Detroit Lions need immediate impact from 2013 draft class

Posted May 1, 2013

In comparison to last season's draft class, the Lions are expecting faster results from this year's group, with No. 5-overall pick Ziggy Ansah likely being a day-one starter

The Detroit Lions didn’t draft Ziggy Ansah No. 5 overall to be a developmental player they’d work into their defensive rotation.

General manager Martin Mayhew expects Ansah, as well as second-round pick Darius Slay and third-round selection Larry Warford, to have an immediate impact.

Larry WarfordG Larry Warford

It’s a much different spot than the Lions were in with their 2012 rookie class this time a year ago.

The Lions put too much faith into 21-of-22 returning starters from the team's 2011 playoff season. Returning all those starters afforded them the luxury of selecting players in the draft they could bring along a little slower and help develop.

First-round pick Riley Reiff was a developmental player at the No. 23-overall pick. He was considered the left tackle of the future -- which is more than likely now the present -- and was primarily used as an extra blocker. He made one start in 2012 for an injured Jeff Backus.

Ryan Broyles, who the Lions took in the second round, was coming off a torn ACL in college and didn’t make his first game appearance until Week 3 at Tennessee. He didn’t make his first start until Week 9 at Jacksonville.

The most immediate impact made by a rookie last year was by third-round pick Bill Bentley, who was a Week 1 starter at right cornerback. Unfortunately, he was limited to just four games because of a shoulder injury.

Ronnell Lewis (fourth round) was initially thought of as developmental player and special teams contributor. The Lions thought the same of fifth-round pick Chris Greenwood, who was making the jump from Division III Albion College. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead (fifth round) and Travis Lewis (seventh) made an impact on special teams, but not much on defense.

Sixth-round pick Jonte Green made the biggest impact over the course of the entire season with five starts at cornerback, the most of any rookie in the class.

The Lions are expecting much more from their 2013 haul.

"That's a fair statement, but it's also fair to say we have more holes coming into it or more holes that we knew about coming into this draft than we did last year,” Mayhew said.

“We do expect a lot of those guys -- especially guys that we took early -- to be on the field pretty quickly.”

Ansah is likely to be the day one starter at right defensive end. Slay is expected to compete with Bentley for the No. 2 cornerback spot and, at the very least, be the No. 3 man in the nickel.

Warford will have a great opportunity to immediately step into the right guard spot vacated by the release of Stephen Peterman this offseason.

Throw in punter Sam Martin, who the team took in the fifth round, and the team could see four day one starters from this class.

Defensive end Devin Taylor (fifth round), receiver Corey Fuller (sixth) and tight end Michael Williams (seventh) could all see valuable time on offense and defense at positions of need.

The Lions got a total of 12 starts out of their 2012 class. Injuries were a contributing factor, but they should be expecting as many as 32 starts from their first three picks alone this year.

Now it becomes a wait-and-see game with these rookies, as they prepare for rookie minicamp May 10-12.

“It’s that way every year,” Mayhew said. “You draft guys, you’ve done all the work (and) you feel good about them. You bring them into minicamp and OTAs, you get a better feel for them, you see how they fit into our defense and through our offense.

“It’s the learning process with them as you move forward. Those guys have a lot of work to do. I think they all understand that and I’m looking forward to working with them.”