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Projecting the 2013 Impact for Each Detroit Lions Draft Selection

Chris MaddenAnalyst IIApril 29, 2013

Projecting the 2013 Impact for Each Detroit Lions Draft Selection

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    The 2013 NFL draft is in the books and the Detroit Lions successfully added nine players who, given the holes in their roster, figure to contribute immediately. 

    The question is just how much of an impact will each of those rookies have? The Lions drafted several players with loads of potential, but no one knows if they'll reach their ceiling this season.

    That doesn't mean they can't have a big impact.

    Here are projections for how much of an impact each Lions' rookie will have in 2013.

9. Brandon Hepburn, ILB

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    Round 7, Pick  39 (245 OVR)

    Brandon Hepburn was the Lions last pick of the draft. He's an inside linebacker, but don't expect him to challenge Stephen Tulloch for playing time this season.

    Don't expect him to challenge Travis Lewis for playing time either.

    Here's ESPN's draft analysis on him:

    Hepburn has a great frame and thick trunk, providing him with strong point-of-attack skills. However, he lacks ideal instincts and fluidity in space. He can provide depth, but will need to excel on special teams to stick around.

    I'd say they hit the nail on the head. The Lions needed to upgrade their special teams unit, which cost them at least two games last year, and that's where Hepburn will get his chance.

    If he excels then he'll stick around. If not—regardless of how smart he is—don't expect to see him on the roster too long.

     

     

8. Michael Williams, TE

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    Round 7, Pick 5 (211 OVR)

    Can you say Will Heller 2.0?

    That's what Michael Williams is. He may have won three national championships with Alabama, but he isn't a player that can stretch the field nor will he wow anyone with his athleticism.

    Those tight ends aren't available in the seventh round.

    In other words, no one should cross their fingers that he'll unseat Brandon Pettigrew as the starter.

    Yet there is a role to fill with Heller gone and it's Williams' to inherit. When he sees the field in 2013, it will be in Heller's position as a blocker and in short-yardage/goal-line situations.

    His strength is his blocking and his ability to catch in traffic, and those skills could result in him seeing a good number of snaps on offense. A realistic stat line for him is: 

    15 REC, 3 TDS

    Not bad for a seventh-rounder.

7. Theo Riddick, RB

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    Round 6, Pick 31 (199 OVR)

    If the Lions had a master plan of selecting a speedy running back in the sixth round, they might have been targeting prospects like Kenjon Barner or Andre Ellington.

    Unfortunately, both of them were off the board when the Lions selected, but Theo Riddick was a good alternative.

    He possesses the same skill set as both of them, so he definitely fits into what the Lions were looking for.

    ESPN characterizes him as a gifted and versatile athlete who excelled in a hybrid running back/receiver role for Nortre Dame.

    He's undersized so special teams wouldn't be a wise place to have him start. Given the Lions' acquisition of Reggie Bush one might also think that the role of change-of-pace back might not be a good fit. 

    Then again, given the Lions' proclivity for passing the football, they need all the receiving weapons they can get. Riddick may very well make an impact as an outlet receiver primarily on third downs or nickel packages.

    It's time for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to earn his money and figure out a way to get the most from Riddick, Bush and the Lions' two other talented backs—Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure.

    Realistic stat line: 25 ATT, 6 YPR, 2 TDS

6. Corey Fuller, WR

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    Round 6, Pick 3 (171 OVR)

    The Lions might have a basketball squad worth of receivers currently on their roster, but one look at that list and it's obvious the only sure thing is Calvin Johnson. Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson will certainly be key pieces, but questions abound regarding their injuries and recovery time.

    In other words, Corey Fuller has as good a chance as any other receiver to make an impact. The Lions sorely need someone who can stretch the field and be a deep-ball threat as Titus Young was supposed to be.

    Obviously he didn't work out and the Lions have been searching for his replacement ever since they released him. Fuller has the top-end speed capable of stretching the field. His pre-football track career is a testament to that.

    The only question is whether he has the other skills to go with it. Obviously the Lions think he does, and his senior year at Virginia Tech, in which he made a number of big plays, would suggest they're right. His unique combination of size—6'2" 204 lbs—and speed—4.4 40-yard dash—make him a matchup nightmare.

    The door is open for Fuller to make a big impact. At the very least expect a couple of big plays from him this season.

    Realistic stat line: 25 REC, 15 YPC, 2 TDS

5. Sam Martin, P

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    Round 5, Pick 32 (165 OVR)

    Winning the field position battle is a huge part of success in the NFL, and given how dreadful Nick Harris was, it's not surprising the Lions were 4-12 last year.

    With that said, picking up a quality punter was a priority for Martin Mayhew and the Lions.

    Few predicted they'd spend a fifth-round pick on one, though. 

    Maybe the Lions were flustered after the Jacksonville Jaguars plucked Denard Robinson out from under their noses. Maybe Sam Martin will be the next Shane Lechler.

    On the other hand does anyone thing he wouldn't have been available in the seventh round or, gasp, as an undrafted free agent?

    I digress. I could lament this pick all day. Here's his projected impact.

    According to ESPN, Sam Martin out of Appalachian State is a strong legged and versatile specialist who can handle kickoffs as well as punting duties and it's that versatility that made him so attractive to the Lions.

    He enters the perfect situation with Jason Hanson's retirement and Nick Harris's release. There is an opening at both positions and he shouldn't have a problem nailing down one of them.

    Get a good look at him, Lions fans, Martin is your punter/kicker of the future. We'll see if he lasts as long as Hanson did.

4. Devin Taylor, DE

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    Round 4, Pick 35 (132 OVR)

    Defensive end was arguably the biggest need for the Lions coming into this draft, and Martin Mayhew solidified the position by drafting two edge-rushers in the first four rounds.

    Devin Taylor was the second one selected, and while he lacks the name recognition of his counterpart Ezekiel Ansah, he has the same physical gifts and potential, albeit less athleticism.

    With the Lions he enters a great situation to learn from pass-rushing gurus Gunther Cunningham and Jim Washburn. They'll be able to get the most out of him.

    Jason Jones is the only Lions' player penciled in as a starter (Rotoworld.com). He'll replace Cliff Avril at left end and move inside on third downs. That leaves the right side wide open. That starting spot will probably go to either Willie Young or Ansah, but don't rule Taylor out.

    Even if he doesn't start, he'll see plenty of time even with second-year player Ronnell Lewis competing for time as well. Taylor is a more prototypical edge-rusher who can impact the game in many ways.

    Even if he's not getting to the quarterback, he can defend the pass with his long arms.

    Taylor's ceiling is high as a pass-rusher so Lewis might find himself a primary special teams player yet again.

    Realistic stat line: 10 TKLS, 3 SACKS and 5 PD

3. Larry Warford, OG

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    Round 3, Pick 3 (65 OVR)

    Alot will depend on his ability to pass block, but pencil in Larry Warford as Stephen Peterman's replacement in 2013.

    For years fans have been screaming about the Lions' lack of interior run-blocking and Warford is the solution everyone has been waiting for. He's a beast on the inside and his kind of nasty attitude is exactly what the Lions' new-look line needs.

    ESPN characterizes him as:

    A mauler on the inside, has enough short-area agility and inline power to open holes when locked up in a phone booth. He is exactly what you're looking for in a guard in terms of size, mass and strength.

    Projected starting lineup will look something like this. LT Riley Reiff, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola/Bill Nagy, RG Warford and RT Jason Fox.

    With him in the lineup Mikel Leshoure should have at least one or two 20-yard runs this season.

    OK, maybe three.

2. Darius Slay, CB

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    Round 2, Pick 4 (36 OVR)

    Many fans still argue that the Lions should have drafted Dee Milliner in the first round. As ludicrous as that argument is, adding depth to the cornerback position was important. It just wasn't as important as getting a top-notch pass-rusher.

    Darius Slay will make Lions fans forget Milliner anyway. With only 13 career starts at the FBS level, he's still raw, but his combination of size, speed and big-play ability make him a great candidate to start.

    With Slay playing opposite Chris Houston, it allows the Lions to use last year's rookie Dwight Bentley as a nickelback, which is a more natural position for him.

    This also gives the Lions some flexibility with Chris Greenwood. They can take their time developing him and could groom him to possibly replace Louis Delmas at safety.

    In other words, Slay's impact is far reaching. If he can avoid the annual injury bug that plagues the Lions secondary, he'll be in the running for team rookie of the year.

    Janoris Jenkins' rookie production is not out of the question.

    Realistic stat line: 65 TACK, 5 INT

1. Ezekiel Ansah, DE

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    Round 1, Pick 5

    ESPN's Mel Kiper recently said:

    The pivot point for how we see this draft in three years will be[Ezekiel] Ansah. If he's great, then it looks good. If he's not, and Dee Milliner thrives with the Jets, fans will wonder." 

    Kiper is right. Fair or not, the Lions draft success rests with Ansah's development.

    Not surprisingly their success in 2013 rests with Ansah's development as well.

    He will start on the right side and get an on-field education as the season progresses. The Lions left themselves significantly undermanned at the defensive end position, and they won't let their first-round pick sit on the bench. 

    He will start.

    His lack of football experience is well documented, but if there was a situation that was ideal for him to develop into a top pass-rusher in the NFL, it was with the Lions. As I said with Devin Taylor, Ansah will be learning from two of the best in the business in Gunther Cunningham and Jim Washburn. 

    Both are smart and skilled teachers who will put him in the best position to succeed.

    The situation is right and he has the physical tools to develop into a dominant pass-rusher, so fans should relax, sit back and watch his development. Just remember it wasn't until his second year that Jason Pierre-Paul became dominant. 

    Have patience.

    Realistic stat line: 30 TACK, 6 SACKS and 2 FF.

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