Don’t look now but the Detroit Lions are about to make some noise in the National Football League!
Ok, let’s not get crazy. No, the Lions are not going to contend for a Super Bowl during the upcoming season but when you look up and down their roster and then look at their coaching staff, there are plenty of reasons to have hope for the future.
One of the main reasons to believe in the Detroit Lions is the amount of young, up-and-coming talent that they currently have.
2022 Detroit Lions skyrocket in ‘Under-25 Talent’
Each year, Football Outsiders releases their “Ranking all 32 NFL teams by their under-25 talent in 2022: The best and worst core young players” and in this year’s edition, the Detroit Lions made a huge jump.
As you can see below, the Lions went from No. 26 in 2020 to No. 23 in 2021, all the way up to No. 7 in this year’s rankings.
Here is what Aaron Shatz of Football Outsiders has to say about the ‘Under-25 Talent’ on the 2022 Detroit Lions:
2021 ranking: 23 | 2020 ranking: 26
Blue-chip players: Penei Sewell, OT; Aidan Hutchinson, DE; Jameson Williams, WR; Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR
Notable graduated players: T.J. Hockenson, TE; Jonah Jackson, G; DJ Chark, WR; Mike Hughes, CB; DeShon Elliott, S; Evan Brown, C
Lions coach Dan Campbell was an easy punching bag in 2021 for his news conference quotes, coffee addiction and improbable losses. But unlike some previous hapless Detroit teams, Campbell’s Lions offer a reason for optimism in their leap from the bottom 10 in under-25 talent in 2020 and 2021 to seventh this year.
Offensive tackle Sewell and pass-rusher Hutchinson are the obvious blue-chippers as top-seven draft picks. And Sewell is well on track to live up to his draft status after blowing just 2.6% of his blocks in his rookie season despite moving from left to right tackle around teammate Taylor Decker‘s injury. But the Lions can also credit their compelling depth of young talent for their placement in the top 10.
Fourth-round wide receiver St. Brown had an uneven rookie season. But after Campbell took over offensive playcalling duties following the team’s Week 9 bye, St. Brown more than doubled his first-half productivity from 3.4 catches and 31 yards per game to 7.0 catches and 74 yards per game. St. Brown and his new outside counterpart, Williams, both are poised to outplay their draft positions, the latter even as a top-12 pick because tearing the ACL in his left knee in Alabama’s most recent national title game cost him his presumed placement as the top receiver in the 2022 class. Probably still a year away from being competitive, the Lions do not need Williams to be ready to play in Week 1. They can lean on St. Brown, their veterans and 23-year-old receiving back D’Andre Swift.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Campbell roster if it didn’t have prospects in the front seven. Situational edge rusher Julian Okwara and defensive tackle Alim McNeill flashed their pass-rushing potential in 2021 with 12 and eight hurries in just 362 and 422 respective snaps. They should build on those totals with more playing time and more blocking attention on Hutchinson this season. And linebacker Derrick Barnes looked like another fourth-round steal in his rookie season. He impressed with a 12.7% broken tackle rate and could be exactly what the Lions’ defense needs after it finished last in broken tackle rate as a unit in 2021.
Nation, what are your feelings about the future of the Detroit Lions?