2001 Rookies: A Building Block for the Future.

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Justin Vanfulpen - LionsFans.com

When the 2001 NFL draft was concluded many draft experts including myself rated the Lions draft as one of the better ones in the NFL. This has come true and many of the Lions rookies have lived up to there advanced billing. The 2001 draft is something that the Lions can build on for the future and it has the making of what Lions fans will see in the next few years on the field in the brand new Ford Field that opens up next season.

The biggest prize that the Lions got on draft day was when they trade up in the second round to get DT Shaun Rogers, and Rogers has been a starter from week one and has been the Lions most dominating defensive force on the field. Rogers is a big athletic defensive tackle, he comes off the ball quickly with the power and speed to make plays in the backfield. He has a great combination of size and athleticism. He has the size to stack up against the run and the quickness and speed to chase the ball. Is more of a bull-rusher and has great lower-body power. He can provide a little pressure when he has a gap to the quarterback, but he doesn't have a consistent burst to the quarterback, but will pick up an occasional sack. But he does a solid job plugging up the interior run game, and will chase ball carriers from behind. He is someone that the Lions can build their defense around, and should be a main stay in the middle of the defense for years to come.

The Lions made a solid in their first round pick in OT Jeff Backus, Backus is a rugged left tackle who is a sound technician with good balance and footwork and has started since week one in Green Bay. He has outstanding size, good overall strength, agility, balance, and he holds up well against speed rush. He is a powerful player who needs to improve leg drive in running game, but he is a hard worker. He does a good job of blocking moving targets, because he knows the angles, uses hands well and does a nice job of creating leverage. He has some problems changing direction, and will get better at pass blocking when the game slow down for him. Backus is going to be the Lions left tackle for years to come and this season has been possible their best and most consistent offensive linemen.

The wild card pick in this draft that could provide huge upside is QB Mike McMahon. He has good height/weight combination, and right now his best quality is his ability to run with the football, because he has tremendous speed and quickness. He is an agile runner who feels the pressure and does a nice job of creating second opportunities. His delivery is quick, but his mechanics need some work, but he has good arm strength and can make all the throws that you need to be able to be successful in the NFL. But he still needs to work on being more consistent as a passer. Some thing that he needs to work on is setting his feet, making reads and being patient. Right know it look like when the Lions open the 2002 NFL season he will be the starting quarterback for the team, and he has all the tools to be a very good quarterback in the NFL and in the West Coast offense that the Lions run. If he can work on being a more of an accurate passer then the sky is the limit with him. One thing that will help his development is if the Lions can surround him with talent, and if they can do it he should have a chance to be a player in the NFL.

Some one that will be starting in 2002 is C Dominic Raiola, who could be playing guard or center in 2002. Raiola is an extremely physical player who never stops hustling, he has good size for a center and has the speed and agility to reach defenders quickly, and is a very solid run blocker. He has good game experience, and is a proven leader. He will need to improve blitz recognition and pass protection. Raiola will be a very productive player in the NFL, and with Jeff Backus and 2000 first round pick Stocker McDougle, those 3 players should be the core of the Lions offense line for years to come.

The Lions don’t know what they have yet in WR Scotty Anderson. Anderson has good height, and he is a fine athlete with good body control and balance. He is extremely fluid, who has deceptive speed and can get deep and makes big plays. He is a good runner after the catch, and can make the tough catch since he adjusts to the ball well. Lacks strength and power and at times will have trouble getting off the line of scrimmage against the press. Is not a good blocker. Has a good upside potential, but he still has a lot of areas in which he must improve on.

The Lions need another good to great draft in 2002 to help build this team in to what GM Matt Millen ultimate goal is of winning a Super Bowl. But the 2001 draft was a start in the right direction and the team has a good base to build on for the future.

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