Detroit Lions Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke – Round 1
The Lions surprised many when they took Tomlinson in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Most teams had him graded for the second day, so Tomlinson going on Day 1 was a bit of a reach. Detroit had a dreadful running game during the 2014 season though, and Tomlinson could be a big part of the solution to alleviating some of the pressure on the aerial attack for moving the football.

The 6-foot-3, 323-pound Tomlinson is a strong run-blocker who moves defenders at the point of attack. He is very powerful to push linemen out of their gap and open lanes for his running backs. Tomlinson needs to improve his pass protection with handling speed rushers in the NFL, but he has the potential to get the job done. Coming from Jamaica, Tomlinson had a late start in football.

Detroit already has a really good young right guard in the form of Larry Warford. Tomlinson should come and be an upgrade on the left side. With Travis Swanson or veteran Manny Ramirez at center, the Lions should have a talented interior of their offensive line for many years to come. Tomlinson looks like a safe bet to be a quality pro.

Most Likely To Bust

Alex Carter, CB, Stanford – Round 3
In my opinion, Carter was a quality value pick at the cornerback position on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft. Thus, I don’t really like this projection. I had to pick someone however, and I think there is too much talent on the Lions’ offense for their picks there not to work out. Detroit hasn’t been great at developing young cornerbacks on the other hand, so that trend could continue with Carter.

Carter is a solid corner who gets physical with receivers and has some coverage skills. The 6-foot, 196-pounder seems a little stiff and lacks ideal speed for a man-cover corner. He would probably be better as a zone corner in the NFL.

With his skill set, I could see Carter getting picked on in matchups against Green Bay and Chicago. I think the speed of those teams’ receivers will give Carter some problems, and there were some analysts who felt Carter should move to safety in the NFL. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Carter turns into a quality pro starter, but of Detroit’s early-round picks, he looks like the most likely to bust.

Potential Boom Pick

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska – Round 2
I had Abdullah mocked to the Lions in my final mock draft because he was a perfect fit for their offense. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder has a well-rounded skill set that allows him to either run the ball between the tackles or pick up yards catching passes out of the backfield. Abdullah has a burst to rip off yards in chunks, plus has a nose for the end zone.

Abdullah averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 2014 for 1,611 yards with 19 touchdowns. He notched 22 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns, too. Abdullah demonstrated that he is a tough runner even though he doesn’t have great size. He is a quick back who slashes his way through defenses.

With big-armed quarterback Matthew Stafford distributing the ball to receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, most teams will be playing their safeties deep. Abdullah should see plenty of running lanes as the Lions’ offense spreads the field. He will also help in the passing game as a receiver. Abdullah looks like a great fit in Detroit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up some big numbers for the Lions.

Future Depth Player

Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas – Round 6
The Lions landed a gritty corner in Diggs. Over the past four years, he was a consistent and steady defender for Texas. Diggs (5-8, 196) makes up for his lack of size by playing with a lot of grit, heart and aggressiveness. He also has quality ball skills and can tackle. Diggs may not have the size to be a starter on the outside, but I think he could turn into an asset as a nickelback. Diggs is a gamer, and I bet he turns into a quality backup for Detroit.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

28. Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke: B+ Grade
This is a slight reach – I thought the right area for Laken Tomlinson was the top half of the second round – but that’s mitigated by the fact that the Lions moved down five spots and picked up some commodities in the process. That moves this grade from a “B” to a B+. I like Tomlinson as a prospect, as he projects as a solid guard. He fills a big need for the Lions, who struggled mightily to protect Matthew Stafford last year. Stafford has to love this pick.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

54. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska: A Grade
Reggie Bush had a nice start to his Detroit career, but he flamed out, making countless mistakes toward the end of his tenure there. The Lions had to find a replacement for Bush, and they managed to do so with Ameer Abdullah, a game-breaking running back who can go the distance every time he touches the ball. Abdullah could develop into a three-down back if he learns how to block better. Even still, he’ll make the Lions’ offense so much more explosive.

80. Alex Carter, CB, Stanford: A- Grade
Here’s the Alex Carter pick. I thought Carter would go to the Steelers or Packers at the end of the second round, given that he fit their scheme so well. The Lions have to be thrilled that he dropped; Carter should be able to start eventually once Rashean Mathis moves on.

113. Gabe Wright, DT, Auburn: B+ Grade
This is another quality pick by the Lions. Gabe Wright was a solid fourth-round prospect, so they’re getting him at the right spot. He also fills a need; Detroit had to add multiple defensive tackles in the wake of losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley this offseason.

168. Mike Burton, FB, Rutgers: C Grade
Mike Burton is a solid pass-catcher and blocker, and he’ll be able to contribute on special teams. I thought he’d go a round or two later than this, but I don’t have a problem with this selection.

200. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas: B Grade
Though Quandre Diggs was projected to go in this range, this is a value choice in that he was slotted earlier prior to an awful Combine showing. Diggs showed horrible athleticism, but he could end up having the last laugh if he ends up being a solid slot corner, as once projected.

240. Corey Robinson, OT, South Carolina: A+ Grade
I had the Lions picking Corey Robinson in the final version of my mock draft – at No. 88 in the third round! I thought that was a bit early for Robinson, whom I pegged as a fourth-rounder, but there was no reason for him to fall this far. At least, no reason we’re aware of. We’ll try to figure out why Robinson fell, but for now, this is an easy A+, as Robinson has the talent to start for the Lions at some point down the road.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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