Now that the 2009 NFL Player Selection Meeting has concluded, there's a whole new group of Lion cubs: ten rookies who represent a desperately-needed shot of talent to the Lions' roster. Every single one of these players will have an excellent opportunity to not only make the team, but contribute significantly in short order. Unfortunately, that's not a function of the quality of these players as much as of the dearth of talent on the Lions' roster. Since I ran my roster review series from defense to offense, I think I'll starts with the runts of the litter, and end with the heir apparent. So, let's begin with the end: the second-to-last-selection, the penultimate pick, the dude who went as low as you can go without actually winning something for it . . .
Dan Gronkowski, Maryland TE:
His official bio offers up some much-needed background info. Recruited to Maryland as a quarterback after a school-record-smashing senior season, Gronkowski and his 6'-6", 255-pound body were quickly shifted to tight end. In fact, here's an interesting recruiting blurb from Rivals that, in hindsight, suggests that they might have only ever paid lip service to letting him take snaps under center . . .
Gronkowski took to the weight room immediately, earning their Iron Terp status in spring ball every year. His career-best squat, 635 pounds, is second only to Vernon Davis amongst all Maryland TEs ever. Lest you think he's just a meathead, Gronkowski he earned his Marketing BA in just three years, and pursued an MBA during his senior season. He's a two-time Academic All-ACC team honoree. His father actually owns a chain of fitness stores, and he says the best athlete in his family is actually his little brother Rob (Dan has four brothers), who's a tight end at Arizona.
Gronkowski spent most of his career as a pure blocking tight end, but was powerful enough in doing that to start twenty-nine games in his last three seasons. As a senior, he started to flash some recieving skills, and caught 29 passes for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns. Obviously he's not a devastating offensive weapon, but here's a nice little TD catch that shows he's got some potential:
And here's a little post-draft reaction blurb from him and another player. He notes that several other teams called him to say he was the highest player left on their board . . . and yet, he fell. Schwartz's statement backs this up:
Don't expect much out of Gronkowski right away, but he will certainly push Will Heller for playing time as "the blocking TE" on the roster--in fact, this may bode ill for Heller's prospects for making the roster. Either way, the Lions have added an extremely smart, extremely tough young man to the roster, who'll no doubt make an impact on special teams right away--which is about as much as one can hope for from a pick so late.
"We didn't anticipate taking two tight ends but at that point in the draft with the people that were available he was by far the highest-rated guy and you want to still stick with that."