Detroit Lions’ 2017 Rookie Class Needs To Step Up

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The Continuing Development Of The Detroit Lions’ 2017 Rookie Class Will Be Vital To The Team’s Success In 2018 and beyond.


With the 2018 NFL Draft firmly behind us, fans are getting excited to see the rookies hit the field and make an impact for their favorite teams. For Lions fans, this means watching Frank Ragnow solidify a talented offensive line and hopefully make it an effective one. It means waiting for Kerryon Johnson breaking the woeful streak of not having a one hundred yard rusher.

Lions fans have been waiting for what seems like an eternity for the team to address their abysmal rushing attack. They finally did that this offseason. It has fans excited to see these rookies get on the field and perform. However, it’s not the 2018 class that I am most excited for, it is the Detroit Lions’ 2017 rookie class that I’m most anxious to see take the field.

In 2017, Bob Quinn addressed the linebacker position, a position that was crippling to the team’s defensive efforts in the previous year. He drafted Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin in hopes that the two would be able to solidify the position for years to come.

Quinn followed up his first round pick of Davis by adding Teez Tabor to the Lions’ 2017 rookie class. The common consensus among fans was that Tabor would be the eventual replacement for Nevin Lawson, opposite Darius Slay.

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Kenny Golladay, another member of the Lions’ 2017 rookie class, showed extremely well in his opportunities in his rookie season, and looks as though he will be a big part of their future plans at the position.

Michael Roberts, drafted to take on a blocking role initially in the offense, saw limited snaps and never really had the impact in his first year that many might have hoped.

These are all players that may now be in a position to contribute significantly in 2018. The Lions need these players to take a big step forward this year and be weekly contributors. Overall, it was an underwhelming showing from the Lions’ 2017 rookie class, but it showed flashes of promise, promise that Lions’ fans hope they make good on in 2018.

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Jarrad Davis played a lot in 2017. That was something that fans expected. He was a first round pick at a position that completely lacked top end talent. The linebacker position was clearly one of Detroit’s top needs entering the 2017 NFL Draft, and Bob Quinn addressed the position early.

Jarrad Davis had mixed results as a first year starter with the Lions. He showed flashes the reasons that Bob Quinn made him a first round pick, but had some mental struggles, especially in coverage, that resulted in a lackluster overall showing in his rookie season. Davis has plenty of talent, and the mental game is something that can take time. He is the core of the Lions’ linebackers and needs to take a big step forward this year and develop into the player that he was drafted to be.

The Lions’ linebackers are still not a strength of the team, despite the significant investments that Bob Quinn made in the group in the past two seasons. As Quinn’s biggest investment at linebacker, Jarrad Davis needs to take a step forward and turn a position of weakness into a strength.

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Teez Tabor saw very limited action in his first year in Detroit. After a disappointing combine and pro day, he became a very polarizing player in the draft community and was ultimately a polarizing pick among Lions fans. Tabor showed well in his limited opportunities, and he is starting to take reps with the first team, indicating that he will be given the opportunity to win the job across from Darius Slay, the job that most imagined he was drafted to take over.

If Teez Tabor can take a step forward in his development and become a quality second cornerback, the Lions will have one of the most dominant secondaries in the NFL. Tabor’s development, perhaps more than any other player’s, will be a defining measurement of the Lions’ 2017 rookie class.

If Jarrad Davis doesn’t become the stud linebacker that many hoped he would be, he can likely still be a quality starter for the Lions in the coming years. Tabor on the other hand, is a player that fans have seen very little of. We can’t know what his floor looks like. This makes his development into a quality starter perhaps the most important thing to look for from the Lions’ 2017 rookie class in this upcoming season.

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Kenny Golladay looked really good for stretched in 2017. He looks like he is going to have a bright future in Detroit. Of all of the Lions’ 2017 rookies, Golladay appeared to be the most ready to step into a featured role immediately. What I’m hoping to see from Golladay in this upcoming season is that he can be the focal point of the passing attack.

Golden Tate may not be around in Detroit much longer. It’s not a player that I’m looking forward to losing, and Golladay doesn’t have nearly the same skill set to replace him, but it sure looks like Golladay will be playing across the field from Marvin Jones sooner rather than later. Golladay needs to step up and show that he is prepared to take on a larger role in the offense.

Don’t get me wrong, his 2017 campaign was very successful and exceeded all of my expectations but, if Golden Tate leaves Detroit, Golladay is going to have to be prepared to be a focal point of the passing game on a pass-heavy team. That means diversifying his route tree and creating more consistent separation.

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Jalen Reeves-Maybin  was also a player that we didn’t really get to see enough of to definitively evaluate his 2017 season. Reeves-Maybin is fast, and has good instincts in coverage. That is something that the Detroit Lions have been desperate for in their linebackers.

I’m excited to see what Patricia does with Reeves-Maybin and his skillset in this upcoming year. He was promising in limited action, and my friend Bryce Rossler went as far as to say that Jalen Reeves-Maybin is Detroit’s best linebacker.

Linebacker is an especially important position in Matt Patricia‘s defensive scheme. That makes it all the more important for Reeves-Maybin to step up and carve out a role for himself in 2018. Linebackers in coverage remained an issue for the defense in 2017, and Reeves-Maybin looks like he could contribute to fixing that problem.

If Jalen-Reeves Maybin can find a way to round out the rest of his game and see the field more often, he could be a valuable contributor in the upcoming season.

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Michael Roberts was one of my favorite players of the Detroit Lions’ 2017 rookie class. I thought that the fit was perfect. He would step right into a blocking role in his rookie year and allow Eric Ebron to play as essentially a big slot receiver, a role that I always though he was more suited for than inline tight end.

Unfortunately, this isn’t how Robert’s rookie season worked out. He saw very limited action, and was a non-factor in the passing game. While I was hoping for more, tight end is a position that takes time. Hopefully Michael Roberts is a quicker learner than your average tight end, because the Lions are in desperate need of tight end help.

After losing Eric Ebron this offseason, Bob Quinn did very little to address the position. Many fans are very excited for the addition of Luke Willson, but I think that we should have conservative expectations for him this upcoming season. This may be the best opportunity that Michael Roberts has to find himself a significant role in the offense, whether that means blocking or red zone targets.

As one of the weakest positions on the team, tight end could really use some help. A step forward from Michael Roberts would go a long way toward that and help the Lions avoid having to sink resources into the position next year.

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The Detroit Lions’ 2017 rookie class addressed a lot of the team’s needs. Some of those needs were immediate, and others are just now becoming apparent.

The Lions’ 2017 rookie class is now in an excellent position to contribute immediately, across many of the team’s holes in the depth chart. While we are all excited for the 2018 rookies and a hopefully improved running game, it is the Lions’ 2017 rookie class that needs to step up and elevate this team. They will have every opportunity to do just that.

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Thanks for checking out the article everyone. Go Lions! You can follow me on Twitter @Lanny1925 and be sure to join the community on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Sean Lanigan
I love fantasy football, fantasy baseball, music, books, video games, and all things nerd. I'm a big football fan and a bigger Detroit Lions fan. I was born in Michigan but have spent the vast majority of my life living in Viking and Packer country. If you are a Lions fan in Minnesota, hit me up, and let's watch some football.