ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have generated enough excitement that the NFL chose them to kick off the season against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
“It shows that they see we’re on the come up and we’re trying to build something special,” rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs said Saturday.
Detroit, favored to win the NFC North, is counting on Gibbs and some other rookies to help the franchise live up to the hype.
“It will be fun to watch,” Gibbs said.
The on-the-rise team began the process of acclimating its rookie to the league with a three-day minicamp that wraps up Sunday.
Gibbs, the No. 12 overall pick, and Brian Branch, a third-round selection, were held out of drills on Saturday with injuries as a precaution for the former Alabama stars.
When Gibbs is healthy, he’s expected to play running back and receiver — and doesn’t have a preference.
“Whichever one I get the ball,” he said. “It don’t matter, as long as I get it.”
The Lions bolstered each position group on both sides of the ball last month in the draft and attempted to take advantage of a rare opportunity to have a pair of picks in each of the first three rounds.
Third-year general manager Brad Holmes raised eyebrows when he went against a league trend by drafting a running back (Gibbs) and a linebacker (Iowa’s Jack Campbell) in the first round.
Gibbs said he heard critics say the team reached when drafting a player who was projected to be taken much later, but was unfazed.
“I really don’t care,” he insisted.
Holmes took Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta early in the second, a pick before Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer, widely regarded as the best prospect at the position, and Branch midway through the round.
When the media had access to the minicamp, LaPorta looked dynamic as he made a move on Campbell and fast when he ran past his college teammate and housemate in a drill. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound LaPorta appears to be more athletic in person than he does on film and said someone once told him that he was underwhelming during his junior year.
“My play will do the talking hopefully,” LaPorta said.
Detroit’s third-round picks addressed the long-term need of a developmental quarterback with injured Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker and an immediate concern with Western Kentucky defensive tackle Brodric Martin.
Hooker is recovering from surgery he had after tearing the ACL in his left knee last November. The injury knocked him out of contention to win the Heisman Trophy and led to him lasting until the No. 68 slot in the draft.
“It just turns into fuel and a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “Film doesn’t lie. SEC offensive player of the year for a reason.”
Martin, meanwhile, was not a big name in college football last year and yet the 6-5, 337-pound defensive lineman was picked to help Detroit’s interior of the defensive line.
“It makes me feel great to know the organization believes in me,” he said. “Now, I got to come out here and perform.”
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