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Lions Roundtable: Expectations for Kenny Golladay’s rookie season

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What can we expect from Golladay’s first season in the NFL?

Northern Illinois v Toledo Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images

The roundtable is making its triumphant return after taking some time off to regroup during organized team activities. If you’d like to get caught up to speed, here are the topics the we’ve discussed so far this offseason—for your reading pleasure:

This week’s question has to do with a Lions rookie and how much we expect him to contribute in year one:

What are the expectations for Kenny Golladay in his rookie season?

Ryan: Since he was drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the feelings and expectations for Golladay have run the gamut. When Alex, Andrew, Chris, and myself were in Philly for the draft, we watched the Lions select Golladay from our hotel a few blocks removed from Draft Town. Our collective reaction:

The third-round pick from Northern Illinois has made quite the impression during OTAs, so I gotta know, what does the Pride of Detroit staff expect Golladay to do in his first season with the Lions?

Jeremy: I hate to be the first one in here and immediately put a damper on the extreme optimism surrounding Golladay right now, but we have to remember how rare it is for a rookie receiver to come in and light things up immediately.

OTA reports are fun to obsess over, but without any true contact, it’s hard to really gauge how well Golladay is doing. Sure, he’s got good hands. Sure, he can elevate over third-string defensive backs and snag the ball out of the air. But how will he deal with press coverage? How will he respond against better competition when he eventually gets promoted to the first-team offense? The criticism surrounding Golladay has always been his route running, and we haven’t seen that truly tested yet.

Kent Lee: Golladay, along with Jared Abbrederis, is the front runner for Team Cockroach right now. That's the player every year who destroys camp and then disappears when the lights come on. That said, the optimism surrounding Golladay also needs to come with notice that we're talking about someone competing for third receiver and not a starting spot. His route tree is likely going to be fairly limited to start even before you consider being a rookie, so the important things like catching the football should be met with optimism if he can do it. Earlier camp cockroaches like Corey Fuller or TJ Jones struggled with the basics in camp despite wow plays, though guys like Pat Edwards and Chaz Schilens did not. As probably the biggest Golladay slappy on staff, I'm confident that he'll do well with the simple responsibilities the Lions will ask of him.

Ryan: Think it’s important to keep in mind what Kent left off with, “the simple responsibilities” the team will ask of him. Anquan Boldin was such a large part of this offense last season, but without him, you have to figure Tate and Ebron team to occupy the space where Boldin fit last year—Ebron even more so with the improved depth at tight end.

Does it seem like a safe bet to assume Golladay will primarily line up as an X receiver, on the outside and to the weak side of formations, or will he line up opposite of Marvin Jones Jr.? It seems like the Lions could do a better job of keeping his responsibilities and route tree relatively simple if that’s the case.

Kent Lee: I think there's room to use Golladay all over, but from the team's comments and camp it appears he'll primarily be outside. I still maintain his best spot, especially in the red zone, is as the big slot, though.

It's also worth noting that Boldin's role, while important, wasn't particularly dynamic in the offense. He was basically asked to win where he wins. Also worth pointing out that several of JBC's best drawn up plays involved using Boldin in a unique way, as several of his TDs were incredible play designs. For the most part, however, his job was pretty simple. Likewise, Marvin Jones wasn't used in a super creative way for much of the season, starting when the offense had to slow down. This isn't a complex offense with multiple route options and WR reads most of the time, so the goal for Golladay in year one should primarily be just to concentrate on his basics. It's those areas he excels in, thankfully, and he can learn to polish his routes as he goes.

Ryan: Let’s get into some predictions in terms of production for Golladay because that’s what the people want.

Last year, Boldin was targeted 95 times in 2016, the third most of any receiving option in Detroit. Those targets have to go somewhere. This offense could look a little different from the “keepaway” style of attack they employed last season to protect their defense, so with that being said, what do you think Golladay’s statistics look like by season’s end?

Jeremy: It may seem obvious, but it’s important to point out that all of those 95 targets aren’t going directly to Golladay. With the way the roster is currently set up, the Lions are poised to use a lot more two back or two tight end sets. While the No. 3 receiver job earned Boldin over 80 percent of snaps last year, the same job will likely garnish a significant reduction in playing time in 2017. I think Golladay only sees about 60 percent of those 95 targets, or around 60 balls thrown his way.

But Golladay has sure hands and a large catch radius. He’ll get his in this pass-first offense. My prediction: 48 catches, 530 yards, 3 TDs.

Kent Lee: That's a fair prediction, I was going to go with a nice round 50/500/5 guess.

Jeremy: Well, that’s disappointingly close to my prediction, even if it makes me feel like I didn’t just pull a number out of my raised up posterior. The people came here for some rage. Anyone in here have a bold prediction that’ll make me want to throw a chair?

Ryan: I’m not gonna get schwifty with a prediction, but I do think Golladay receives a slightly larger portion of those targets. Ebron, Abdullah, Riddick, Roberts, and Fells should figure to divvy up the leftovers. Here’s what I got for a prediction: 51 catches, 569 yards, 2 TDs, and approximately 16 spelling corrections during the year.

Jeremy: I need something hotter than that.

Alex: 51 targets, 35 catches, 503 yards, 4 TDs.

Ryan: Thanks for the in-depth analysis, Alex. As always, your contributions to the roundtable are stellar.

Jeremy: That’s it. I’m bringing in a relief pitcher to spice this game up.

Jerry Mallory: I had to clear the fog on my glasses because I thought I was looking at Jordy Nelson when watching film on Golladay. I'm partial towards big, fast receivers and he fits the bill. But before I enshrine him in Canton I have to temper expectations considering he played at a small school and his early camp success is just that... success in camp without pads. With so many receiving options he won't get a ton of targets, but he will make the most of it when his number is called and have an efficient rookie year.

A prediction: 45 targets, 33 catches, 600 yards, 5 TDs.

Ryan: So much for bringing in the heater. Any more brain busters?

Jeremy: Golladay will have a better football career than Phil Rizzuto.