How do the Detroit Lions' nine draft picks impact their position groups?

Posted Apr 29, 2013

Martin Mayhew expects several of the Lions' top draft picks to make an immediate impact on the field

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: AP Images)
The Detroit Lions came away from last week’s NFL Draft with nine players at eight different positions.

They expect immediate impact from a number of those players, especially at the top.

"It’s also fair to say we had more holes coming into it or more holes that we knew about coming into this draft than we did last year,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said.

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

Here’s a look at how the nine drafted players impact their new position groups:

Ziggy Ansah, DE:

Head coach Jim Schwartz told reporters at the NFL League Meetings in March that Jason Jones was projected to be the starting left defensive end for the Lions.

It’s unclear how Ansah’s selection as the No. 5 overall pick might affect those plans. Either way, Ansah is expected to start at one of the defensive end spots the second he steps onto the practice field.

He is a terrific combination of size and speed, which should also make him stout against the run. The same goes for Jones.

Right now, it appears Ansah, Jones, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley make up the starting defensive line for the Lions.

Fourth-round pick Devin Taylor, Willie Young and Ronnell Lewis compete for the two backup spots, with Taylor and Young the early favorites.

Darius Slay, CB:

The Lions had a first-round grade on Slay and were more than happy to get him in the second round.

Slay comes in and competes right away for the right cornerback spot with Bill Bentley, Ron Bartell, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green. Slay has the size and speed the Lions are trying to feature more in their secondary.

Slay could also fit inside in the slot in the nickel. Bentley is physical enough to play inside, too.

Slay and Bentley seem to be the favorites to win the right cornerback spot right now, but don't count out Bartell. He's a veteran with size.

Greenwood is the wildcard for the Lions. If he's as good as the Lions think he can be, they have a good problem on their hands -- two cornerbacks with size and not enough places to play them.

The ability of Houston to move around the field and shadow the opponent's No. 1 receiver – which he proved he could do last year – makes for an ideal situation Slay is entering into.

Larry Warford, G:

Warford will step in right away and compete for the starting right guard spot. He appears to be the favorite in the clubhouse, but Bill Nagy, Rodney Austin and Dylan Gandy will try to push him for the spot.

Warford is strictly a guard, which probably means that Nagy’s best shot to see the field -- assuming Warford wins the guard spot -- would be competing with Dominic Raiola for the starting center spot.

Mayhew said in March that Nagy is 50-50 a guard-center, which also gives him some value on gameday as a swing player in case of injury.

Riley Reiff would have been in the mix for the right guard spot had the Lions selected a left tackle, but it seems he’s in line to play left tackle in 2013 right now.

“That’s why we drafted him,” Schwartz said of Reiff. “Again, when (Jeff) Backus got hurt last year, that’s why we played him there.

“You never say never. You never know who is going to become available, what’s going to happen. But we drafted him as a left tackle.”

Devin Taylor, DE:

Like Ansah, Taylor is an athletic edge rusher with great length. He should come in and be part of the rotation at defensive end behind Ansah and Jones.

“We use a lot of those guys,” Schwartz said. “We want starters on the field, but even backups there it’s not like O-line or quarterback where you’re playing in case of an injury.

“We get those guys a lot of time and there will be opportunities for those guys to get on the field for us.”

Taylor will compete right away for playing time with Willie Young and Ronnell Lewis.

Jones, Ansah and Taylor could all see time on the field together in passing situations, with Jones moving inside as a rusher. The Lions have a lot of options there.

Depending on how Lewis has develops this offseason, he could find himself as the fifth defensive end for a second-consecutive year.

Sam Martin, P:

The Lions traded down in the fifth round and added a sixth-round pick.

When UCLA punter Jeff Locke came off the board to the Vikings before the Lions were able to make their pick in the fifth round, they likely didn’t want to get stuck without one of the two top punters on their board.

Detroit ranked last in the NFL in both punting average (41.4 yards) and net punt yards (37.1 yards) last year. For a team that lost so many one-score games in 2013, Martin can make an immediate impact.

That’s probably why they took him in the fifth round, which might have been a bit high.

Martin comes in and competes with Blake Clingan – whom the team signed after a workout this offseason – but it seems like its Martin’s job to lose considering his draft status.

Corey Fuller, WR:

Corey FullerWR Corey Fuller (Photo: AP Images)

Fuller fits exactly the size and speed profile the Lions were looking to add. He is very raw, though, and has just one year of real-game experience at the position after making the switch from track to football.

The Lions want a player who can stretch the field opposite Calvin Johnson, which Fuller can certainly do. We’ll get our first look at how polished a receiver he is during the Lions’ rookie minicamp in a couple weeks.

“I think he is a developmental guy,” Mayhew said of Fuller. “He has not played a whole lot of football. But we see a lot of upside with him and we see a guy that’s got some ability possibly to help us with special teams while he’s developing. So we see a guy with a lot of tools.”

Fuller played both inside and outside at Virginia Tech last year, but probably sees the field quicker on the outside in 2013 with Ryan Broyles, Nate Burleson and Mike Thomas already in the slot for the Lions.

Fuller will have some competition on the outside from Patrick Edwards, Kris Durham, Devin Thomas, Brian Robiskie and Chastin West, but his combination of size and speed could get him on the field.

Theo Riddick, RB:

Riddick is quicker than he is fast, and has some multidimensional capabilities as a receiver.

He actually played both receiver and running back for Notre Dame during his career. He split time in the backfield with Cierre Wood as a senior, and had 190 carries for 917 yards and five touchdowns. As a pass catcher, he had 120 receptions for 1,263 yards and eight touchdowns in four years at Notre Dame.

Reggie Bush and Mikel Leshoure still appear to be the Lions’ top two options running the football, but Riddick could push Joique Bell for playing time.

Both Riddick and Bell are terrific receivers out of the backfield. Riddick is a little more elusive, while Bell is more powerful.

Michael Williams, TE:

Williams is the new Will Heller.

He is a better blocker than he is a receiver at this point, which makes him an ideal candidate to fit into that H-back (blocking tight end) role for the Lions.

Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler remain the top two receiving options, but Williams should see the field as the No. 3 guy.

He does have some short and intermediate receiving capabilities, but his biggest impact – at least initially – will come as a blocker.

Brandon Hepburn, LB:

Hepburn played primarily inside in Florida A&M’s 3-4 defensive scheme.

The Lions have an opening at outside linebacker with the loss of Justin Durant in free agency (Cowboys).

Hepburn was very productive as a senior, tallying 86 tackles (9.5 for loss), 5.5 sacks, seven pass breakups and a forced fumble. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds at the Combine.

He comes in and competes with Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis for Durant’s spot, but the veteran Palmer is probably the early favorite to win the spot.