It’s no secret the Detroit Lions need some kind of help at wide receiver in the near future. Though they have some promising youngsters waiting in the wings in Jace Billingsley or T.J. Jones, by and large they need help. The team waited until the third round to address that need and did so by drafting Kenny Golladay out of Northern Illinois after trading down to the 96th overall pick. Golladay wasn’t projected to be drafted by many media outlets until a round or so later, so the term reach was thrown around almost immediately. But was it, though?
I think the #Lions will target someone like Kenny Golladay a bit earlier than he's projected if they don't draft a receiver in round 1 or 2.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 27, 2017
Prior to the draft, Kenny Golladay was projected to go in the fourth or fifth round. The Lions were the first team to really show him any interest—Lions WR coach Robert Prince personally attended his pro day and met with him—and he was one of their first official top-30 visits. They attended his pro day to work him out, and by all reports they were impressed with what he brought to the table. As a MAC receiver, the ‘level of competition’ question was first and foremost in many people’s minds.
The #Lions selected Kenny Golladay in the 3rd round. An elite #RAS player, they've been VERY keen to select him. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/Mr9tY1dKp7— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 29, 2017
Golladay measured out in the elite range athletically, which normally gets a lot more buzz during the draft process. Despite being 6’4” and nearly 220, that buzz never materialized, which left me curious. In his two years of MAC play, Golladay posted 160 catches for 2,285 yards and 18 TDs at 14.3 YPC, so it wasn’t an issue with production. As shown, he posted elite athleticism numbers, so why wasn’t this guy getting more hype or attention from other teams? The answer, as it turned out, was that he was.
Kenny Golladay had top-30 visits with the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Lions. That doesn’t seem like a lot, because it isn’t, but I had heard of interest from the Packers, Steelers, Browns, Redskins, and other teams leading into the draft as well as several other teams whose tendencies meant they were likely targeting him. By the time we hit draft day, I had charted all but a few teams who had at least been mentioned as possible suitors by folks who connect such dots, and I guessed that the Lions would jump if given the opportunity to do so.
Golladay is an elite athlete with top-tier size, but he sometimes struggles with his field awareness on the sidelines. For that reason, I think he projects early on as a big slot receiver, similar in role to Anquan Boldin in 2017. By 2018, he should have developed enough to challenge for a more full-time role in the offense, and if he pushes for those types of opportunities, we might see a real camp battle at outside receiver before Marvin Jones or Golden Tate’s careers are up in Detroit.