A three-year starter at UK, Larry Warford just completed a standout rookie season for the Detroit Lions. (Chet White, UK Athletics)

After watching him open holes and protect the passer for four years, Kentucky fans were pretty confident the Detroit Lions had gotten a steal in taking Larry Warford in the third round of the NFL Draft.A season into his professional career, they’ve been proven right.Warford stepped at right guard immediately and experienced a minimal learning curve. He started all 16 games for a Lions team that contended for the NFC North title until the end of the season and made a strong case for Pro Bowl honors. Warford didn’t end up getting picked for the Pro Bowl, but he’s still drawing plenty of praise, most recently from Mel Kiper of ESPN.com. Kiper gave his picks for the top rookies in the league and Warford got the nod at one of two guard spots:

OG Larry Warford, Detroit: A total steal in the third round, he was the best rookie guard in the NFL. A better pass-blocker than I thought, and good in space.

Kiper also ranks Warford as the 10th-best rookie overall in the NFL.Link: 2013 NFL all-rookie team (ESPN Insider)

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