When it comes to the NFL draft, the rush to judgment is inevitable. But for the Lions, the rush to play this year's rookie class might be, too.

And if there's an implicit message delivered along with the nine selections the Lions made over the three-day draft, it's probably this: The fans aren't the only ones expecting more out of this group.

Bigger, stronger, faster? Fine, sounds great. Now let's see it.

After getting precious little help early from his last two rookie classes, and particularly from last year's bunch that did next to nothing for a 4-12 team that did about the same, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew knows there's no time for training wheels anymore in Allen Park.

This draft class, led by an inexperienced pass rusher in BYU's Ziggy Ansah, has to be ready to play — and produce — right away. And that's not just the external view.

"I think that's a fair statement," Mayhew acknowledged Saturday, after he'd wrapped up his fifth draft as GM. "But it's also fair to say we had more holes coming into this draft — or more holes that we knew about — than we did last year."

Not ready for prime time

Fair enough. A year ago, they fooled themselves — and plenty of others — into thinking otherwise. The Lions returned 21 of 22 starters from a team that'd finally made it back to the playoffs in 2011, and instead of drafting like there was no tomorrow last April, Mayhew made his picks as if there were no today.

His first-round pick — Riley Reiff, billed as the team's left tackle of the future — started one game at that position last season. The second-round receiver widely panned as a luxury pick, Ryan Broyles, wasn't ready until midseason, then caught 22 passes before suffering another major knee injury. The three cornerbacks added to a suspect secondary combined for just seven starts and one interception. The two linebackers combined for 14 tackles. The defensive end played just one snap on defense.