Swanson played every game in his last four years at Arkansas – 50 games, 50 starts.
That does not quite represent one quarter of the longevity log for games played by
Swanson was asked Sunday to compare his 50 games to Raiola’s 204 after the last practice of the Lions’ three-day rookie camp.
“I couldn’t imagine,” Swanson said. “But I’m excited to ask him about it.”
Swanson sounded like a typical rookie when he spoke to the media. He has more questions than answers, which is the way it’s supposed to be after one week as a pro.
There is a long road ahead, with many obstacles and detours, from rookie minicamp to playing regular-season games, but this week’s Monday Countdown looks at where the Lions’ 2014 rookie class could make an impact – either in starting roles, development for the future and effect on the roster makeup.
But we start with a look back at the 2013 rookie class, which set a high standard that this year’s crop will be hard-pressed to match.
01. Class of 2013: In the first and third rounds respectively, the Lions got season-long starters and producers in defensive end Ziggy Ansah and guard
Of the other draft picks, defensive end
That makes six rookies who played significant, positive roles and a seventh, Slay, who could develop.
Here’s a look at realistic expectations for the 2014 draft class.
02. Pass-catcher Eric Ebron, first round: I don’t call him a tight end.
Ebron was drafted to give the offense a 250-pound receiver with speed who can create mismatches, split seams and get deep. That is not a tight end.
Impact: If he performs up to expectations, Ebron will take attention away from
03. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, second round: The Lions are looking to add impact to the front seven, and Van Noy can do that in a dual role as a pass-rusher at strong-side linebacker and dropping into coverage. He created turnovers at Brigham Young, but not as many in 2013 as in 2012, when he played with Ansah.
Impact: As defensive coordinator Teryl Austin explained when Van Noy was drafted, a linebacker with multiple skills can force defenses to account for him with blocking schemes, and that can free up others to make plays.
04. Center Travis Swanson, third round: It is almost impossible to run an offense effectively with a subpar center. Swanson likely is a year away, at least, from replacing Raiola. Swanson said he’s also getting practice time at guard. It is standard for backups to play more than one position.
Impact: 2014 is a development season, barring injury.
06. Defensive end
Impact: Webster will play behind Ansah, Taylor and
07. Defensive tackle
Impact: Reid will push a veteran for a roster spot.
08. Wide receiver TJ Jones, sixth round: No matter how you classify their positions, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Ebron are the top three pass-catchers, with Pettigrew and Fauria in their roles at tight end. Jones was a productive player within the framework of Notre Dame’s offense, but 70 catches in 2013 barely cracked the top 50 in the FBS stats list.
Impact: Jones will compete for a roster spot first, then playing time. Whether it’s a third, fourth or fifth receiver, catching the ball is a priority in a unit that has had far too many drops.
Barring an addition – or coaxing Jason Hanson out of retirement (I would not bet against it) – the Lions will have a rookie kicker for only the third time in 35 years. The other two – Eddie Murray in 1980, Hanson in 1992.
Impact: When a rookie wins the Lions’ kicking job, it’s a long-term proposition. Murray had it for 12 years and Hanson for 21.
The key, obviously, is to get a foot in the door.
10. Reality check: Three days of minicamp do not tell the full story on a player or a draft class.
We can evaluate the 2014 draft class next year at this time – and many times before that.