Can Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Kenny Golladay Live Up To His Hype?

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A Look At If The Lions Rookie Receiver Can Fulfill His Potential In 2017?

At this point, most Lions fans are familiar with Kenny Golladay. He is a rookie wide receiver for the Lions, drafted out of Northern Illinois University. Through OTA’s and training camp, he has received a huge amount of hype for a third round rookie. Some people think that Golladay is due for a monster rookie year, while others are more hesitant and say his skills are too raw. This article will examine which one is closer to the truth and what to expect from Golladay as a rookie.

Meet Kenny Golladay

Kenny Golladay was born on November 3rd, 1993 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended St. Rita of Cascia High School. He went on to go to North Dakota University where he caught 30 passes for 429 yards and one touchdown as a freshman. In his sophomore season, he was even more involved in the offense as he this time produced 69 receptions for 884 yards and eight touchdowns.

After his sophomore season at North Dakota, Golladay decided to transfer to the University of Northern Illinois. Because of NCAA rules, Golladay had to sit out for a season and he did not play football again until 2015. It was then, in his junior season, that he exploded onto the scene with 73 receptions for 1129 yards and 10 touchdowns.

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Golladay would follow up his strong junior effort with an even better senior season in 2016. He reeled in 87 passes for 1156 yards and eight touchdowns, while adding 192 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns at 9.6 yards per carry.

Golladay’s game was very much based on his great athleticism – he is a massive receiver, standing at 6’4″ and weighing in at 218 pounds. His 4.5 second 40 yard dash was very impressive for a player of his size and he did 18 reps on the bench press, fifth best of any receiver at this years scouting combine.

All of these things led to Golladay being selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Since then, the hype for Golladay has skyrocketed. It seems like every day there is a new report of how great he has looked in practice. This article will look at the strengths and weaknesses of Kenny Golladay along with where he could fit in on the Lions offense and determine whether or not the hype is real.

The State Of The Lions Receiving Corps

In 2016, the Lions top three receivers were Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin. Boldin had significantly less receiving yards than Tate, Jones or even Eric Ebron, but what he did do was come up with clutch receptions. When the Lions needed to convert a third down, Stafford went to Boldin. When the Lions were in the redzone and needed a touchdown, they went to Boldin. Boldin ended up leading the entire team with eight touchdowns in 2016.

Anquan Boldin was a strong possession receiver for the Detroit Lions, and he is unlikely to be re-signed by the team. So the natural assumption would be that Kenny Golladay will take over his role from 2016.

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However, it is not just as simple as Golladay stepping in as the Lions new number three receiver. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have the top two receiving positions locked down. After them, Eric Ebron had the third most receiving yards on the team in 2016 and could see an even further expanded role this year.

Theo Riddick is one of the top receiving running backs in the NFL and will get targets. Ameer Abdullah is returning from injury and should also see a fair amount of passes thrown his way. The Lions also signed tight end Darren Fells and drafted tight end Michael Roberts, both of whom will see some pass targets.

The point is that the Lions have a lot of players that will be involved in the passing game. Not all of Boldin’s targets will go right to Golladay, but they will likely be evenly distributed among many players. Golladay is going to have to earn his targets in 2017 and it’s going to be tough for him because of the talent Detroit has in the passing game.

Strengths To Golladay’s Game

Possession Receiving

One of Kenny Golladay’s biggest strengths is his ability as a possession receiver. Over his two seasons at Northern Illinois, he had just five drops on 165 catchable balls thrown to him. This is a very encouraging sign that he might be able to earn Anquan Boldin’s role from 2016. Here are a couple clips that demonstrate Golladay’s ability to make good, secure receptions over the middle.

On this third down and five against Toledo, Golladay runs a curl route. Toledo is in zone coverage, and Golladay does a great job of finding an open area between two defensive backs. The pass is thrown to Golladay, and he makes a good reception, hanging on to the ball despite taking a good hit from the nearest defender. First down Northern Illinois.

On this one against Western Michigan, Golladay is running a post route. The defense is in zone coverage, and Golladay again does a good job of recognizing this. He fakes out the corner with a good stutter move, then gets open between the zones over the middle. Golladay again does a good job of catching the pass and hanging on through contact.

Redzone Ability

One thing that Kenny Golladay has that none of the other receivers on Detroit’s roster possess is size. Golladay is 6’4″, making him easily the Lions biggest receiver. Because of this, he is a good redzone mismatch against many cornerbacks. He has a good shot at coming down with jump balls in the endzone. Here is an example.

This is a pretty simply play, Golladay just runs a fade in the end zone. The quarterback throws up a high pass, and Golladay does a good job of elevating, getting the ball, and coming down with his feet in bounds. We’ve all seen this same play many times with Calvin Johnson. Last year, the Lions were lacking a receiver with the ability to catch these kinds of jump balls, but Golladay brings the return of fade routes to the Lions receiving corps.

A True Deep Threat

The biggest thing that Golladay will bring to the Lions is his ability as a deep threat. His size, speed and catching ability culminate in a very dangerous ability to get behind defenses. Here are a few example from his 2016 season.

On this play, Golladay runs a go route. He immediately gets around the outside of the cornerback, then just takes off. Golladay has no problem out running the defensive back and his quarterback throws a nice pass to hit him in stride. Golladay is brought down just short of the endzone, but this is still an impressive play.

Golladay again is running a go route on this play. He doesn’t do as good of a job getting separation against the corner on this play, but the quarterback still targets him deep. Golladay makes a really good reception as he is falling down with the cornerback draped all over him. This play shows that even when Golladay isn’t wide open, he can still make tough catches.

Golladay is lined up in the slot on this play and runs a wheel route. He gets a ton of separation and is wide open behind the defense. The ball is underthrown, but Golladay makes a great adjustment and comes back to the ball. Golladay is able to hang on to the pass through contact and it results in a big gain.

Weaknesses To Golladay’s Game

Golladay struggles against physical cornerbacks. If a corner gets a good press on Golladay, it will often times throw him entirely off his route and completely remove him from the play. Here are three examples.

Golladay is running a slant route on this play, and he immediately fails to get open as the corner presses him. Throughout his route, he has the corner right on him. Golladay is completely taken out of the play because the corner threw him off of his route.

On this play, I’m not even sure what route Golladay is running. Within a couple yards of the line of scrimmage, the cornerback covering Golladay latches onto him. The corner then forces Golladay to the middle of the field, and Golladay shows almost no resistance. Because of this, Golladay is never even an option for the quarterback to go to.

On this play against Ohio State, Golladay is running an in route. Golladay immediately runs into two defenders who both press him. This entirely knocks Golladay off of his route and results in an interception, as the quarterback threw the ball to where he thought Golladay was supposed to be.


Kenny Golladay is an extremely talented receiver. He has great hands, runs good routes, is big and very fast. There is absolutely a role for him on the Lions offense and I am very excited to see him develop into an NFL receiver.

However, he must improve against press coverage and in his ability to get open against physical cornerbacks. He will see these types of defenders a lot in the NFL, and he will need to learn how to get open against them.

Kenny Golladay has the talent to live up the hype that he is receiving. My only question is whether or not his role in the Lions offense will be big enough for him to be able to do it. I believe that it is reasonable to think he could statistically have a very similar season to what Anquan Boldin had in 2016 (584 yards, eight touchdowns).

Golladay has potential to have a big impact in his rookie year. It’s easy to see why so many people are excited about him. In 2017, Lions fans can expect Golladay to have a big impact in the deep passing game, coming up with clutch third down reception and scoring touchdowns in the redzone. Golladay has big shoes to fill, but he absolutely has the ability to do so.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, please follow me on Twitter @lucasjwalker00, and don’t forget to pay a visit to the Detroit Lions Subreddit!

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