The Detroit Lions, most would agree, selected for need during the 2013 NFL Draft and may have found multiple starters in the process. Where did that leave the team’s roster in the aftermath, and what kind of positional battles will the new rookies face this summer while in training camp?
That’s today’s big question, as we break down how each new rookie might fit into the Lions’ plans at their different positions this season and the outlooks of their various roster spots moving forward.
Already In The Fold: Jason Jones, Ronnell Lewis, Willie Young.
Lost: Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson, Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Drafted: (2) Ziggy Ansah, Devin Taylor.
Outlook: The impact position of need from the beginning, Detroit had to add multiple difference makers for depth during the draft at end and did so right away, selecting Ansah with their first round pick. Later in round four, Taylor was selected, giving the group some additional size and punch. Clearly, given the numbers and attrition here, both will be counted on to produce early. Jones and Ansah will be starters, and Young should see a significant increase in playing time. It will be up to Taylor and Lewis to play a big bit part role, assuming other veterans aren’t added prior to camp.
Already In The Fold: Rob Sims, Dylan Gandy, Bill Nagy, Rodney Austin.
Lost: Stephen Peterman,
Drafted: (1) Larry Warford.
Outlook: Sims is the obvious starter on the left hand side. Gandy and Nagy might be involved in other spots, such as center and tackle, placing a premium on Warford to contribute right away. Most experts think he’s capable of doing that, but now, it has to translate onto the field. The Lions might want to sign an established veteran guard like Brandon Moore to compete in camp as well, considering line depth often proves vital as a long season wears on.
Already In The Fold: Bill Bentley, Jonte Green, Chris Houston, Chris Greenwood.
Lost: Jacob Lacey.
Drafted: (1) Darius Slay.
Outlook: The Lions didn’t lose anyone important in their defensive backfield from 2012, resigning Houston at corner and Louis Delmas at safety. They also added free agent Glover Quin, which many believe will play a big role in a turnaround. The only big question is at cornerback opposite Houston, which should see a significant camp battle between Bentley, Greenwood, Green and Slay play out. If Slay can shake off a rumored meniscus injury and secure the spot, the Lions will have quality youth and depth. Either way, expect Slay to contribute from the beginning and play a very important role.
Already In The Fold: Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham, Brian Robiskie, Devin Thomas, Patrick Edwards.
Lost: Titus Young, Stefan Logan.
Drafted: (2) Corey Fuller, Theo Riddick.
Outlook: The biggest elephant in the room regarding Detroit’s high-powered offense in 2013? It’s still the issue of who will be a solid number two option behind Johnson. Broyles and Burleson have become the prohibitive choices in May, but each are rehabbing injuries, leaving Durham and journeymen Robiskie and Thomas as the only serious threats. The draft didn’t provide many answers, as Fuller and Riddick are developmental role players who will have to grow. Both are intriguing though, and should be given a big chance to make a name for themselves early, especially Riddick on special teams trying to claim Logan’s old role. This is a spot to watch very close from the beginning.
Already In The Fold: Blake Clingan, Havard Rugland?
Lost: Nick Harris, Ben Graham.
Drafted: (1) Sam Martin.
Outlook: Needing to shake things up at the position, Detroit drafted a punter in round five, raising plenty of eyebrows. Despite that, Martin is high on talent and ability and should challenge for the number one role immediately. Previously, the Lions signed Clingan, a little known player and Rugland, a kicker who’s an unknown punting commodity from YouTube fame. Martin, given his experience and higher draft selection, should be considered the favorite here, though the competition will be one to watch.
Already In The Fold: Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler.
Lost: Will Heller
Drafted: (2) Michael Williams, Joseph Fauria (UDFA).
Outlook: Williams probably has the inside track to Heller’s old spot as the third tight end even before camp opens. A versatile blocker and receiver, he might also be able to play the H-back role for Detroit in the red zone. Don’t discount Fauria either, who was the Lions’ first undrafted free agent signing this spring. Given his size and hands, Fauria could challenge to make Detroit’s roster as well, providing an interesting infusion of young talent at the position.
Already In The Fold: DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Travis Lewis, Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead.
Lost: Justin Durant
Drafted: (1) Brandon Hepburn
Outlook: Things are set up the middle with Tulloch, and at one outside linebacker spot with Levy. Who will replace Durant on the other side? Barring a major veteran addition prior to camp, it looks like a battle between Lewis, Palmer and Whitehead. Will Hepburn be added to that mix? He played middle linebacker in college and also has contributed outside, but a biochemistry major focused on cancer research certainly wouldn’t have trouble learning to stick at a different position, if need be. Hepburn’s best shot to make the team seems to be special teams and the practice squad, at this point.
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