Early expectations for Lions' 2014 draft class

Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

What should the Detroit Lions expect out of their draft class in 2014? Here's an early guess for each pick.

The Detroit Lions added eight rookies via the 2014 NFL Draft this past week, giving them an interesting collection of new players. Some of these players seem ready to make an immediate impact, whereas others seem more like picks for the future. We will get a much better idea of what kind of impact each player could have this year once training camp arrives, but for now, let's make some early guesses about the Lions' 2014 draft class.

Round 1 - Pick No. 10 - TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina)

Ebron may be listed as a tight end, but he should get plenty of time out wide and in the slot as a receiver. Along with Golden Tate, Ebron will give Matthew Stafford another talented target in the passing game, and hopefully he will force opposing defenses to focus less on Calvin Johnson. It remains to be seen if Ebron will technically be a part of the Lions' starting lineup, but simply from a snaps standpoint, he certainly won't be used as a backup.

Round 2 - Pick No. 40 - OLB Kyle Van Noy (BYU)

The Lions already view Van Noy as one of their starting outside linebackers, meaning Ashlee Palmer will be returning to a backup/special teams role. In the Lions' new defense, Van Noy should get a chance to rush the passer quite a bit, but he's also going to be dropping back in coverage. He's a three-down linebacker, and his presence on the defense could mean fewer nickel packages for the Lions in 2014.

Round 3 - Pick No. 76 - C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)

With no starting spots currently open at offensive guard or center, Swanson will likely be the Lions' top backup for the interior of the offensive line in 2014. The Lions are hoping to groom him to take over for Dominic Raiola in the future, but barring an injury or a ridiculously impressive training camp, it's tough to imagine Swanson in a starting role this year.

Round 4 - Pick No. 133 - CB Nevin Lawson (Utah State)

With some combination of Chris Houston, Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay at the outside cornerback spots, Lawson's best shot at getting on the field on defense in 2014 may be at nickelback. When healthy, Bill Bentley has been in that role the last couple years, but Lawson could potentially take that spot away from him. At the very least, expect to see Lawson contributing on special teams this year.

Round 4 - Pick No. 136 - DE Larry Webster (Bloomsburg)

Not only is Webster extremely raw, but he's making the jump from a Division II school to the NFL. Perhaps the Lions could get some work on special teams out of him as a rookie and bring him along slowly as a situational pass rusher at defensive end, but it's far from a lock that he will even make the 53-man roster. This was definitely a pick for the future more than anything.

Round 5 - Pick No. 158 - DT Caraun Reid (Princeton)

The Lions have a ton of depth at defensive tackle, but most of that depth is only under contract through 2014. This means that in the long term, Reid could be a very valuable part of the rotation at the position. In the short term, he adds even more depth, and chances are he will occupy the No. 4 spot at defensive tackle in 2014. He will also likely get special teams work considering he blocked seven kicks in college.

Round 6 - Pick No. 189 - WR TJ Jones (Notre Dame)

Depending on the health of Ryan Broyles, it's possible that Jones could get some work in the slot for the Lions this year. At the very least, he could contribute on special teams if he makes the 53-man roster, and even if he doesn't, he should stick around as a member of the practice squad.

Round 7 - Pick No. 229 - K Nate Freese (Boston College)

It's safe to assume that Freese will be the Lions' starting kicker this year. The Lions wouldn't have spent a draft pick on him if they didn't believe he could start as a rookie. That was the case last year with Sam Martin at punter, and hopefully Freese will bring the same kind of stability to the kicker position.

Recap

Ebron, Van Noy and Freese should have starting roles from day one and make an immediate impact. Swanson, meanwhile, will likely be a top backup this year before moving into a starting role next year. As for Lawson, Webster, Reid and Jones, they could all contribute on special teams as rookies, and that aspect of their game will be important for actually making the 53-man roster. As for contributing on defense or offense as rookies, there could be opportunities for them, but it will ultimately come down to how quickly they adjust to playing at the NFL level.

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