Checking Up on the Rookie Class of 2016

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How The Rookie Players Are Doing So Far In The NFL.

The Detroit Lions had 10 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. Out of those 10 rookie players, eight of them made the 53 man roster, one was moved to the practice squad and the other to IR. Having eight rookie players make your roster is impressive and shows either one of two things: your team needs all the help they can get or you drafted well. It seems like the second option is the better choice as most of the rookie players that were drafted have actually played. How have these rookie’s done so far this year? Let’s take a dive in.

2016 Rookie Class:

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Taylor Decker

The number one pick for the Lions in the draft was Taylor Decker; the left tackle has impressed and has become what Detroit needed. Decker has gotten three penalties this year and has allowed three sacks. Now those three sacks are the most allowed on the offensive line, and is worse than Jack Conklin and Ronnie Stanley who Detroit could have traded up to take. Still, Decker has helped the offensive line take a small step forward. Weaknesses on the line points to Laken Tomlinson way more than Taylor Decker.

Grade: A

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A’Shawn Robinson

The big defensive tackle hasn’t done much to be a steal that he was once claimed to be. Robinson has only six tackles, one sack and two pass deflections so far this season. Now those aren’t horrible, but you have to remember he isn’t starting. He is still a number three defensive tackle and at that spot he is doing just fine.

Haloti Ngata is dealing with a shoulder injury, so if he has to miss any time expect Robinson to get the nod to start. Detroit also rotates in defensive lineman many times throughout the games they play, so his playing time is already limited as is. Compared to a few players picked before him, Kenny Clark has five tackles, three assisted tackles, one pass deflection and a fumble recovery. Vernon Butler has one tackle, two assisted tackles, one sack and a pass deflection. A’Shawn seems to be doing better than Butler and a tad bit less than Clark, but still impressive.

Grade: B

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Graham Glasgow

Now while he has been blocking on special teams, he got his first chance on the offensive line this week replacing Laken Tomlinson at the left guard position. Tomlinson, while having a rough year, wasn’t playing poor but Glasgow still came in. He did well, giving Stafford a little more time in the pocket and was able to help the team create more of a run game. So he has only played in one game, and it wasn’t a full 60 minutes. With what was seen in the preseason and against the Eagles, Glasgow hasn’t blown anyone away, but doesn’t seem to be a bad offensive lineman.
Grade: C+

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Miles Killebrew

Miles Killebrew has only one tackle in five games. He played linebacker against the Eagles because of the lack of depth at that position for the Lions. At safety he hasn’t been horrible, but nothing special. Overall Killebrew hasn’t really done anything great for the team, but he hasn’t been seen blowing coverages left and right or missing tackles. Still plenty of season left to see what this rookie has.

Grade: C

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Joe Dahl

Joe Dahl hasn’t played a game since the preseason. In preseason he was able to win the backup guard spot and at times looked well, other times he looked like a backup. Given Dahl can have another year to learn more and get adjusted to the NFL, he could compete for the starting guard spot. Right now though, we can’t say he has impressed if he is on the bench.

Grade: C-

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Antwione Williams

Drafted to be backup, Williams has had to start with DeAndre Levy injured once again. He does only have three tackles and three assisted tackles, so Williams isn’t blowing up the stat sheet and shouldn’t be expected too. Williams has dealt with an injury that kept him out one game, but he has since returned doing a fair job. Williams is doing more than what was expected out of him coming into Detroit, with that he gets a little bump.

Grade: C+

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Jake Rudock

The only rookie to fall to the practice squad is quarterback Jake Rudock. Detroit didn’t see a need to keep him on the 53 man roster when there was more need at other positions. Rudock impressed during the preseason, going 30 for 51, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns whith one interception. Rudock is a sixth round pick and for that late of a pick, he made Detroit think twice before cutting him. He has a shot to replace Dan Orlovsky next season as Orlovsky will be a free agent and Detroit may want to pass on him if they have a younger, better quarterback waiting on the practice squad.

Grade: B

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Anthony Zettel

Anthony Zettel has done the least amount of work here by all of the rookies that have hit the field. He only has one assisted tackle, but he was a key factor in Detroit’s win last week. When Darius Slay forced the fumble, the ball was getting close to rolling out of bounds and Zettel put his hands down to keep the ball in bounds giving the Lions a chance to recover. Zettel hasn’t been given much of a chance to play with many defensive ends ahead of him, but with Ziggy Ansah and Wallace Gilberry dealing with injuries, his workload has increased.

Grade: C+

Jimmy Landes

Jimmy Landes was able to play in a few preseason games and didn’t look to good. He was getting more reps over Don Muhlbach, but while no snaps were botched, they weren’t perfect and you need to be perfect at that position in the NFL. Landes suffered an injury and was put on the IR list. Landes won’t see the field until possibly next season, if he can make the team.

Grade: F

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Dwayne Washington

The seventh round pick for Detroit had a long shot to make the team. That all took a turn upward when he returned a kick for a touchdown in the first preseason game of the year. Since then Washington impressed and was able to get a spot on the roster. While he didn’t play much in the first two games when Ameer Abdullah was still healthy, Washington hasn’t done a poor job with the time he has been given.

He has 18 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown, along with two catches for five yards and two kick returns for 46 yards. He is currently dealing with an injury that caused him to miss the game against the Eagles last week. Washington gives Detroit another back that can make a cut or two when he is healthy, bringing some power and a burst of speed.

For a seventh round pick, this was a steal for Detroit. If he can stay healthy and help out more in the receiving game, Washington could end up being a legitimate weapon for the Lions.

Grade: B-

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.