Detroit Lions 2012 Draft: Grading Each Pick and Predicting Rookie Production
With the draft over and the dust settled, it is time to grade the Lions' draft based on first impressions. While we will not know how the draft really panned out for a few years, it is always fun to assess the picks and project how the incoming Lions will play.
Round 1: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Reiff was a top-15 talent without a doubt. That he fell in the draft has more to do with his "short" arms than any athletic or technical faults. He is a former tight end who has the quick feet to mirror pass-rushers in space and is a run blocker who can push the pile and get in front of screens and outside runs. He can struggle against power, but a season in a pro strength system should largely fix this.
Reiff fell to the Lions because his arms were only 33-1/4" long. This is considered too short for a left tackle by at least an inch (a whole lot, I know), and is what caused his drop. Nevertheless, Joe Thomas, the best left tackle in football, has shorter arms, and there is no reason why Reiff should be limited as a pro.
I think the Lions will start him at right tackle this season, then shift him to left tackle in 2013, as long as he is not overmatched in 2012, which I am confident he will not be. I think he has a bright future in the NFL.
Round 2: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
This is a more interesting pick to grade. On one hand, the Lions did not need a wide receiver, and with cornerbacks and offensive guards on the board with real talent, I feel they could have acquired just as good a player at a position of need. However, Broyles is the complete package as a slot receiver. If he was not injured, he would have been a first-round sleeper.
He runs great routes, never drops passes, can beat people vertically and can make yards after the catch. For all intents and purposes, he is perfect as a No. 3 wide receiver. Also, he seems to have recovered well from his season-ending ACL injury.
Despite that recovery, Broyles at best will be the fourth-string wide receiver for the Lions in 2012 because of the positional depth and that injury. However, late in the season I would expect him to get on the field and make a few catches. However, his real impact will be felt in 2013.
2012 Stats Prediction: 22 catches, 250 yards, 1 TD
Round 3: Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette
This was another solid pick. Bentley is an athletic and mercurial cornerback who can cover receivers man-to-man and shows the skills to be solid against the run. He can press at the line, has the burst and agility to run with receivers and the skills to mature into a good zone cornerback. However, his technique is not that good and he will struggle to get on the field much as a rookie, especially with Gunther Cunningham calling the shots on defense.
With this in mind, I do not think that Bentley will do much statistically in 2012. However, he will hone his craft away from the limelight and make an impact in 2013 as a potential starter or nickel cornerback.
2012 Stats Prediction: 8 tackles, 1 pass defended
Round 4: Ronnell Lewis, DE, Oklahoma
Lewis is a very good pick who once again will not see many snaps in his rookie season. At Oklahoma, he played 3-4 outside linebacker, and while he has the power, burst and speed to be a good pass-rusher, he will need to get bigger, stronger and more fundamentally sound before he makes waves on the defensive line.
He could also see snaps at linebacker if the Lions get a rash of injuries, but his lack of flexibility and instincts makes would make this a desperation move more than anything else.
His real rookie contribution will be as a special teamer. Lewis is regarded as one of the best special-team players in the draft, and his presence will help the Lions stop big returns by guys like Devin Hester, Randall Cobb and Percy Harvin.
2012 Stats Prediction: 20 special-teams tackles, 12 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Round 5: Tahir Whitehead, LB, Temple
This is the Lions' poorest pick. With a real playmaking linebacker in Terrell Manning still available, the Lions moved up to take Whitehead, a linebacker without the instincts or athleticism to be anything more than a backup. He struggles to get off blocks or make plays in coverage, and will offer little as a blitzer. In my opinion, this is a wasted pick.
Whitehead will be a career backup and will not get a snap in 2012.
Round 5: Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion
This was an intriguing pick that could pay huge dividends. Greenwood is a great athlete who ran a 4.3 40-yard dash and jumped 43" at his pro day despite being a 6'1", 190-pound cornerback. While he is quite stiff-hipped and lacks the quickness to cover smaller wide receivers, his press-man potential and deep speed make him a good raw prospect who could become a pro like Antonio Cromartie, if he pans out.
Greenwood will not see a snap in his rookie season after playing Division III football in college. His only chance is if the Lions have to stop a red-zone nightmare like Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson at the goal line and turn to him because of his length and leaping ability. Still, this is unlikely.
Round 6: Jonte Green, CB-S, New Mexico State
Green is another athletic but raw cornerback from a small school who could stick around and be a fringe starter if he develops nicely. He has quick feet, can run and is physical in run support. However, he seems to lack that "it" factor that the great cover men have and could struggle to start in the NFL. His best opportunity will come if he puts on weight and moves to safety to challenge Amari Spievey.
Green will not face a snap in 2012.
Round 7: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
This is one of the Lions' best picks and should pay serious dividends. For an in-depth rundown of his skills, read this article. Lewis is a talented block-shedder with instincts, range and coverage skills who could start in the NFL. He does not tackle that well and offers nothing as a blitzer. But, as a whole, he should develop into a better outside linebacker than DeAndre Levy.
Lewis will still not see the field a lot in 2012. He will play most of the time in punt and kickoff coverage. However, he could see snaps as a nickel linebacker in place of the coverage-allergic Justin Durant.
2012 Stats Prediction: 20 special-teams tackles, 21 tackles, 2 passes defended
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