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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Predicting rookie impact

Youth steps out first for the Detroit Lions with rookies, quarterbacks and injured veterans reporting in the first wave today for the start of 2017 training camp.

Competition will begin in earnest when the full squad reports on Saturday, but as always, the early focus is on the draft class.

This week's Monday Countdown rates the Lions' nine rookie draft picks from 1-9 based on what impact should be expected from them this season.

First-round pick Jarrad Davis is an obvious pick for the No. 1 rating in this week's column because of the projected impact he should make as the starting middle linebacker. However, the rest of the nine draft picks are not rated in the order they were drafted.

The emphasis is on "impact," and some players will have a chance to make more impact than a player who was drafted a round or two ahead of them. That has nothing to do with ability or long-term development.

There's also a bonus player – one player who represented the 11 draft picks signed by the Lions as free agents after they went through the draft without being selected.

There are no guarantees with this list. The possibility for injuries is not taken into account. And in the case of the battle for the backup quarterback, the interest level in quarterbacks trumps the fact that the ideal scenario for the Lions is that Matthew Stafford starts every game for the seventh straight season.

1. Linebacker Jarrad Davis.

Status: First-round pick, Florida.

Why No. 1: He was drafted to fill a primary need on a defense that has to have more playmakers.

Expectations: Perform and lead as the starting middle linebacker, and do it right from the beginning.

There has been no pretense about his status. Davis was installed as the starting middle linebacker from the first day of rookie minicamp, and the rest of the linebacker depth chart has been reshaped and reshuffled around him. He can be a foundation player for the Lions, the same as 2016 first-round pick Taylor Decker.

2. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay

Status: Third-round pick, Northern Illinois.

Why No. 2: His value to contribute early exceeds his draft position, which is no knock on second-round pick Teez Tabor.

Expectations: Immediate impact as a big receiver (6-4, 218) with length and good hands who can add a dimension to the receiving group as a potential red-zone threat for Stafford.

3. Tight end Michael Roberts.

Status: Fourth-round pick, Toledo.

Why No. 3: Similar to Golladay, the potential for immediate help is dictated by filling a need more than by draft position.

View photos of the tight ends competing for roster spots entering training camp.

Expectations: Roberts has the physical stature and college resume to fill a key role in the tight end rotation behind starter Eric Ebron.

Roberts does not have to be a high-volume receiver to have a successful rookie season. It's important that he make impact catches.

Roberts has size (6-4, 270) and enormous hands, which helped him make 45 of his 70 career catches and score 16 of his 22 career TDs for Toledo in 2016. The Lions have gotten scant production from a backup tight end.

History comparison: Stafford will get the ball to a big tight end on short and medium routes. In his first four seasons as a Lion, Brandon Pettigrew had reception totals of 30, 71, 83 and 59. That's an average of 60.75 catches per season.

4. CB Teez Tabor.

Status: Second-round pick, Florida.

Why No. 4: The presence of returning starters Nevin Lawson and Darius Slay, along with the signing of veteran DJ Hayden to play the slot gives Tabor time to develop. Tabor's role isn't unimportant. It's just that other rookies will be more important early.

Expectations: Tabor showed in the offseason that he has good hands and ball awareness.                                                                                                          

In whatever playing time he gets, he can contribute to a secondary that in 2016 had only 10 interceptions (only six teams had fewer), with cornerbacks snagging just three.

5. Cornerback Jamal Agnew.

Status: Fifth-round pick, San Diego.

Why No. 5: Opening for a return man plays to Agnew's strength.

View photos of the kick and punt returners competing for roster spots entering training camp.

Expectations: Agnew should compete for the return job, where the departure of Andre Roberts as a free agent leaves a void in one of the NFL's premier special teams units. Agnew showed good ball skills and return ability in college, but it's a big jump to the NFL.

If he can make the jump, Agnew has a roster spot and an important role – and a chance to develop as a backup in the secondary.

6. Quarterback Brad Kaaya.

Status: Sixth-round pick, Miami (Fla.).

Why No. 6: Quarterbacks get attention – at any level.

Expectations: Compete with 2016 sixth-round pick Jake Rudock for the backup job. Every snap, in practice or the preseason games, and every minute in the meeting room is critical for Rudock and Kaaya. The battle could go down to the last play of the fourth preseason game at Buffalo.

7. LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

Status: Fourth-round pick, Tennessee.

Why No. 7: Interest level is higher for a quarterback drafted two rounds lower.

Expectations: The first of the Lions' two fourth-round picks, Reeves-Maybin can prove that he would have been drafted higher had he not sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in Tennessee's fourth game.

Reeves-Maybin has to make a mark on special teams – the way Tahir Whitehead and numerous other linebackers did before becoming starters or heavy rotation backups.

8. DT Jeremiah Ledbetter.

Status: Sixth-round pick, Arkansas.

Why No. 8: Athleticism gives Ledbetter a chance to compete for a roster spot as a rotation lineman.

Expectations: At 6-3 and 280 he's built more like a defensive end than an interior lineman. His Combine and Pro Day workouts were impressive, with 40-yard dash times consistently under 4.9 seconds.

There are roster spots open with veterans Khyri Thornton and Armonty Bryant on NFL suspensions at the start of the season.

9. DE Pat O'Connor.

Status: Seventh-round pick, Eastern Michigan.

Why No. 9: Similar to Ledbetter – and 2016 sixth-round pick Anthony Zettel – O'Connor can use his athleticism and intensity to compete for a roster spot.

Expectations: He has to continue his upward trend at EMU. After missing the 2015 season with an injury, O'Connor returned in 2016 as a fifth-year senior to have 14.5 tackles for loss, with a career-high 8.5 sacks, three passes defensed and five forced fumbles.

10. RB Tion Green.

Status: Undrafted free agent, Cincinnati.

Why No. 10: Green is one of 11 rookies on the roster who were undrafted in 2016, and any of the 11 could be in this spot. Green is the only running back.

Expectations: Run, catch, block – compete. Green acknowledged in the offseason workouts that the odds are stacked against him, but he continued to compete at full speed and show that being in an NFL offseason camp was not his personal fantasy camp.

His attitude did not go unnoticed. Green most likely is a candidate for the practice squad, but it's the start – as it is for every undrafted rookie.

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