After the draft in April, the Lions said they needed immediate help from several of their draft picks.
It’s working out that way heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Vikings. Four of the top five picks could start. All nine draftees are still hanging on either on the 53-man roster, the practice squad or injured reserve.
Here’s a look:
1. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah gave everyone a scare when he suffered a concussion after taking a blind-sided hit from teammate Leroy Harris at practice on Aug. 24. He is expected to play on Sunday after he was listed as probable on Friday’s injury report. His athleticism shows. Ansah is a quick learner and took over the starting right defensive end spot early in camp.
2. Cornerback Darius Slay’s speed has been on display and helped earn him a starting position opposite Chris Houston. His play in preseason games gave him the edge over veteran Ron Bartell who lined up with the first team in minicamp and at the start of training camp and yet did not make the 53-man roster. Slay appears to be the real deal. If he starts on Sunday and doesn’t play well, he’ll move back down the depth chart.
3. Guard Larry Warford, the third-round pick out of Kentucky, had plenty of work to do on his technique. He is expected to start at right guard, but there has been no official word from Jim Schwartz. During camp Warford got some time with the starters at right guard and plenty with the second team at left guard. It’s been a heavy rotation at right guard. It’s possible he could get beat for the starting spot by Jake Scott or Dylan Gandy.
4. Defensive end Devin Taylor, the fourth-round pick, astepped up in full padded practices which was a good sign initially. He’s got some work to do, but his size (he’s 6-foot-7) helps. Won’t start, but could end up in the defensive end rotation. He could eventually look like a steal from the fourth round, but has some work to do.
5. Punter Sam Martin, the fifth-round pick from Appalachian State, booms the ball like no one’s business. He not only punts, but he also has also kicks off. He was in competition with Blake Clingan, but won the job.
6. Wide receiver Corey Fuller, a sixth-round pick, is relatively new to football. This is just his third training camp — he had two in college after making the move from track and field. He has speed and potential, but he is raw. A year on the practice squad will be the best thing for his development.
7. Running back Theo Riddick had enough good days at camp that he made the 53-man roster. He’s behind Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure and might not be activated on Sundays.
8. Tight end Michael Williams, whose strength is blocking, broke his hand in the preseason and will spend his rookie season on the injured reserve list. He”ll still be able to go to meetings, watch practice and work out.
9. Linebacker Brandon Hepburn, the LIons’ final draft pick, comes from a small school (Florida A&M) and has plenty to learn which is why the practice squad is a good place for him.
— Undrafted rookies who made the 53-man roster include tight end Joe Fauria who can catch the ball and has improved on his blocking. Tackle LaAdrian Waddle who is not in the mix to start, but will end up as a backup. Also expect him to line up as the sixth offensive linemen in certain packages similar to what Riley Reiff did last season.
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