As player arrive at Detroit Lions training camp, we near the end of our countdown of the top Lions players on the roster. Today we reveal No. 20 through 11. These are players that the Lions are going to heavily rely upon this year, but haven’t shown enough to reach the top 10. Before we get onto the list, here’s a recap of the previous 70 names.
20. S Miles Killebrew (High: 18, Low: 23)
Miles Killebrew is one of the highest player on this list that technically doesn’t have a starting job. Expectations are very high for Killebrew’s second season in the NFL. The Lions used a third safety a lot in 2016, and with a solid depth chart at the position this year, it’s safe to say they’ll use that formation a lot again in 2017.
Killebrew flashed good instincts, solid tackling and the ability to efficiently blitz in his rookie year. If he can continue to grow this season, he could find himself in a starting position by the end of the year.
19. LB Jarrad Davis (High: 15, Low: 23)
Speaking of high expectations, the Lions’ first-round pick will have a heavy burden on him in his first year in the league. Davis is fully expected to take Detroit’s starting middle linebacker job, which is essentially the quarterback of the defense. That carries with it a lot of responsibilities, including recognizing formations and tendencies from the offense and calling corresponding plays on defense.
No player may be more important to Detroit’s entire defense than Davis, but whether he can rise to the challenge remains to be seen.
18. DE Kerry Hyder (High: 16, Low: 20)
At this point last year, Hyder was just a name at the bottom of Detroit’s roster. He had spent all but one game of the 2015 season on the Lions’ practice squad. Now he has cracked the top 20 on Detroit’s roster.
Hyder was one of Detroit’s few success stories on defense in 2016. After an amazing preseason finale, in which he recorded three sacks, Hyder continued his success into the regular season. With Ezekiel Ansah down early, Hyder picked up the slack and managed five sacks in his first four games.
With limited competition at defensive end in 2017, the Lions may be relying on Hyder to give a repeat performance this season.
17. C Travis Swanson (High: 16, Low: 17)
Swanson also managed to drastically turn his career around in 2016. After I mocked a reporter for considering him a top five center entering the season, Swanson started to actually play like one.
A pretty severe concussion caused him to miss the final four regular season games and Detroit’s sole playoff game, but he has been fully cleared for 2017. This, being Swanson’s contract year, will be key in determining his future with Detroit.
16. S Tavon Wilson (High: 14, Low: 20)
Wilson was the unsung hero of Detroit’s defense last year. Despite being overshadowed by his cohorts Glover Quin and Killebrew, Wilson was a force in defending the run. He ended up finishing second on the team in tackles, including three tackles for loss—a decent number for a safety.
With Killebrew nipping at his heels, Wilson will have to keep up his high level of play if he wants to remain Detroit’s starting strong safety, but there’s no reason to doubt him at this point.
15. DT A’Shawn Robinson (High: 11, Low:18)
A’Shawn Robinson is poised to make a huge step in 2017. Last year, Robinson was a steady, but silent force on defense. Though he technically only started five games, he really received a starter’s portion of snaps all year. It may not have seemed like Robinson made a ton of big plays, but he actually led the team in tackles for loss (5) and led all NFL defensive tackles in passes defended (7).
With Tyrunn Walker now gone, Robinson is expected to step in and be a true starter in 2017. That could be scary for opposing offenses.
14. TE Eric Ebron (High: 9, Low: 16)
With no Anquan Boldin (currently) on the team, the sky is the limit for Eric Ebron in 2017. Whether he reaches that potential is up for hot debate. No player is more controversial and divisive than Eric Ebron. While he has clearly improved upon his play every season, many believe he’s still not playing at a level he should be.
Detroit did pick up Ebron’s fifth-year option this offseason, meaning this likely isn’t the last season we’ll see Ebron in a Lions jersey. However, this is a huge year for him to prove the doubters wrong.
13. WR Marvin Jones (High: 10, Low: 19)
Marvin Jones had the most disappointing 930 receiving yard-season in recent memory. Jones set extremely high expectations in Detroit when he pulled in 482 yards in the first four games. In the final 12 games, however, he only had 448 yards. In fact, he was held to just one catch and under 20 yards in three different games last year. Additionally, his four touchdowns have to be considered a disappointment for his first year with the team.
Jones comes into 2017 with a lot to prove. Is he the player we saw in the first four weeks of the season or did the final 3 months of the season show his true colors?
12. T Rick Wagner (High: 9, Low: 15)
Rick Wagner was both the first and most expensive free agent the Lions brought in this year. Wagner was arguably the best right tackle on the market and one of Detroit’s biggest needs with Riley Reiff now in Minnesota to play left tackle for the Vikings.
Obviously, as evidenced by this ranking, expectations are high for Wagner to lock down the right side of Detroit’s offensive line—something the Lions have been unable to do long-term in a very long time.
11. RB Theo Riddick (High: 10, Low: 15)
Riddick has been one of Detroit’s most undersold offensive weapons over the past two years. Not only has he amassed the third-most receptions among NFL running backs since 2014, but he’s been extremely efficient after catching the ball:
After playing WR for a time at Notre Dame, it's no surprise Theo Riddick has been the most productive receiving back the past five seasons pic.twitter.com/Dm8cLTQOoY— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 12, 2017
Now that he has recovered from double wrist surgery, Riddick is expected to be just another weapon in Matthew Stafford’s arsenal.