushing department, tallying only one sack. Washington’s best season came in his junior year where he made six tackles for loss and five sacks. In his senior season, he would again show signs of regression as he made just 3 tackles for loss and half of a sack. Although he appeared to be purely a rotational pass rusher, Washington performed extremely well in the NFL scouting combine which led to him being drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.
Washington spent four years in Chicago as a rotational player. In his limited playing time over that period, he totaled 21 tackles and three sacks. When his rookie contract expired earlier this offseason, the Lions signed him to a two year contract.
Although Washington has had very little production in his NFL career, there is reason to believe that he could be poised for a breakout season. When he was in Chicago, the Bears ran a base 3-4 defense that required him to play the outside linebacker position. Detroit runs a 4-3 defense, which will allow Washington to return to his natural defensive end position. Washington has had the least productive career of any player on this list, but he still has a chance to turn that around.
Kris Durham spent the first three seasons of his college career as a reserve, never catching more than 13 passes for 200 yards in any of the three years. In his senior season, he had somewhat of a mini breakout, catching 32 passes for 659 yards and three touchdowns. He was never a very polished receiver, but he had some very intriguing physical attributes: he was 6’5″ tall, ran a 4.36 second 40 yard dash and had a 36 inch vertical jump. Because of these traits, the Seattle Seahawks drafted Durham in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft despite having very little production in college.
Kris Durham appeared in only three games in his rookie season, making just three catches for 30 yards. In 2012, the Lions signed Durham off of Seattle’s practice squad. He appeared in four games for the Lions that year and made eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown.
The best season of Kris Durham’s NFL career would come in 2013 when he was Detroit’s second receiver. He caught 38 passes for 490 yards and two touchdowns that season. Although he made a few big plays here and there, he was never able to consistently get open against NFL secondaries. This led to his release before the 2014 season.
Kris Durham signed with the Titans for the 2014 season, but only played in four games and made just six receptions for 54 yards. Since then, he has not been on an NFL roster.
Matthew Stafford played quarterback at Georgia for three seasons, showing lots of improvement each year. In his freshman year, he didn’t look great. He completed only 52.7% of his passes, while throwing for 1749 yards, seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Stafford also rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns. He did however lead Georgia to a win against Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, leading Georgia to a 31-24 win after a 21-3 halftime deficit.
In his sophomore year, he again wasn’t great, however he did show improvement, this time tallying a 55.7% completion rate with 2523 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Georgia went 11-2 in this season, and Stafford again led them to a bowl win, this time blowing out Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.
It wasn’t until his junior year at Georgia that he finally looked like a number one overall pick. He completed 61.4% of his passes for 3459 yards and threw 25 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions while leading Georgia to a 10-3 record. Stafford would finish his collegiate career by winning the MVP of the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State, throwing three touchdown passes in the game.
Matthew Stafford was drafted with the number one overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, a pick that the Lions earned by becoming the first team with an 0-16 record in NFL history. Since then, Stafford has been a huge part of turning the Lions around. He had injuries that limited his playing time throughout his first two seasons, but has not missed a start over the last six season. The Lions have made the playoffs in three of those six seasons.
Stafford already owns every major passing record in Lions history. There was doubt about whether he was truly a franchise quarterback only two seasons ago, but that has all changed since Jim Bob Cooter has taken over as offensive coordinator for the Lions. Over the previous two seasons, Stafford has truly become an elite NFL quarterback, averaging a season of 4295 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 66.5% of his passes. He has also become a very good scrambling quarterback, rushing for more than 200 yards in each of the last three seasons.
Stafford has had countless unforgettable moments as the Lions quarterback, from the game winning touchdown he threw with a separated shoulder in his rookie season, to his game winning quarterback dive against the Cowboys, to the record setting eight comeback wins he led the Lions to last season. Stafford is firmly the franchise quarterback of the Detroit Lions, and will be for a long time.
Over the last decade, Georgia has given the Lions a defensive end and wide receiver who are both not very good, but it has also give them the first franchise quarterback in team history. Kris Durham will not be remembered for long among Lions fans, and the same is likely true for Cornelius Washington. On the other hand, Stafford still has the chance to build his legacy. Stafford is roughly halfway through his NFL career, and he is already clearly the best quarterback in the history of the Detroit Lions. That alone makes Georgia one of the top schools at producing Detroit Lions.