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4 bold predictions for Lions rookies in 2017

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Detroit’s incoming group of rookies have a chance to be difference makers for the Lions in a variety of ways. Here are four things to count on from this class in 2017.

NCAA Football:  Florida at Louisiana State Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit’s draft haul has garnered mixed reactions from the national media, but regardless of the much-too-early grades of their selections, the Lions clearly had a plan when it came to their draft strategy.

Defense. And a lot of it.

Of their nine draft picks, Detroit spent six of those selections on the defensive side of the ball, upgrading their depth and even adding a starting MIKE linebacker in first-round pick Jarrad Davis.

Considering how warmly my first attempt at bold predictions was received, I’m back by popular demand to provide you with four more for this incoming draft class—and even before they report to rookie minicamp!

Bold Predictions

Kenny Golladay will have more receptions than Marvin Jones Jr.

With Anquan Boldin’s departure, Detroit made a draft-day decision on Day 2 to add a receiver with a unique skillset. It made sense to make wide receiver a priority in the draft: Detroit lined up in three-WR formations 732 times a season ago—only three teams lined up this way more than the Lions did in 2016. Boldin’s 830 total snaps weren’t going to be replaced by what the Lions had heading into the draft, but after adding Golladay, a majority of those snaps are now accounted for.

Standing at 6-foot-4, Golladay is the tallest wide receiver on the roster, and he just might be the best asset the Lions have when it comes to stretching a defense vertically. Boldin was the sure-handed option for Matthew Stafford last year, but Golladay’s hands may prove to be as useful replacement—the former Husky dropped just five passes on 165 catchable targets in his two seasons at Northern Illinois University.

Jalen Tabor will lead Detroit in interceptions

After forcing only 14 total turnovers on defense in 2016—ten of which were interceptions—the Lions needed to add playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.

Enter Jalen “Teez” Tabor.

The selection of Tabor has generated the most buzz among any of the players selected by Detroit in this year’s draft. His slow 40-time at the combine—and an even slower time at his pro day—has fans concerned, but if there’s one thing people can’t deny about his game, it’s his instincts and ability to make plays on the ball. For more on Tabor’s game, check out Alex Reno’s scouting profile here.

Jarrad Davis will play the most snaps of any linebacker drafted in 2017

When the Lions made the decision to draft Davis at No. 21 overall, they were making a commitment to improving the second line of their defense from sideline to sideline. Davis’ tape oozes with the type of athleticism that was confirmed during his measurements at Florida’s Pro Day—here’s his RAS card courtesy of Kent Lee Platte.

Injury concerns aren’t as prevalent with Davis as they are with Reuben Foster, the other linebacker who was still available when the Lions were on the clock in Round 1, but they’ve proved to still cost him considerable amounts of time. In 2014, Davis missed the final three games of the season while serving in a backup role before becoming a starter in 2015. His 2016 season was cut short when an ankle injury caused him to miss the majority of November and Florida’s bowl game against Iowa.

As mentioned, Davis’ junior season in Gainesville was his healthiest. He played in all 14 games, showed his potential as a coverage linebacker and did so by providing a ton of production—he finished that 2015 season with 3.5 sacks, 4 passes defended, an interception and a respectable 11 tackles for loss.

Davis is a three-down linebacker who possesses all the traits and abilities to be an absolute game-changer for the Lions’ defense for years to come. With him, it’s a matter of availability; durability is a skill, and it’s the most important attribute for a linebacker, a position that’s so physically demanding in today’s NFL. But if he stays on the field as much as advertised, the Lions defense will improve dramatically.

Michael Roberts will lead the Lions in touchdown receptions

Roberts’ path to the University of Toledo is perhaps one of the more humbling and inspiring stories of the draft. It’s a story of perseverance, but that resiliency to finish school and support his family comes from a place of selflessness that helps define not only the type of football player he is, but the kind of young man Roberts has become—and Ted Kulfan from The Detroit News helped share that story here.

His work ethic is top-notch, and that type of persistence will pay off when his number gets called in the red zone. Roberts production during his senior season with the Rockets caused a stir—he led the country with 16 touchdown catches on just 45 total receptions—but his weeks at the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl made people take notice:

Also, look no further than those mitts to understand that—combined with his 6-foot-4, 270 pound frame—Roberts will be a prime red zone target for Matthew Stafford: