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By disputing the language in the Buccaneers' offer sheet to George Johnson, the Lions pulled off a minor coup and received a fifth-round pick from Tampa Bay instead of nothing for losing the defensive end.

And as hard as it is to lose Johnson, the most recent draft class shows that the Lions can replace his production with a rookie.

With the trade, the Lions had to sign Johnson, then trade him along with the 231st overall pick in the seventh round, for the 168th overall pick in the fifth round.

Fifth-round picks rarely have a significant immediate impact. Of the 36 fifth-round picks in 2014, 14 didn't play a game for their respective teams, including pick No. 168 linebacker Marquis Spruill of the Atlanta Falcons.

But other fifth-rounders had strong rookie campaigns, and two perfect examples of rookies who had similar production to Johnson in 2014 were edge rushers Aaron Lynch, the 150th pick, and Jonathan Newsome, the 166th pick.

With the 49ers last year, Lynch played 16 games with three starts and had 23 tackles, six sacks and four passes defensed. In 16 games and one start with the Colts, Newsome had 28 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Johnson had 29 tackles, six sacks and one pass defensed last year as the Lions' No. 3 defensive end.

There's no reason to expect the Lions to use the pick they received from Tampa Bay on a pass rusher, but other teams found productive players in the fifth round. Corey Linsley, the 161st pick, started all 16 games for the Packers at center last year. Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith played 16 games with nine starts and had 104 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. Titans linebacker Avery Williams played 16 games with 12 starts and had 79 tackles and three sacks.

Several other fifth-round picks became special teams players as rookies, and the Lions will be looking for coverage guys in this year's draft.

Since taking over as general manager in 2009, Martin Mayhew has had mixed results picking in the fifth round. His first pick in the round was in 2011 with Doug Hogue, a linebacker who played 18 games as a backup his first two years with the Lions before being cut in 2012.

In 2012, the Lions selected linebacker Tahir Whitehead and cornerback Chris Greenwood in the fifth round. Whitehead was a special teams star his first two years before landing a starting job on defense last year. Greenwood appeared in three games in 2013, but is now with the Ravens.

In 2013, the Lions took Sam Martin, who's been an above-average punter his two years in the NFL. Last year, they took defensive tackle Caraun Reid, who appeared in 12 games but had just two tackles.

In addition to any pass rushers the Lions draft, the team will rely more on some combination of backups Darryl Tapp, Devin Taylor, Larry Webster and Phillip Hunt to fill the void left by Johnson.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/jkatzenstein

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