Feast or Famine: Jamal Agnew Leads Detroits’ 2017 Rookie Class

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A Look At Which Rookies Feasted And Who Struggled During The Lions 2017 Season.

Rookies That Feasted

Jamal Agnew looked electric for the Detroit Lions as a kick returner in 2017. Agnew ran a blazing 4.34 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine. His speed was impressive at the combine and on film at San Diego State, displaying a knack for setting up his blockers well in the kick and punt return game. This speed and vision helped the Lions fifth round pick have a great season on special teams and was awarded first team All-Pro for his performance as a rookie.

Agnew was top in the NFL in punt return yards, and more importantly, average return yards. He added two punt returns for touchdowns this season, also a league leader.

Kenny Golladay had a very up and down rookie season, most of which was due to a nagging hamstring injury. However, when he was on the field, the Lions third round receiver became a solid contributor. His best plays often came on intermediate-deep balls. Golladay’s big frame and ball skills helped him add another element to this Detroit passing attack, bringing safety attention over-top, allowing the Lions quicker player-makers to make space underneath. If he can continue to work on his route running ability and stay healthy in 2018, he could have a breakout sophomore campaign.

Teez Tabor was a rookie who did not play often this season, but when he did, he looked quite good. Tabor will likely be looked through a magnifying glass because of his slow 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine, but he showed promise in his rookie season. The second round corner was rarely out of position in zone coverage, where his instincts are evident. He is one of the quickest to react to the play and displayed a nice closing speed to break up passes. He even looked stronger than he did in college, pressing receivers well at the line of scrimmage and did a solid job bumping them off their routes.

Rookies That Struggled

Michael Roberts definitely showed some promise in his rookie season, but looked like he had a tough time transitioning to the NFL speed. It was one of his concerns entering the draft from a smaller school in Toledo. Roberts had a solid job blocking on the ground, but was nearly absent in the passing game in 2017. Part of the reason he was drafted was because the Lions needed help in the red zone, a place where Roberts feasted in college. Unfortunately, his inability to get on the field hurt him, holding him to no touchdowns and 47 yards on four receptions.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin is another Lion who showed promise but also had trouble cracking his way into the lineup. The Lions drafted Reeves-Maybin to play WILL linebacker for them, utilizing his speed, instincts, and good angles to take away screens and blow up running plays. He was able to do this when he was on the field, however his inability to fight off blocks and some issues in coverage kept him from having a chance to feast this season. 2018 will be an important step for the young linebacker to show growth in these areas.

Jarrad Davis was a hard one to place this season. Of all the rookies, Davis showed the most improvement this season. The zone coverage issues are well noted, even towards the end of 2017. However, he showed very nice growth in both his ability to fight through blocks and finish tackles. Davis was asked to do more than any rookie, leading the defense at the MIKE position. I do not think his lack of production, nor his struggles, where entirely surprising. But his ability in the running game improved nicely and is a promising sign to see from the Lions first round pick.

The coverage and pursuit angles are an important missing element to Davis’s game. However, if he can work hard on both of these issues in the upcoming off-season, Davis would be set up for a breakout second year in the NFL.

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