Season begins for Detroit Lions rookies

Posted Jul 22, 2014

General manager Martin Mayhew is looking for three starters, three contributors and three developmental players from this year's draft. Will they get what they're looking for?

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew had a simple formula entering May’s NFL draft.

“We go into every draft, and we talk about this in the personnel meetings, we want to find three starters in every draft," he said. "We want to find three guys that contribute in every draft and three developmental guys.

"That’s our goal going in to every draft. It’s been that way since 2009 when I first got here. That’s what we seek to achieve. It’s an aspirational goal. You don’t always hit on it. Sometimes you hit a little bit better, so it just varies.”

Eric EbronTE Eric Ebron (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Mayhew exceeded those expectations last year as Ziggy Ansah, Darius Slay, Larry Warford and Sam Martin were all day one starters (though Slay was up and down for most of the year). Devin Taylor and Theo Riddick were good contributors and Joe Fauria and LaAdrian Waddle turned out to be terrific signings after the draft.

Ansah, Warford and Martin should contend for Pro Bowl consideration in year two, Slay and Waddle will likely be starters and Taylor, Riddick and Fauria will all be big contributors.

Fast forward one year and the 2014 season has officially begun for this year’s crop of rookies after they reported to Allen Park for duty on Tuesday.

First-round pick Eric Ebron learned a lot of different roles in the offense and he’s expected to be an important part of the Lions’ attack on offense.

Defensively, second-round pick Kyle Van Noy is expected to be the “closer” on defense Mayhew told the media he was looking for before the draft. Van Noy collected a lot of sacks, tackles for losses, interceptions, forced fumbles and touchdowns at BYU, statistics the Lions could frankly use more of on that side of the football.

After Ebron and Van Noy, the Lions are hoping a couple developmental players surprise them, much like Taylor, Fauria and Waddle did last year.

Detroit returns 19 of 22 starters, so cracking the starting lineup isn’t going to be easy for a lot of these rookies. Contributions are always welcome, however.

Third-round pick Travis Swanson will compete with veterans Rodney Austin and Garrett Reynolds for a game-day role as a reserve. Of course that’s assuming Swanson isn't able to supplant returning starting center Dominic Raiola or guard Rob Sims.

Cornerback Nevin Lawson, the team’s fourth-round pick, will compete for a role both inside and outside. He could give veteran Bill Bentley a run for his money at the nickel.

Defensive end Larry Webster and defensive tackle Caraun Reid were drafted as developmental players, but they should make the roster at their respective positions and could have an opportunity to play. Taylor was in the same boat last year and made a contribution when pressed into early duty via injury.

Undrafted tackle Cornelius Lucas, safety Jerome Couplin and fullback Chad Abram will attempt to be this year’s Fauria and Waddle.

Time will tell if Mayhew gets his three starters and three contributors from this class. One thing is certain, however, consistently good football teams are built on the backs of good draft classes that are stacked one after the other.

The Lions hit a home run last year. How will we view this class when it’s all said and done?