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2017 Detroit Lions Stock Report: Reviewing the offense and outlook for the future

For the Detroit Lions, 2018 looks brighter for some than others, so we’re looking back at where everyone landed as the season closed.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For almost every week of the 2017 season, we took an immediate look after each game and tried to gauge where each player had set themselves up that week going forward. If a player did well or poorly we would note as such, but we also looked at the opportunities that were presented either through their play or the play of others, and if we felt there would be an increase or decrease in playing time, opportunities, or just their future in general.

With the season now over, we’re going to look back on the 2017 season and give an overall stock report, judging how their season performance helped or hurt their stock going into the 2018 offseason. Since this is a final review and projection, we’re going to switch the format a bit, but by now you have the general idea.

Offensive Players Stock Up

Joe Dahl, OG - Dahl came into 2017 with high expectations and, well, looked pretty terrible. He was on IR for most of the year before returning late in the season when the injuries just kept getting piled on. He played not only serviceably, but very well and is likely the leading candidate to start at the left guard slot with Graham Glasgow presumably moving to center.
Taylor Decker, OT - Decker missed much of the year with injury, but after shaking off the rust, the left tackle is back to looking like a position the Lions won’t need to address in 2018.
Eric Ebron, TE - A trade candidate to start the year and even possible post-season cut with his erratic and poor play, Ebron bounced back in a huge way to be one of the most productive tight ends in the second half of the season. His final year contract is a bit tough to stomach for fans, but he played his way to either a short or long-term extension that will lower that number for 2018.

Graham Glasgow, OG - No player saw his stock reach such a low and such a high in 2017 than early season starting left guard and end season starting center Graham Glasgow. 2018 looks very bright for Glasgow, who at one point we couldn’t wait for to be replaced.
Kenny Golladay, WR - The Detroit Lions posted two 1,000 yard receivers in 2017 while Kenny Golladay was one of the most efficient rookie receivers in the NFL. I’m not sure as to what percentage of plays we’ll see with Golladay catching the football in 2018, but it’s going to be difficult to justify keeping him off the field despite the Lions’ wealth of talent at the position.
Tion Green, RB - Though his hype has been inflated somewhat from fans’ very low expectations at the position, Green had a good season for a UDFA entering with no expectation to ever see the field. He’ll get looks in camp in 2018.

Marvin Jones, WR - Jones hit the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career after nearly hitting that mark the previous season. He’s a reliable target for Matthew Stafford and trusted to take the top off defenses even if he’s covered.
Brian Mihalik, OT - Mihalik came in for relief duty while Taylor Decker was injured and did admirably in a reserve role. The uber athletic Boston College product will warrant some looks at least as a reserve in 2018.
Michael Roberts, TE - Roberts finished 2018 about as bad as you could, with a forced inactive after sleeping in through a team meeting. The previous 16 weeks showed some promise, especially as a blocker, so his future looks bright as long as that final week mistake is isolated.
Corey Robinson, OT/OG - Robinson didn’t play particularly well in 2017, but his ability to play both in and out is likely going to land him a chance at the swing lineman spot next year especially if Joe Dahl takes a starting role.
Matthew Stafford, QB - Stafford had one of his most efficient seasons in his career in 2017 including top marks in passer rating and adjusted net yards per attempt. He’s the guy for the Lions, so we’d rather he keeps playing well.
Golden Tate, WR - Tate eclipsed 90 receptions for the fourth season in a row, the only time in Lions history a receiver has had four such seasons at all, let alone consecutively. After a long, YAC filled touchdown against the Packers he also finished over 1,000 yards for the third time in his career.

Hakeem Valles, TE - Valles was a late season activation after spending time on the practice squad. Neither production nor athletic metrics look good for him, but he was able to stick to the Lions roster and find himself activated in the final week. With Darren Fells’ future uncertain with the team, Valles may get some looks in camp.
TJ Jones, WR - Jones had a fantastic season before his injury considering there were next to no expectations for him coming into the year. As an restricted free agent, he’ll likely be back in 2018, and I expect him to be reasonably involved.

Offensive Players Stock Down

Ameer Abdullah, RB - The Lions’ leading rusher for 2017 with 552 yards and four touchdowns managed to do so running for a woeful 3.3 yards per carry and a late season benching. Running back is likely to be a focus this offseason, even if a defensive head coach is selected. Abdullah’s disappointing season is a large reason why that is.
Don Barclay, OG - It’s unfortunate that he suffered a concussion in the game he saw the most action, but his play throughout has been poor and I don’t expect a return.

Jace Billingsley, WR - Billingsley didn’t record a stat in 2017 despite being activated more than once. His teammates continued to talk him up this season, but with a new coaching staff you tend to see project players turned over and that’s the category he falls into.
Emmett Cleary, OT - You’d be forgiven for not noticing he was on the roster. Brought in way back when Taylor Decker was still hurt, Cleary made no impact for the Lions in 2017 and I don’t expect him to make it to camp in 2018.
Darren Fells, TE - In a sort of reverse from how Eric Ebron played, Darren Fells saw his strong preseason and early season play tank suddenly and swiftly by midseason. By the end of the year he was barely utilized and his blocking was an afterthought with Michael Roberts looking better. Considering his age, Fells returning isn’t a certainty.
Andy Jones, WR - Part of the late season roster churn, Jones may or may not make it to training camp. In a position as deep as receiver in Detroit, I don’t expect much from this athletic but extremely unrefined receiver.
Zac Kerin, OG - Kerin didn’t play well prior to his injury. He might see camp in 2018, but I don’t expect to see much of him next year.
T.J. Lang, OG - Lang actually played quite well on the field for the Lions in 2017, showing his play in Green Bay wasn’t just a byproduct of an efficient offense and elite QB play, but the big question was always health and Lang continued to struggle with injuries. Lang will be the starting RG to begin 2018, but he might not be the starter to finish it and almost certainly won’t be in 2019.
Bradley Marquez, WR - Marquez is another project at receiver, but like all bottom roster guys you expect special teams to be the big shot. Marquez only played one game for the Lions, but managed to post the worst special teams play of any player in any game this year.
Theo Riddick, RB - Riddick posted his fifth consecutive season rushing for under 4 yards a carry in 2017. He posted a respectable 53 receptions and two touchdowns, but he didn’t come close to having the same type of impact he had in either of the previous two seasons. With recurring injuries and a league wide shift to receiving backs in general we could see the Lions looking at potential replacements in 2018.
Greg Robinson, OT - Starting for the injured Taylor Decker, Robinson was expected to at least help the team limp through the beginning of the season. Despite providing help in the form of a pulling guard or center as well as a tight end on practically every play, Greg Robinson found new ways to allow pressure on his QB every week. He’ll see camp in 2018 but I’d be shocked if he makes the team.

Jake Rudock, QB - Rudock wasn’t asked to do a whole lot in 2017, and while his sideline work seemed to be fine (he actively worked with Stafford and Cooter between plays), his on-field play when he finally saw the field was astonishingly bad. His arm strength simply won’t work in the NFL if he’s called to see the field and the Lions were wise to both bring in Kaaya for competition and likely another in 2018.
Travis Swanson, OC - Not fitting the athletic profile Bob Quinn had set in NE made Swanson a likely loss once his contract was up. Unfortunately, Swanson may have played himself off the roster anyway prior to suffering another season ending concussion that puts his career in jeopardy.
Rick Wagner, OT - Wagner started strong, but didn’t have the season you would have liked from a big free agency addition. His 2018 is secure, but the Lions can start evaluating options in 2019 if Wagner doesn’t show immediate improvement.
Dwayne Washington, RB - With no Jim Caldwell to inexplicably play Dwayne Washington over the other, obviously more game-ready running backs, it’s hard to imagine a situation where Washington makes the 2018 roster. Still, they kept him despite being cut worthy by mid season, so they want to at least see him in camp.
Zach Zenner, RB - Expectations weren’t high for Zenner, but after starting behind Washington to start the year, he saw activation and did next to nothing in terms of production. Zenner is an able blocker and special teamer, so he’ll have a role in the NFL, but without significant improvement running with a football in his hands you’re not going to see him on a 2018 Lions roster.

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