During their run of selecting nothing but defensive players during the final five rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions picked two linebackers. Tahir Whitehead was the first one taken, and the Lions liked him so much that they spent a fourth-round pick in 2013 to jump to the third pick of the fifth round to get him. Later, in the seventh round, the Lions picked up Travis Lewis, who was surprisingly still available.
So far, these two picks are looking to be quite good. Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who admitted he wasn't completely sold on the Whitehead pick, is already quite impressed with him.
"That's by far the biggest surprise I've had in quite a while as a coach. I think (linebacker coach) Matt Burke and the scouts did a great job with him," Cunningham said. "He's much better than a fifth-round draft pick. He is something."
With Justin Durant out on Monday, Whitehead actually filled in for him during the Lions' seven-on-seven drill. While that may not mean too much right now, it's another indication that Whitehead is impressing the coaches.
Lewis is also impressing the coaches. Specifically, Cunningham likes Lewis' quickness and especially his smarts.
"The first day we had him in rookie camp, I asked him a few questions during walk-through and he answered every one," he said. "Matt Burke was smiling and I said, 'okay.' Matt knew the hard one was coming, but (Lewis) answered that one as well."
It looks like Whitehead and Lewis could both end up being key backups in 2012 and perhaps key contributors down the road.