The first media viewing of rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis promises to be short, but it should provide some clues as to how the Detroit Lions plan to use their first-round draft pick.
A precedent for making projections from a first look, however brief, was set last year by offensive tackle Taylor Decker. The Lions' first-round draft pick from Ohio State lined up at left tackle from the start of rookie minicamp on May 7. He remained at left tackle through the last play of the Lions' playoff loss at Seattle on Jan. 7.
This week's Monday Countdown is a look ahead to the Lions' upcoming rookie minicamp, based on the takeaways from this year's draft. It's about expectations and projections starting with Davis, with a look back to how Decker set a precedent – and launched a bright future.
There's also a look at what I'd like to see in rookie camp from the Lions' 2017 draft class, and a look back to an anecdote about Everson Walls, a star cornerback with the Dallas Cowboys and what speed – and lack of it – meant.
We start with Decker, who set the model for GM Bob Quinn's regime:
Taylor-made fit: Decker stepped into left tackle on the offensive line as surely and comfortably as though the position was custom built for him.
He started every game and played every offensive snap. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was the only other Lion to play every offensive snap.
It was easy to chart where Decker stood at every level in the buildup to the season from viewing practices open to the media. The choices would be left tackle or right tackle, and any snaps Decker got at right tackle were minimal.
The early verdict on Decker: He was the left tackle of the present and future. Here's how headlines from the local media covering the Lions tracked Decker's progress:
Rookie minicamp on May 7: "Lions Taylor Decker Lines up at Left Tackle:"
Full roster OTA workouts, late May: "Taylor Decker at Left Tackle, Riley Reiff at Right in OTAs."
Opening week of training camp: "Rookie Taylor Decker Adjusting to Speed at NFL Level."
Bottom line: There was no rigged competition with incumbent Riley Reiff, the starter at left tackle the previous three seasons. He was moved to right tackle to accommodate Decker's arrival.
The Lions had a plan for Decker in 2016 and beyond. In what proved to be a strong, productive draft class, Decker proved to be everything the Lions could have wanted in performance and demeanor. He is a budding Pro Bowler and a foundation player at the critical position on the offensive line.
Middle man: That's the projection for Davis going into rookie camp – that he'll be the starting middle linebacker – based on what Quinn said in a post-draft interview on detroitlions.com.
"We'll play him at middle linebacker, we hope, for many years with him calling our defense," Quinn said.
That likely means a position shift for Tahir Whitehead, who started 15 games at middle linebacker last season and 13 in 2014 after Stephen Tulloch went out for the season with a knee injury.
Rookie camp rundown: Here are some things I'd like to see in this year's draft class – from rookie camp through offseason workouts and training camp. That includes an unexpected competition for the No. 2 quarterback job.
Hands: Cornerbacks Jalen Tabor (second round) and Jamal Agnew (fifth), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (third) and tight end Michael Roberts (fourth) all are supposed to have superior ball skills. In whatever drills they run, I want to see them catch the ball. Do they have naturally good hands?
Hand size: Roberts' hand size was measured at 11.5 inches, biggest of any player at the Combine. The smallest hands of the 14 tight ends drafted belong to Gerald Everett of South Alabama. They were 8.5 inches. Everett was drafted by the Rams in the second round. He was the fourth tight end drafted.
Movement: Roberts, again. At 6-4 and 270 pounds, and a pedestrian 4.86-second time in the 40-yard dash, Roberts found a way to catch 16 touchdown passes for Toledo in 2016. That's an indication of good body control and field awareness – to go with extra-large hands, of course.
Pure speed: Agnew showed it in his Pro Day workout, with reported times of 4.32 and 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash in his workouts for the NFL scouts. Tabor didn't have it, as has been widely reported based on his slow Combine 40 times of 4.62 and 4.63 and slower 40 times at his Pro Day workout.
However, Quinn said when he drafted Tabor he spent more time on than any player he has ever evaluated and is convinced he has competitive speed and instincts.
QB II: Jake Rudock, a sixth-round draft pick last year out of Iowa and Michigan, seemed set as the backup to Matthew Stafford when the Lions made it known in March that they were not bringing back veteran Dan Orlovsky.
That was in March. In April, the Lions used a sixth-round pick on Brad Kaaya, a three-year starter from Miami (Fla.).
It doesn't mean the Lions are unhappy with what they saw from Rudock as a rookie, and it remains to be seen if they keep two or three quarterbacks on the roster. Last year the Lions started out with two – Stafford and Orlovsky – with Rudock on the practice squad before being signed to the active roster late in the season.
Either way, there's competition. It's game on.
Speed lesson: Cornerback Everson Walls was not one of the 332 players taken in the 12-round draft in 1981 when he came out of Grambling. He was bypassed by every team, including the Dallas Cowboys, who drafted 14 players, including three defensive backs. Five of those 15 draft picks never played a down in the NFL.
Walls was signed by the Cowboys as a free agent, and he was an instant star. As a rookie, he led the NFL with 11 interceptions and made the Pro Bowl. He was not a one-year wonder. In his first five seasons he made the Pro Bowl four times and led the league in interceptions three times.
Walls retired after the 1993 season with 57 career interceptions, which still has him tied for 57th on the all-time list.
The Lions played the Cowboys in Walls' rookie season, and I recall asking a member of the Lions coaching staff if they had considered drafting or signing Walls.
The answer: They'd brought Walls in for a workout and liked him, but they didn't think he ran fast enough.
Full credit for this: He answered quickly.