The Lions’ first-round pick in 2011, DT Nick Fairley, did not start as a rookie. Could Detroit draft another first-rounder who doesn’t project as a first-teamer in 2012? GM Martin Mayhew, speaking at his pre-draft press conference, suggested that could be the case.
“It really kind of depends on who it is, but I think we do have a nice, young core and we do have the ability now to take guys and we can plan to play those guys in the future,” Mayhew said. “We can take guys on our team and on our roster that don’t have to play right away (and) that are picks for the future. Having been here through some tough seasons, we’ve been in situations where we wanted guys to come in, who were third- and fourth-round picks, and start for us.
“Fortunately, we’re not in that situation now. We’ve got 21-of-22 starters coming back; we’ve got some good depth at some positions; and we’re fortunate that we can take guys and develop them as part of our team. Or you can take guys who have defined roles, as we said last year; take guys with defined roles on our team and play a particular spot that’s not necessarily a starter, but the guy comes in with a role on the team.”
One position where a first-round rookie could conceivably press to start is cornerback, as the Lions lost starter Eric Wright to Tampa Bay in free agency. But whether the Lions can fill that need at No. 23 remains to be seen.