Next up for the 2015 POD Awards is the category for the Detroit Lions' Breakout Player of the Year. Here are the nominees:
The Theo Riddick Hype Train finally brought some cargo into the station this year. In 2014, Riddick had just 54 touches and 367 total yards. This season, he doubled his production across the board, finishing with 123 touches and 830 yards. As mentioned in the Offensive Player of the Year post, Riddick's 80 receptions were the most ever for a Lions running back.
Many believed Ansah was the beneficiary of a talented defensive tackle crew in 2014. Without the likes of Ndamukong Suh, surely Ziggy would take a step back in 2015. Nooooooope. Ansah went from 7.5 sacks to 14.5 and added four forced fumbles to boot. Ansah's improvement earned him all kinds of post-season honors, including his first Pro Bowl and the Associated Press All-Pro second team.
Diggs didn't really see much of the field until injuries to Rashean Mathis and Josh Wilson forced Teryl Austin's hand. But as soon as the rookie received some meaningful playing time, he immediately made an impact:
CB Quandre Diggs now has 7 straight positively graded games, looks like a real find for #Lions— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) December 31, 2015
Diggs helped shut down opponent's slot receivers over the second half of the season and finished with the third-most passes defended on the team.
2015 was supposed to be the year that Slay took the next step toward being a shutdown corner. A few weeks into the season, those hopes seemed to be dashed, as Slay gave up a few killer big plays. However, Slay responded with a vengeance, finishing the season as one of the best cornerbacks in the league. His 13 pass breakups nearly doubled anyone else on the team.