If you’re a Lions fan you should feel pretty good about the Lions’ offseason. So far there has only been two players arrested. OK, jokes aside it has really been a successful offseason for the Lions, at least on paper. The Lions have added Reggie Bush to not only replace Jahvid Best, but upgrade the role, as well as re-sign their best two secondary players in Chris Houston and Louise Delmas, and add another talented safety in Glover Quin.
May 10, 2013; Allen Park, MI, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (94) during rookie mini camp at Lions training facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The Lions also added nine players with their picks in the 2013 NFL draft. Let’s take a look at the rookies who have the best chance to succeed this season.
Ziggy Ansah– I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ziggy Ansah and the Lions are a perfect fit. Most analysts see Ansah as a project with gobs of potential, but question how quickly, if ever, he’ll reach that potential. I see a player with gobs of potential playing alongside two of the best defensive tackles in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Ansah may or may not have a huge sack season, but the fact that those three players will be on the field at the same time will create more sacks for a defense who underachieved in that department last season.
Darius Slay– First let’s talk about the surgery he just had and get that out of the way. Forget that Slay just had a surgery on his torn meniscus, it’s a minor procedure that will affect him very little if at all in terms of playing and in terms of learning the system. Last season the Lions dealt with Louis Delmas in and out of the line up due to nagging knee injuries. The surgery should prevent that from being an issue for Slay during the season and should help insure his career in the long run.
Now that that’s out of the way, I expect Slay to be a contributor on the team. I expect him to win the starting job at corner, but even if he doesn’t he should see the field in rotation and in nickle packages and have opportunities to impact games. Another plus in Slay’s game is his elite speed, which the Lions will likely use in kickoff and punt returns. With that said, Slay should have plenty of opportunities to make his presence felt on the field.
Larry Warford– Warford hasn’t played a snap in the NFL or even participated in a training camp, but he seems to be the favorite to take over at right guard and rightfully so. He’s a monster of a lineman at 6’3 330 plus lbs and a prototypical guard, and should greatly improve the Lions mediocre run game. Another area I look for him to improve is in the Lions pass game. Last season, Matthew Stafford received a ton of pressure up the middle in the passing game and with Warford’s massive frame and solid strength he should be able to by Stafford a little more time to get to his playmakers down the field.
Chris Greenwood– He may not be a rookie as he was taken in the fifth round in the 2012 NFL draft, but he didn’t participate in training camp and he didn’t play a down in the NFL due to an abdominal injury. He may be a second year player, but he’s got as much experience on the field as the 2013 rookie class and a ton of potential. Greenwood is one of the most athletic players on the roster at 6’1 with 4.3 speed and a 35 plus inch vertical. He’s had a full season to study the Lions’ playbook and scheme and I expect him to push Slay and Bill Bentley for the starting cornerback job. If Greenwood can stay healthy, I expect him to be an impact for the Lions this season and make a name for himself.
Honorable Mention: Corey Fuller– Fuller gets a mention because Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are coming off injuries and because he’s the only receiver currently on the roster who is a vertical threat down the field outside of Calvin Johnson. Fuller should get an opportunity in training camp and in preseason to earn playing time, but I’m concerned about how far away he is in his routes and experience to competing at the NFL level. It will be interesting to watch him develop in the offseason. Who knows, maybe he’ll burst onto the scene like Victor Cruz did two years ago.