Going into the 2012 offseason, the Detroit Lions had a few glaring holes—most notably in their defensive secondary. There was speculation that the team would look to fill a hole or two in free agency. However, the only noise the Lions made this offseason was with off-field arrests.
Sure, there were several free agents that would have been well suited to don the Lions’ Honolulu blue and silver—names like Cortland Finnegan, Carlos Rogers, Tracy Porter and Aaron Ross, to name just a few.
Four games into the 2012 season, any one of those players would be worth their weight in gold if Detroit had been lucky enough to land them. The sad realization is that the Lions made little effort to sign a legitimate defensive back—in large part due to their current salary-cap issues.
Currently, five players make up over 30 percent of the Lions' total salary output (Calvin Johnson, Cliff Avril, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch). This made it next to impossible—and will for the foreseeable future—for Detroit to have any chance at acquiring a big-name free agent.
The result? The Lions ended up with free-agents Jacob Lacey, Drayton Florence (now on injured reserve) and Jerome Murphy (since released)—who were all cut by their previous teams. The Lions also gave up a conditional draft pick for CB Kevin Barnes but cut him after one game.
Since signing a quality defensive back in the offseason wasn’t an option, surely the Lions would use a high draft pick to begin plugging these holes.
Which Lions rookie will have the best NFL career when all is said and done?
Round 1: Riley Reiff, Offensive Lineman
Round 2: Ryan Broyles, Wide Receiver
Round 3: Dwight Bentley, Cornerback
Bentley was chosen 85th overall. 12 defensive backs went off the board before the Lions selected Bentley. Fans would say that general manager Martin Mayhew should have selected a defensive back in an earlier round, but there is a reason that fans don’t draft for their teams. I am a writer, and there is a reason I don’t draft for the Lions (I will add that NFL analysts have no business drafting as well—thank you, Matt Millen).
Without further ado, here are my grades for the Lions’ 2012 acquisitions.
CB Jacob Lacey: B-
Lacey was a starter in Indianapolis and has brought some much-needed relief to an injury-riddled and inexperienced Lions defensive backfield. Despite the chip on his shoulder that drives him to succeed, there was a reason the Colts let him go. The Lions caught a glimpse of that reason at the end of last week’s game versus Tennessee.
WR Kassim Osgood: D-
As it sits, Osgood is the fifth receiver on Detroit’s depth chart and also contributes on special teams. In Sunday’s game versus Minnesota, he missed a special teams tackle that resulted in a touchdown. This was one of four special teams touchdowns that the Lions have given up in the last two games.
Osgood is not the answer on special teams coverage nor will he contribute to a stacked receiving corps. If a roster spot is needed for a mid-season signing, Osgood could be the odd man out.
OT Riley Reiff: C-
Reiff was acquired with the 23rd pick of the 2012 draft. You wouldn’t think that it would be an easy task to displace 12-year starter Jeff Backus, and the truth is no one expected him to. This grade is based on what we’ve seen so far this season—and it hasn’t been much of anything.
We knew that Reiff would be a project, but it’s not usually a popular decision to use a first-round draft choice on one. Like his predecessor, Reiff has the potential to be a 10-year starter in this league, but for now, it’s wait and see.
WR Ryan Broyles: C-
Nobody (everybody) saw this coming—another high draft choice used on another wide receiver. Apparently, Mayhew couldn’t resist passing up the all-time leader in NCAA receptions, despite the fact that he underwent ACL surgery just five months prior to draft day.
Broyles has yet to see meaningful minutes, and like Reiff, it remains to be seen if this college legend will live up to NFL success.
CB Dwight “Bill” Bentley: B-
There are two ways I could present my case for Bill Bentley. On one hand, Bentley came in as an immediate starter in the Lions secondary. On the other hand, the Lions had no choice but to start him considering their situation.
Bentley has shown flashes of his big-hit ability but has looked every bit a rookie in his limited action. He seems to be an easy target for opposing quarterbacks looking for a quick pass interference call.
DE Ronnell Lews, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Chris Greenwood, DB Jonte Green and LB Travis Lewis: C+
I grade the remaining rookie class the same due to the fact that we haven’t seen much of them. Other than the injury to Greenwood, these rookies all add depth to the Lions roster, which could pay dividends later in the season.