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Evaluating Lions' rookies through first half of season

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How did the Detroit Lions' rookies do during the first half of the 2013 season? Let's take a look.

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Jason Miller

We're halfway through the NFL season, and many rookies have already become big contributors for the Detroit Lions in 2013. Let's take a look at how each rookie has performed so far this season using grades from Pro Football Focus.

Draft picks

DE Ziggy Ansah (Round 1, 5th overall): -4.7

Ansah has 19 tackles, 3.0 sacks and 2 forced fumbles this season. If not for untimely penalties, he'd have twice as many sacks and a few more forced fumbles. Unfortunately, those penalties did happen (two of them were offside calls on Ansah), and Ansah has been pretty quiet in the last few games. His PFF rating isn't very good as a result, and he's now ranked 37th among defensive ends on the site.

CB Darius Slay (Round 2, 36th overall): -6.4

Slay is by far the lowest-graded defensive player on the Lions. This isn't a huge surprise considering he's been benched a couple times and has bounced in and out of the lineup at cornerback. However, he does seem to be improving. On PFF, which has him 102nd at cornerback, his poor grade is mainly the result of a -4.4 in Week 1. Since then, his worst single-game grade has been a -1.2. He just needs to work through his rookie struggles and keep improving.

OG Larry Warford (Round 3, 65th overall): +7.7

Warford has been one of the Lions' top players in general so far during his rookie season. Actually, he's been one of the top offensive guards in the entire NFL. On PFF, Warford is ranked seventh among offensive guards, and he's fourth among right guards. That's pretty good for a rookie.

DE Devin Taylor (Round 4, 132nd overall): +1.9

Taylor has been getting more and more playing time recently, and he's been quite good for the Lions. He drew the big holding flag at the end of the Dallas Cowboys game, and he currently has 8 tackles, 1.0 sack and 1 forced fumble on the season. His playing time should continue to increase as the season progresses.

P Sam Martin (Round 5, 165th overall): +24.6

Martin has rewarded the Lions' decision to draft him by being excellent both as a punter and kickoff specialist. He's averaging 48.5 yards per punt and has a net average of 42.5. On PFF, he's ranked sixth among punters and 11th among kickoff specialists. Yes, he's made a mistake here or there, but he's been a valuable addition to the special teams.

RB Theo Riddick (Round 6, 199th overall): +0.1

Riddick has seen a pretty limited amount of playing time so far. He only has 3 carries for 5 yards and 2 catches for 15 yards in six games. Most of his contributions have come on special teams, where he has a -3.0 grade on PFF. For his offensive snaps, he's got a +0.1 grade.

Note: Draft picks Corey Fuller and Brandon Hepburn are on the practice squad and Michael Williams is on injured reserve.

Undrafted free agents

OT LaAdrian Waddle: +3.2

Waddle just made his first career start last week, stepping in for Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox at right tackle. He did quite well, earning a +4.8 grade against the Cowboys. A week earlier, Waddle got time at both left tackle and right tackle because of injuries and got a -1.6 grade. Given what he was able to do as the main starter at right tackle last week, it looks like the Lions may really have something here with Waddle.

TE Joseph Fauria: +0.2

Fauria has had an odd start to his career from a statistical standpoint. I say that because of his 8 catches (for 81 yards), 5 have been touchdowns. His overall usage has been pretty limited despite his big touchdown numbers, but he should continue to see more action as the year progresses.

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