When Calvin Johnson retired prior to the 2016 season, the mock drafts started flying for the Detroit Lions to draft a receiver in the first round. That trend continued into the 2017 season for even less realistic reasons involving the team potentially losing their third receiver (Anquan Boldin) to free agency or eventual retirement. With established top two receivers, the need wasn’t there for the team to pick a receiver early in the draft. That rang true for the first couple rounds at least, as the selection of Kenny Golladay in the third round shows that Bob Quinn is cognizant of the upcoming need for pass catchers, even if it isn’t as immediate of a need.
One guy I'm probably going to be disappointed that I've missed so far: Kenny Golladay. Great athlete, production, and sneaky landing spot.— Travis May (@FF_TravisM) May 18, 2017
As a name that flew relatively under the radar, Golladay was immediately pegged as a reach, though in many cases it says more about the evaluator than the player that he was rated that low. Often, folks would admit to only having watched him a little or not at all. As someone who watched plenty of the Northern Illinois product, I can say with at least reasonable certainty that if Kenny Golladay was a reach it wasn’t a very big one.
#Lions rookie WR Kenny Golladay had a total of.... Nevermind, let's just appreciate this catch for a moment. #OnePride pic.twitter.com/BZFNuiJITL— Logan Lamorandier (@LLamorandier) May 4, 2017
Elite athleticism and size aside, the former Husky averaged 80 catches and over 1,100 yards and 9 TDs in each of his two seasons in the MAC. He’s a historic receiver at NIU. No one had ever had back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons for Northern Illinois. This production was in addition to 69 catches (nice), 884 yards and an additional eight touchdwons in 2013 when he played for North Dakota. On top of his prolific production over his collegiate career, Golladay was also incredibly efficient and sure handed. With 165 targets, he only dropped a paltry five passes (Per PFF), which is fewer than Eric Ebron or Marvin Jones had in 2016 alone and only one more than Golden Tate or Anquan Boldin had last season.
3rd round pick WR Kenny Golladay not a projected No. 1, but stylistically, what the #Lions needed: a perimeter player.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) May 2, 2017
How do the Lions plan on using such a weapon? If only we knew a sure handed, big receiver who had just departed the team for which we could compare possible usage. I had posted before that I think the Lions’ best move would be to start Golladay in a big slot role and allow him to grow into his routes and game speed before moving him outside, but it sounds like the team may have other plans. Rotoworld’s Josh Norris noted that Bob Quinn and Jim Bob Cooter mentioned Golladay’s usefulness outside on several occasions.
I've read that Kenny Golladay might see slot targets, but post-draft Quinn (on two occasions) & JBC said he's mainly outside type.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) May 17, 2017
Unlikely to unseat Golden Tate or Marvin Jones out of the gate, Kenny Golladay is still probable to see a high share of snaps on offense in 2017. With his size and speed combo, as well as sticky hands and strong catching technique, it isn’t out of the question that he takes a fairly sizable chunk of targets as a rookie. It’s unlikely that he matches or exceeds Anquan Boldin’s catch or yardage totals in year one... but it’s not out of the question.
It’s still a big jump from the MAC to the NFL, but if Golladay can put up the kind of production he did at NIU despite having five different quarterbacks throwing to him, imagine what he can do with a quarterback like Matthew Stafford. If you weren’t excited about this pick when it was made, I’m confident he will change some opinions very early in his NFL career.