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Reviewing the Lions' 2012 draft class

A look back at the Detroit Lions' 2012 NFL Draft class.

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Before the 2013 NFL Draft arrives, Pride Of Detroit is taking a look back at Martin Mayhew's past drafts as general manager of the Detroit Lions. Last up is a review of the Lions' 2012 NFL Draft class.

Round 1, No. 23 - OT Riley Reiff (Iowa)

With their lowest first-round pick in quite some time thanks to making the playoffs, the Lions saw Reiff fall to them at No. 23. They took him with the idea that he would eventually take over for Jeff Backus at left tackle, and he spent his rookie season serving as the Lions' sixth offensive lineman. He actually made eight starts, including one at left tackle, and now he is set to become a regular starter on the offensive line in 2013 at left tackle, right guard or right tackle.

Round 2, No. 54 - WR Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma)

The Lions surprised a lot of people by spending a second-round pick on a wide receiver, especially since that wide receiver was coming off of a torn ACL. The recovery from that injury kept Broyles from doing a whole lot at the start of last season, but when his time to see significant playing time finally came, he made the most of it. Broyles ended up starting three games, and he had 310 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 receptions. Another torn ACL ended his season early, but he showed an awful lot of promise as one of Matthew Stafford's go-to targets.

Round 3, No. 85 - CB Bill Bentley (Louisiana-Lafayette)

Of all the Lions' rookies last season, Bentley was poised to make the biggest impact going into the regular season. He earned a spot in the starting lineup at cornerback in training camp, and the Lions really liked what they saw out of him. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury ended his season after only four games, meaning the Lions didn't get to see nearly as much out of Bentley as they would have liked.

Round 4, No. 125 - DE Ronnell Lewis (Oklahoma)

When he was drafted, Lewis was seen as a raw defensive end who could contribute on special teams in his rookie season. That turned out to be the case, as Lewis only played one snap on defense and spent most of his time on special teams. He was only actually active for eight games, though, and considering he was arrested this past weekend, he's got a long way to go to become a regular contributor for the Lions on defense or special teams.

Round 5, No. 138 - LB Tahir Whitehead (Temple)

The Lions made a trade to get near the top of the fifth round to take Whitehead. Much like Lewis, he mainly played special teams in his rookie season, appearing in 14 total games. Unlike Lewis, Whitehead is already poised to become a regular contributor at his main position. Whitehead is expected to be in the mix for the vacant starting spot at outside linebacker, and he could very well be a starter come this fall.

Round 5, No. 148 - CB Chris Greenwood (Albion)

Greenwood was picked by the Lions despite being a relative unknown coming out of Albion. The Lions liked his athleticism and potential, but he essentially spent his rookie season redshirting. An injury forced him to miss all of training camp, and he ended up staying on the PUP list for the entire season. In 2013, Greenwood will be expected to contribute at cornerback now that he's healthy.

Round 6, No. 196 - CB Jonte Green (New Mexico State)

Green was the third and final cornerback the Lions picked in the 2012 draft, and he didn't even look like an NFL-caliber player last preseason. However, by the end of the regular season, Green actually was a pretty decent cornerback. He got good experience by starting five games for the Lions, and if he can continue to improve like he did in 2012, the Lions may really have something here.

Round 7, No. 223 - LB Travis Lewis (Oklahoma)

What was written about Whitehead can also be applied to Lewis. He was primarily a special teams player in the 13 games he saw action in last season. This year, Lewis is expected to be in the mix to start at outside linebacker. He, along with Whitehead, will compete with Ashlee Palmer for that starting spot.

2012 by the numbers

Of the Lions' eight picks in 2012, all of them are still on the team. Four of the eight picks (Reiff, Broyles, Bentley and Green) have already started at least three games for the Lions, which is definitely a good sign going forward.


The Lions completed the following trades (picks are for 2012 draft unless otherwise noted):

  • Traded 117th pick (fourth round) to 49ers for 125th (fourth round) and 196th (sixth round) picks. The Lions used those two picks to take Ronnell Lewis and Jonte Green.
  • Traded 219th pick (seventh round) and 102nd pick (fourth round) in 2013 to Vikings for 138th (fifth round) and 223rd (seventh round) picks. The Lions used those two picks to take Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis.
  • Traded 158th (fifth round) and 230th (seventh round) picks to Raiders for 148th pick (fifth round). The Lions used this pick to take Chris Greenwood.
  • Traded Tyler Polumbus to Seahawks for 219th pick (seventh round). The Lions later traded this pick to the Vikings in a separate deal.
Tampering penalties

The Lions had to give up a sixth-round pick in this draft as punishment for tampering. The Lions also had to swap picks in the fifth round of the 2011 draft with the Kansas City Chiefs.

What did they get?

Considering this draft happened just a year ago, it's too early to make any drastic conclusions about this class. However, Reiff should be a starter at some spot on the O-line this year, and Broyles will be a regular contributor on offense as well when he gets healthy. On defense, Bentley and Green both have the potential to start at cornerback, and one of Whitehead and Travis Lewis could start at outside linebacker this year. The jury is still completely out on Ronnell Lewis and Greenwood, but this draft class seems to have a lot of potential.


Again, it's way too early to judge this draft class. As we found out with Titus Young last year, things can go downhill extremely quickly in the NFL. And as guys like Sammie Hill have taught us in the past, unknown players can come out of nowhere to start or be regular contributors. For the 2012 draft class, the future appears to be bright, but we'll have to wait at least another season or two to make a firm judgment on how Mayhew did with these picks.

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