Following a poor regular season where his team took a significant step back, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew spoke with Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com on Thursday specifically about how his 2012 NFL Draft class fared in year one.
Though not a single one of Detroit's eight draft picks from April ended up finishing the season in the starting lineup, Mayhew still believes that some of his rookies made major strides in their first year in the NFL. The first player drafted by the Lions last spring, offensive tackle Riley Reiff drew nothing but praise from his general manager for providing depth behind starters Gosder Cherilus and Jeff Backus.
"He did a really good job. I think there are teams he would have started for," Mayhew said. "He showed he belonged when he was out there, so we're excited about what he brings to the table. I suspect he'll be a good player for us for a long time."
Despite not being a popular choice at the time, Lions second-round draft pick Ryan Broyles also offered a nice glimpse for the future with an impressive stretch of games in the middle of the season. Unfortunately for the Lions though, Broyles' injury history caught up with him yet again and forced Detroit into a dire situation at the receiver position. Due to the severity of Broyles' knee injury, Mayhew expressed frustration about possibly not having his talented youngster ready for training camp this summer.
"As soon as we got really excited about him, he got hurt and he was done for the year," he said. "I feel pretty confident he's going to get through this one too, but next year might be the same as this year was where he may not do much during camp and he may come on around midseason."
Initially viewed as a possible breakout candidate heading into the year, third-round pick Bill Bentley was also plagued by injuries in his first NFL season. Bentley injured his shoulder in the preseason and was simply not the same type of player after the injury according to Mayhew. "[He] comes in and has a great offseason in OTAs and training camp is going great and then his shoulder pops out," Mayhew said. "Once his shoulder popped out his play declined."
While the Lions hope that late round additions like Jonte Green and Tahir Whitehead will be able to fight for and win roster spots heading into a new season, it's difficult to ignore the fact that Mayhew's class was more than lacking on star power. Broyles' health over the next few seasons could very easily define this entire draft class and in some ways Mayhew's tenure, but right now it is difficult for fans to get overly excited about their team's 2012 draft class.