This is not your granddaddy's Detroit Lions team. No longer does this franchise go through the motions, treating their annual Thanksgiving Day game like the Super Bowl.
The 2012 Lions should be in the middle of a heated battle to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. To get there, they'll need everyone to bring their A-games, and this includes the rookies.
Here are my projected statistics for the five Detroit Lions rookies (other than Riley Reiff) who should have the biggest impact on the outcome of the 2012 campaign.
Whitehead will get most of his work on special teams, however, his motor and ability to stifle tight ends at the line of scrimmage should be enough to work his way into the team's linebacker rotation.
Prediction: 15 tackles, 2 passes defended
When the Lions drafted Bentley, my first thought was that he could compete for a starting spot. Aaron Berry's recent legal troubles only further solidified that.
With or without Berry, I think Bentley will get considerable playing time.
Prediction: 25 tackles, 2 interceptions, 10 passes defended
Travis Lewis is the wild card of Detroit's 2012 draft class. A four-year starter at Oklahoma, he was a superstar in the Big 12 Conference.
His athleticism allows him to play both the inside and outside linebacker positions, while his football IQ and nose for the ball remind me of a young Tedy Bruschi.
Like Whitehead, he'll earn his keep on special teams in 2012, but should see a decent amount of time on defense.
Prediction: 20 tackles, 1 sack, 3 passes defended
I see Ronnell Lewis quickly becoming a fan favorite in Detroit. His high motor and intensity when going after the quarterback could make him a valuable asset during passing downs.
I am positive Lewis will one day earn a full-time role as a starter for the Lions, but for now, he should excel as a role player in Detroit's feared front seven.
Prediction: 45 tackles, 5 sacks
If Broyles can get back to 100 percent during the 2012 season (which I think he will), opposing defenses will have their hands full with the Lions' receiving corps.
When healthy, I thought he was the most exciting player in college football for the past two seasons.
Adding him to a group that already has Calvin Johnson, Titus Young, Nate Burleson, and tight end Brandon Pettigrew could make the Detroit passing attack nearly unstoppable.
Prediction: 41 receptions, 460 yards, 4 touchdowns