With training camps in full gear across the National Football League, I continue my look at the potential impact that the rookies of the 2014 class will have for their respective franchises. The next one up is the Detroit Lions. Last season the Lions struggled down the stretch and found themselves looking up at the division winners once again. This team needed to come into this draft and find the top play makers suitable to their needs. Each pick of the Lions class will be rated on a scale of one to ten. A rating of one is a player projected to have little to no impact this season while a ten is a player who is expected to be an immediate high impact contributor. The Detroit Lions made eight selections in the 2014 NFL draft.
Eric Ebron (Tight End) – 1st round (Pick 10)
Ebron is a stellar physical machine at the tight end position. He is a superb athlete with incredible hands and exceptional route running skills. He has all the physical tools to be an electric play maker as a pass catching option in the Lion offense. However he will see some snaps taken away for his limited blocking ability. If Ebron can bulk up a little and gather some better technique on blocking edge rushers he could develop into the complete package for the Lions. He should be a vital red zone threat for Matt Stafford and should carve his role rather quickly on this team. With a stable of targets at Stafford’s disposal it’s hard to say exactly how much Ebron will light up the stat sheet but his presence alone will be huge.
Impact Projection: 7 out of 10
Kyle Van Noy (Linebacker) – 2nd round (Pick 40)
Van Noy is an intriguing linebacker. He has a nice frame (6’3” 243 lbs) and a quick initial burst to make him interesting as a pass rusher. He does have skill in getting to the quarterback but needs to improve and increase his arsenal of pass rushing moves. Physically he is an ideal backer with impressive size and burst to get after players. Van Noy has so much untapped potential, he needs to be groomed and learn the game at its highest level. Kyle is versatile enough for the Lions to be able to move him wherever they need him, likely at the SAM position on their defense. Van Noy will face some growing pains but he should see significant playing time on the starting defense this season and develop into their starting guy.
Impact Projection: 6 out of 10
Travis Swanson (Center) – 3rd round (Pick 76)
Swanson is a solid pass protecting center with a good amount of starting experience while at the University of Arkansas. He is mechanically sharp and does a solid job defending multiple moves. However his strength leaves much to be desired. Travis needs to bulk up to be able to drive bigger tackles and open up running lanes. Word from camp is that Swanson is splitting time at guard and center and has been flourishing. He may see some time at either position this season and looks to be a lock as part of the seven man rotation for the Lions.
Impact Projection: 5 out of 10
Nevin Lawson (Cornerback) – 4th round (Pick 133)
Lawson has all the right tools to develop into a decent nickel corner option. He’s lean and can go toe to toe with receivers at the line. However his technique and mechanics must be sharpened so he uses his hands less. Often times Lawson gets the flag for over aggressive use of his hands. He has solid play recognition skills and decent ball skills though as well as special teams experience which should help him stick on the roster this year. A few years of polishing his skills and he could find a solid role on this defense.
Impact Projection: 4 out of 10
Larry Webster (Defensive End) – 4th round (Pick 136)
Webster possess a great blend of size and speed and huge upside. He is a small school prospect with limited experience but has all the physical tools to be coached up and become a solid pass rusher. His mechanics leave a lot to be desired but word from camp is that the coaches are quickly working to correct the issues and he is learning fast and showing solid strides. Webster has an NFL pedigree and all the right tools to become a starter for the Lions down the road. It may take a few years of coaching up before he is ready to make a significant impact. He will likely be a rotational pass rusher this season.
Impact Projection: 4 out of 10
Caraun Reid (Defensive Tackle) – 5th round (Pick 158)
Reid is slim framed interior lineman who played rather well in the Ivy League while at Princeton. Caraun is a talented interior pass rusher and has a never-ending motor. Reid is highly intelligent on and off the football field which should help him adjust quickly to life in the NFL. If Reid could bulk up to command the double team but keep his athleticism he could be a force to be reckoned with on the interior in a few seasons. He needs to be coached up and his personality should help speed up the process. Reid is also likely to be a rotational player this season.
Impact Projection: 3 out of 10
T.J. Jones (Wide Receiver) – 6th round (Pick 189)
Jones is a slim, slot style receiver with average athleticism. He isn’t going to wow anyone with blazing speed or dazzling moves. Jones is a possession receiver with solid route running abilities and soft hands.He must become more physical and learn to attack the ball at its highest points and not let the ball come to him. With a now pretty deep core on this roster, Jones may have a tough time making the final cuts.
Impact Projection: 2 out of 10
Nate Freese (Kicker) – 7th round (Pick 229)
Freese is a pretty accurate kicker and held the job during all four of his years at Boston College. He isn’t the most powerful kicker nor is he a great kickoff starter. He will compete with Giorgio Tavecchio for the starting gig. Whichever player is the most consistent will land the job.
Impact Projection: 2 out of 10
The Lions are a team that need to take advantage of the talent that sits on their roster. Many argued that the Lions didn’t focus on needs such as corner and safety soon enough in the draft, but they did grab two impact players in Ebron and Van Noy who should come in and contribute right away this season. This team took a high ceiling approach in this draft as they often do taking many players who are bit raw but possess a tremendous upside such as Webster and Reid. This Detroit Lions 2014 rookie class is a step towards sustaining success down the line in Mo-town.
Joe Kleine is also co-host of thefinsradio.com show The Direct Snap, alongside fellow PhinPhanatic and Rant Sports writer Tyler McMullen (also on facebook search Tyler McMullen – Rant Sports). Please check out our facebook at www.facebook.com/theofficialdirectsnap or check us out on Twitter at the handle, @Direct_Snap. Our free to listen show about the NFL is on blogtalkradio.com/finsradio is on this Saturday August 2nd at 8:30 PM Eastern time! Check out our show, give us a call, or e-mail us at [email protected]!