By: Mike Stone
The word excellence is usually not used when describing the draft acumen of the Detroit Lions. The names Andre Ware, Joey Harrington, Kalimba Edwards, Jordan Dizon and Derrick Williams are just a few of the failures that have haunted this franchise for decades.
However 2013 looks like a different story. Martin Mayhew and company appear to have finally done a top notch job with the latest draft, and even one so called expert loves this rookie class. Todd McShay of ESPN came out with his ranking of the 2013 rookie class and look who is at the top.
Here are the top five impact 2013 draft classes so far.
1. Detroit Lions
1st in NFC North, 6-3 record
The Lions have gotten both quality and quantity out of their draft class, a key factor to their being in first place in the competitive NFC North. Five of their eight draft picks, plus one undrafted free agent (TE Joseph Fauria), are on the 53-man roster, including three full-time starters and a fourth part-time starter, and all eight picks are still with the team.
First-round DE Ezekiel Ansah missed Sunday’s win over the Bears because of an ankle injury, but it’s the first game he has missed this season. When he has been on the field, he’s made a significant impact and provided consistent pressure (19 tackles, three sacks). DE Devin Taylor has been more productive than I would have expected as a rotational defensive end — I thought he needed more time to develop, but he’s been contributing while learning on the job. He started against Chicago in place ofAnsah. CB Darius Slay is contributing in nickel packages and shows the promise of one day developing into a starter (although he did struggle against the Bears). Larry Warford has solidified the right guard position as a full-time starter this season, and the fact that he (and the entire line) has been very solid in pass protection has been critical to QB Matthew Stafford’s success this season. RT LaAdrian Waddle, an undrafted free agent, has also helped solidify the line and has started and played well the past two games. It’s pretty remarkable to think that Detroit may have solidified the right side of its line with a third-rounder and undrafted free agent. Another key undrafted contributor has been Fauria, who, despite inconsistent separation and ball skills, has made some clutch catches this season as the No. 2 tight end behind Brandon Pettigrew.
Lastly, Sam Martin has upgraded the punter position for Detroit, and also handles kickoffs and holding duties on kicks.
To see who rounds out the rest of McShay’s top five classes click the link below.