One of the items Jim Schwartz touched on during his season-ending press conference on Monday was his expectation that the Lions would get significantly more production from the 2012 draft class next season.
What might that mean for each player?
Riley Reiff – If Schwartz’s comment is to be related down to the individual level with Riley Reiff that can only mean he expects Reiff to hold a starting job somewhere on the Lions’ offensive line next year. Where that could be is up in the air as it depends on the route the Lions choose to go in addressing their needs there. There is no doubt that the Lions drafted Reiff to be their left tackle of the future but there is doubt whether they would run Jeff Backus out of town to see it happen in 2013. With Gosder Cherilus set to become a free agent, right tackle seems to be the more likely destination for Reiff next year.
Ryan Broyles – It’s not hard to see an increased role for Ryan Broyles. He was becoming a productive receiver after fully healing from the ACL tear he suffered at Oklahoma and gaining a level of comfort in the Lions’ offense. He showed a knack for finding open spaces in the opposing secondary and really only needs to stay healthy to give the Lions what they need in 2013.
Bill Bentley – Injury cut Bentley’s season short, which is too bad considering he was already on track to be a significant contributor to the Lions’ efforts in 2012. He will be back healthy next year and has to be penciled in as a starting corner at this point.
Ronnell Lewis – The biggest disappointment of the 2012 draft class may have been Ronnell Lewis who spent much of the year as a game day inactive. 2013 represents a huge opportunity for Lewis. Changes may be afoot at defensive end for the Lions but Lewis may first have to prove that he can be an asset on punt and kick coverage units.
Tahir Whitehead – With both starting outside linebackers eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason, Tahir Whitehead could be the beneficiary of some roster turnover. It’s hard to say if the Lions could feel comfortable if they need to count on him in a big role on defense but there was obviously something they liked when they sent a 2013 fourth round pick to the Vikings to take Whitehead in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. Perhaps he slides up the depth chart into the spot held by Ashlee Palmer this past year.
Chris Greenwood – If there is a player on this list that is poised to make a huge jump in contribution level it is probably Chris Greenwood. That might be a year early, Greenwood was a developmental prospect and the year on the PUP/IR list didn’t do as much for his development as a healthy year would have, but Gunther Cunningham has said he is used to having more size in the secondary and Greenwood has that. With his combination of size and athleticism, He could be in good position to find a way to contribute next year, even if it as a fourth cornerback.
Jonte Green – It would be easy to see Jonte Green as the “other” guy as the third and final cornerback in the 2012 draft class but being able to stay healthy put him in position for a lot of playing time. Green contributed more in 2012 than probably anyone envisioned he would so it is hard to see the Lions counting on him for more in 2013. They could be in trouble if they do.
Travis Lewis – Like Tahir Whitehead, Travis Lewis could see himself with an increased role as a result of roster upheaval at outside linebacker. He wasn’t picked until the seventh round but he was projected to go much higher after a very productive college career.