The Detroit Lions are under new management. Matt Patricia is the new head coach and will replace the former lame duck, Jim Caldwell. The Lions have Matthew Stafford but not much else. The last time they had a 100-yard rusher, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Play-caller Jim Bob Cooter has been great for Stafford but it’s difficult for him to simply carry the team by himself with marginal pieces around him. Plus, Stafford has struggled with injuries so the coaching staff put a big priority on trying to fix the run game to get this guy some help. What can we expect from the Detroit Lions heading into the 2018 season?
3 Position Battles To Watch:
1. Running Back: Ameer Abdullah, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Kerryon Johnson, Zach Zenner
The Lions ranked 32nd in the league in rushing yards last year. Ameer Abdullah averaged 3.3 yards per rush a year ago and has notable fumbling issues. Theo Riddick is nothing more than a glorified receiver. If the Lions want to improve this unit, Kerryon Johnson better be the real deal. Johnson was drafted in the second round from Auburn but he will have to battle with LeGarrette Blount for touches. Blount is on his last legs but at the very worst can be a nice goal-line back to punch it the short-yardage touchdowns.
2. Tight End: Luke Willson, Lavine Toilolo, Michael Roberts
Eric Ebron is gone. Not that this was the worst thing in the world given the fact that Ebron has largely been a bust as a former top 10 pick. The problem is there is no tight end on the roster to replace him. Luke Willson was known for being the second Wilson in Seattle. Lavine Toilolo was a cast off from Atlanta. Michael Roberts was a recent draft pick from Toledo that hasn’t shown much yet. Let the training camp battle commence.
3. Defensive Tackle: Jeremiah Ledbetter, Da’Shawn Hand
I’m going to talk about Da’Shawn Hand for a second because he’s the guy that really matter here. Hand was the number one overall recruit in the country when he committed to Alabama. The problem was, Hand really didn’t do a whole lot during his Crimson Tide tenure. Nine career sacks in four years aren’t cutting it for a guy this talented. The flashes were there and when he’s on, there is some natural pass rush ability there. I would expect Hand to be a swiss army knife of sorts moving all over the offensive line. The question is how effective can he be in year one?
Ready To Breakout: A’Shawn Robinson
Alabama prospects have gotten a bad rap for not being as productive as they should. Robinson is one player that has been productive, particularly in the run game. With Haloti Ngata off to greener pastures, Robinson now is the top defensive tackle option for the Lions. Robinson clogged the middle notching over 50 tackles and even recorded an interception showing off his athleticism. Robinson already looks like an aging veteran with that beard so expect Robinson to really take off in 2018.
Rookie To Watch: Frank Ragnow
Frank Ragnow is a flat out stud. Run blocking? Check. Pass blocking? Big check. Ragnow doesn’t even give up pressures, let alone sacks. What I’m most curious about watching is how he holds up at guard because that’s the plan for him at the moment after spending the most time at center at Arkansas. Graham Glasgow is slotted in at center who isn’t perfect but qualifies as an overall solid starter. Will Ragnow help in more ways than one and help get this anemic run game going? There’s a lot to pay attention to with the Lions first round selection.
Fantasy Sleeper: Kenny Golladay
Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are still in town but Kenny Golladay is starting to emerge. In year one he had his moments snagging 3 touchdowns in 11 games. If he develops, Golladay might be the big play guy they need. Golladay is probably just a waiver wire acquisition to keep an eye on.