The Detroit Lions continued to bolster their defensive depth and special teams while adding developmental talent when they selected DE Ronnell Lewis (round four, 125th overall), LB Tahir Whitehead (round five, 138th overall) and CB Chris Greenwood (round five, 148th overall) with their picks in the fourth- and fifth-round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
General Manager Martin Mayhew recognized unique qualities in each of the three players. The Lions have differing roles, expectations and developmental paths for each.
Lewis (Oklahoma) is an athletic player with solid speed and strength. He has played multiple positions over his collegiate career, including all three linebacker positions and defensive end. He seems to project as a defensive end for the Lions but more immediately will have a role on special teams.
“Ronnell Lewis, very physical guy; highest rated player on our board,” said Mayhew. “We thought he could be a four-phase special teams guy for us. He’s played some linebacker and some defensive end”
Lewis has a diverse background, playing eight-man football in high school (running back and safety), multiple positions in college as well as having involvement in power lifting and rodeo bull riding (yes, actual rodeo bull riding).
There is some concern that the 6-foot-1, 253 pounder known as “the Hammer” doesn’t project to a specific defensive position but the Lions felt his talent, ferocious hitting ability and pass-rushing skills were worthy of the investment.
“He’s a little bit of a tweener when it comes to linebacker/defensive end,” said head coach Jim Schwartz., “The one thing he’s not in-between on is being able to make plays. He’s very good at that and he’s very strong and we’re very glad to get him.”
Whitehead (Temple) doesn’t figure to see much of the field on defense during his rookie season but as a solid tackler with good speed, he could have an impact on special teams.
“He’s a guy that has a very good skill set,” said Schwartz. “He’s quick, he’s got a little bit of size but he’s a little bit more of a speed player. He makes a lot of plays on the field. It’s a little bit of a projection with him, you know, sort of moving him back and making him an off-the-ball linebacker. But I like what we saw, I like his skill set. Again, Martin had mentioned him having a chance to play special teams; he was another guy that we thought highly enough of to move up for him.”
Whitehead said he’s comfortable as an outside linebacker but would be thrilled to simply contribute on special teams in the early stages of his career.
“I've always been excited about special teams,” said Whitehead. “I know that third of the game is a very important part of the game. I played special teams my whole career- high-school, college. I'm excited about it."
Greenwood might be the most intriguing of the prospects.
A local product (Albion), Greenwood is from a small collegiate program and flew under the radar for most teams. However, the Lions were impressed with him at local workouts.
“Rob Lohman (Lions college scouting coordinator and regional scout), who scouts that area, came back and raved about his physical talent and skill,” said Mayhew. “We had him in for the private workout and he was just phenomenal; great guy. He had transferred to a couple different schools, but just really, really physically gifted.”
“The guy just has some real skill set,” said Mayhew. “Gunther was in Kansas City when they drafted Brandon Carr and he thought that this guy kind of reminded him of that process. Brandon Carr, obviously a Grand Valley kid. So he’s a guy we really like.”
Similar to Greenwood, Carr was a late round pick (fifth round) from a small school with strong physical tools.
Whether Greenwood is able to develop into a solid starting cornerback - as Carr did - remains to be seen. At the moment, the lions view him as a developmental player but he appears to be well worth the risk of a fifth-round selection.