A Look At Cornerback And Return Man Jamal Agnew’s 2017 Performance And Future Outlook.
Coming out of a small school like San Diego, not many analysts knew much about the Lions 5th round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft when they selected Jamal Agnew. However, in his rookie season, he showed exactly why the Lions drafted him and why he was worth the selection.
At 5’10, 180 lbs, Agnew was drafted to be a punt and kick returning specialist, with the athletic upside to be a great slot cornerback if he can put it all together. However, his role in his rookie season was not limited to special teams and defense, Agnew’s speed and vision earned him a limited role in the offense as well.
They typically utilized his speed on sweeps and screens, that generated nine yards rushing on two carries, as well as snagging both of his receiving targets for 18 yards. While the yardage gained may have been minimal, two of those four plays earned first downs for Detroit. His niche use was important in keeping drives going, especially for a team that had as money close games as the Lions did in 2017.
In 2017, as a punt returner, Agnew was among the NFL’s best. He returned two punts back for touchdowns, but also did a consistently good job getting long returns. He was even a couple missed blocks and penalties away from increasing that touchdown count, too. He averaged over 15 yards per return, which all together was enough to earn Pro-Bowl honors for the Lions return man.
Jamal Agnew’s 2018 Outlook
The Lions training camp battle is going to be fierce for the defensive back group. However, due to his success his rookie season on special teams, there is no reason to think we will not see him lining up again for Detroit in 2018. However, it would be encouraging to see him actively competing with the other slot cornerbacks on the defense.
Agnew ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro-day when he came out. He combines this elite speed with quick burst to catch up if he does lose the positioning battle early on. Competes intensely for balls in the air. But consistency will be key for Agnew’s development as a cornerback for the Lions. While there is a decent amount to his game that needs cleaning up, if he is able to put it all together, he has the ability to be a top end slot cornerback.
These aspirations are lofty for a 5th round pick, but they are achievable. At the very least, the Lions should have a premier kick returning and niche offensive weapon in Jamal Agnew for years to come.