Lions mailbag: How many Day 3 picks will make team?

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
DeAndre Levy is dealing with a quad injury.

The Detroit Lions are off on Monday, I needed something to do, so I cobbled together this mailbag. Enjoy.

@Justin_Rogers do we actually believe Levy is ready to go?

— Ultimate Lions Fans (@UltimateLions) August 22, 2016

Who is the "we" here? I don't know what beliefs we share because we don't have that kind of relationship, but I believe DeAndre Levy will be ready to go for Week 1 of the regular season. But that isn't the question where WE need answers. What's more important is whether Levy can be the same player he was in 2013-14. And honestly, there's no way to know, especially until we see him in action.

He thinks he can return to form, and that's the mindset a player must have to be successful. He's only 29, so he's still in his physical prime. And instincts are what has separated Levy from his peers and those don't typically diminish, even with time off. All those things are working in his favor, but only time will tell.

@Justin_Rogers What is it the offensive line needs, exactly, to more effectively protect Matthew Stafford?

— Lauren Dreams☺♍ (@LRookieBiebs) August 22, 2016

You can never have enough talent in the NFL, but we're beyond the time of year for an injection of better talent, barring a wildly unexpected trade. And how much more can you invest in a group that has three first-rounders and two third-rounders in the starting lineup? At this point, there are only two things that will help maximize the potential of the unit. First, playing a scheme that suits their strengths. Assistant coach Ron Prince showed an ability to implement that when he took over the unit in the second half of last season, leading to more yards per carry in the run game and less pressure/fewer sacks in the passing game. The team is also tinkering with picking up the pace to take advantage of the youth they have up front. We'll see how much that carries over to the regular season.

The second thing, as cliche as it sounds, is time. Chemistry is critical to the offensive line more than at any other spot. The reduced practice time as part of the current collective bargaining agreement has hurt offensive line play across the league, and with the Lions' young group, they just need more time and experience to mesh.

@Justin_Rogers @detroitnews of Corey fuller gets cut, where does he end up?

— john meynard peens (@a_lolbrarian) August 22, 2016

Well, Fuller isn't getting cut, because he's injured. He'll likely start the season on the physically unable to perform list and the Lions will be able to put off any decision for at least six weeks and up to 11. My bet, he ends up on injured reserve and doesn't play a down for Detroit this year and gets another shot with the team next offseason as an exclusive rights free agent.

Dwayne Washington

@Justin_Rogers Washington has looked good running the ball he reminds me of David Johnson speed and power, does he make 53 man roster?

— Baze (@Baze136) August 22, 2016

There are some similarities there, to be sure, but Johnson was a more polished route runner and receiver coming out of college. No one really expected him to be the force he was running the ball. No one expected much out of Dwayne Washington as a rusher, either, but he's run with impressive power in the exhibition season. If he can clean up some of his ball security issues, both fumbles and drops, he has the chance to offer a return on investment far exceeding the cost of a seventh-round draft pick.

@Justin_Rogers @MathBomb with all of the problems at center why isn't the center picked up from the sea hawks being talked about more?

— Carlos Lionluv M (@lionluv4161) August 22, 2016

Seattle's offensive line is probably its weak point and they didn't want Lemuel Jeanpierre, so that says something. The Lions have invested two third-round picks in recent years at the center position. Swanson has been subpar to this point, but there are bigger areas of concern on the roster, by far. Also, Graham Glasgow was brought in to push Swanson, and while that hasn't happened yet, it will once the rookie has adjusted to the speed and strength of NFL defenders. Jeanpierre is a camp body, helping fill some depth concerns, until the team trims the roster to 53.

@Justin_Rogers do you see A.Boldin being used like a TE if Ebron less than 100%?

— Tim Evans (@ballistim) August 22, 2016

I'm not concerned about Ebron, but let's examine it as a hypothetical. Boldin offers some similar traits, from a route-running perspective. He operates as a big target in the middle of the field, who can win matchups with finesse or physicality, depending on the type of player in coverage. He's also a plus-blocker in space for some of those outside runs and screen passes. What Boldin can't do is slide inline and help block a defensive end. I'm sure he'd be open to trying if asked, but he's not built to handle the responsibility.

@Justin_Rogers if you had to guess right now, what do you predict will be the Lions' division record this year?

— Al I Guess (@LethalSax) August 22, 2016

Sweep the Bears and go 1-3 against the Vikings and Packers, with a home win against one of the two.

@Justin_Rogers How likely does it seem for our third day picks to make the team? What UDFAs do you see joining the team?

— Respected Madman (@KHMakerD) August 22, 2016

Miles Killebrew, Joe Dahl and Antwione Williams are close to locks and should contribute on special teams early in their careers. Jake Rudock is trending toward making the roster as the third quarterback. Anthony Zettel, Jimmy Landes and Washington are all still fighting for jobs, but I had all of them making it on my initial roster projection. As for UDFAs, Cole Wick still has a real shot. And a couple of the receivers are making cases, but they strike me as more likely to end up on the practice squad at this stage.

@Justin_Rogers What is the general tone of this team under Quinn? Has Caldwell's demeanor changed at all with a new boss?

— Brad Finkbeiner (@beiner5) August 22, 2016

If I told you something has noticeably changed in the demeanor of the players or Caldwell under new general manager Bob Quinn, it would be an exaggeration. The most striking difference with the team is the upgraded practice facility and I hope to have more on that topic in the near future.

@Justin_Rogers is Rafael Bush struggling or is Tavon Wilson playing well enough to push to start?

— Erik Kaseta (@ekaseta) August 22, 2016

I wouldn't classify Bush as struggling. He just isn't doing anything to separate himself from the pack, or in this case, Wilson. The New England transplant has performed decently in the two preseason games, and as Caldwell mentioned in his recent press conference, Wilson puts in the extra work off the field.

@Justin_Rogers What is the general feeling in the building about Alex Carter? Preseason has been a fairly mixed bag for him

— Redruckus81 (@Redruckus81) August 22, 2016

Since Quinn took over and purged the front office, and put the fear of God in those who are still on staff, there aren't many people willing to offer their frank evaluations of talent, even off the record. What I've seen with my own eyes is a player who has struggled mightily. But he's still really young with measurables that merit continued development. I can see him making the roster, but rarely active on game days this season.

@Justin_Rogers is Caldwell really on the hot seat..will Quinn be patient in year 1

— schrad/cooter-rooter (@ds1434) August 22, 2016

Almost all NFL decision-makers are on the hot seat, every year. It's just varying degrees of heat. Right now, Caldwell's seat is lukewarm, but it will heat up quickly if the team stumbles out the gate like it did last season. Quinn is smart to not throw down a playoffs-or-bust ultimatums. That kind of talk benefits no one. The reality is the Lions need to continue to build on last season's 6-2 finish, they need to be competitive week in and week out, particularly in division games, and they have to at least compete late into the season for a playoff berth for Caldwell to be safe.

@Justin_Rogers Your thoughts of Van Noy. Has he turned the corner? Completely lost the last 2 yrs to starter is a HUGE jump.

— Lions fan & DUG IN! (@RF1071) August 22, 2016

He's in the process of rounding the corner, and I've seen some really positive progress on the practice field, but let's see it carry over to Sundays. He had some nasty core injury issues the past two years and those appear to be in the rear-view mirror. Now it's time to see if he can be anything close to the instinctual playmaker he was at BYU.

Laken Tomlinson

@Justin_Rogers has Laken Tomlinson shown any potential or is he doomed to the Lions drafting hall of shame ?

— Joel Lawwell (@LawwellJ) August 22, 2016

Tomlinson has been showing some noticeable improvement on the practice field the past week or so, which is a welcome change after his slow start. He's still not looking like the breakout player I thought he could be this season, but it's way, way too early to start calling him a bust.

@Justin_Rogers will the lions get the number 1 draft pick next year?

— Vincent Vitale (@vitale_vincent) August 22, 2016

That's a wildly negative question, even for a Lions fan.