Although the 2015 NFL Draft class may turn out to be the best class of his career, Mayhew needed to put together a good class after the 2014 class failed to produce even one impactful starter last season. To be fair it takes time to adequately judge a draft class but if their early performance is any indication then the 2014 class won’t do much to help the legacy of the Lions general manager.
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The only player that came close to making a meaningful impact last season was Travis Swanson. The 3rd round pick started one game in place of the suspended Dominic Raiola. That is saying something considering most of the production was expected to come from the first round. 10th overall pick Eric Ebron has been underwhelming so far starting just seven games last season while amassing a paltry 248 yards. It was also a disappointing season for second round selection Kyle Van Noy. The linebacker out of BYU was injured during training camp; playing just half the season while making just 6 tackles.
The bottom half of the 2014 draft class hasn’t fared any better. Defensive Tackle Caroun Reid (5th round) saw some playing time last season but only record 2 assists. 6th round wideout TJ Jones failed to make even one catch last season despite a number of injuries to the receieving corp. Finally 7th round pick Nate Freese was cut early in the season after struggling to make routine field goals.
All in all 2014 was a disaster for Detroit Lions rookies but the top two picks are looking to make an impact in 2015. Kyle Van Noy is motivated to show he can play in the league after missing half of last season on injured reserve. Van Noy in an interview with Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com it is clear that he understands to stick in the NFL he will have to contribute in 2015.
"“I don’t know if it was a bad taste, but it was a frustrating and humbling thing at the same time,” Van Noy said of his rookie season. “You have high expectations and when that’s taken away from you – not taken away – but when things have led to situations where you’re hurt and it’s taken out of your control, it’s a little frustrating.”“I’m motivated more than I ever have been,” Van Noy said. “Competing at the highest level against the best is what you want. It’s what you’ve dreamed of your whole life. To be able to finally be getting healthy and being able to compete at a high level and make an impact and not waking up in pain is refreshing. You kind of forget how nice it is to be healthy.”"
Eric Ebron is also ready to turn the page on his rookie season. Ebron’s 25 catch performance last season was a huge disappointment especially considering the success others that were drafted behind him. Last season’s lackluster numbers have led some in the media to call him a bust. A label Ebron seems ready to shed with a solid 2015.
"“He’s grown up a little bit more,” receiver Golden Tate said. “His confidence is way high right now. He’s playing well. “I can’t wait to see him in pads running around making plays. He’s a specimen athletically. So we’ll see.”"
“We’ll see” seems to be a common theme with this draft class. Center Travis Swanson was drafted to be Dominic Raiola’s successor but after a 2015 draft day trade for Manny Ramirez, Swanson could be relegated to a back-up role again this season. The same seems to be true for defensive tackle Caroun Reid who will have to battle an onslaught of free agent acquisitions to get significant playing time in 2015.
The Detroit Lions were hampered by the salary cap this offseason leaving them unable to make a play for any of the major free agents. Instead, Martin Mayhew and company chose use the draft to fill in some of the bigger holes on the team. A solid strategy if you make the players drafted offer meaningful contribution to the team. If the Lions are going to return to the playoffs for the second consecutive season the 2014 class must make an impact.