Kenny Golladay has seen success at every level.
Following his sophomore season at North Dakota he was honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference in 2013. After transferring to Northern Illinois he was second-team All-MAC in 2015. Then first-team All-Mac in 2016.
Regardless of competition, Golladay has proven he belongs. And that’s no different now that he’s in the NFL.
Despite missing five games in 2017 with a lingering hamstring injury, the third-round rookie still managed to put together a solid campaign in his first year, averaging 17 yards per reception and snagging in three touchdowns.
Golladay became a legitimate deep threat throughout the season. And the Lions became the best deep-ball team in the league.
Which teams picked up the most yards on deep passes to wide receivers in 2017? pic.twitter.com/3o6N2OXRKD— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 4, 2018
Last year when Golladay was on the field, over 28 percent of his catches were 20 yards or more. That big play ability has his coaches and teammates beaming about his potential.
“If he keeps working the way he worked this year, and keeps learning, I think the sky’s the limit for that guy,” Golden Tate said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “He’s one of those guys that can break a game.”
Looking back at 2017
I went back and watched Golladay from last season, and few things make me a big believer of his this upcoming season.
1. Matthew Stafford is not afraid to throw his way.
Stafford has never been scared to put a 50-50 ball up for grabs. The addition of Golladay gives the Lions two threats on the outside, with Marvin Jones on the other side.
The Lions have tried to shore up their run game this offseason, but make no mistake, this team will live and die through the air and the arm of Matthew Stafford. In 2017, Stafford had 565 pass attempts, which was good for fourth in the league, only behind Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady.
I don’t expect those attempts to go down much in 2018, and Golladay should become one of Stafford’s favorite targets.
Here’s an example from last season, with the game on the line, where Stafford showed full trust in Golladay.
3RD & 2 AT TB 42(01:02) | 01:02
(1:02) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Stafford pass short left to K.Golladay to TB 36 for 6 yards.
The Lions are just inside field goal range, but need to convert on third down to keep the drive alive and, more importantly, keep the clock ticking.
Stafford eyes Golladay the whole time. He ends up making an acrobatic catch to move the chains. It was a small play amongst many throughout the season, but it showed me that in the clutch, Stafford is willing to go Golladay’s way.
That should only grow the the two play together.
2. Kenny Golladay’s size presents something no other receiver on the Detroit Lions offers
The 6-foot-4 receiver stands at least two inches taller than any other wideout currently on the roster, and that height is only part of the equation.
At times, Golladay’s 32-inch wingspan makes him open, even if he’s covered. He’s also big enough to stiff arm smaller defenders in the open field .
That dimension hasn’t been seen since Calvin Johnson retired.
3. He’s a versatile receiver with more than just straight line speed
For a big guy, Golladay is very elusive when he has the ball. In 2017, he lined up all over across the offense. He played the outside X and Z as well as inside in the slot.
The Lions even dialed up jet sweeps for him, which is an interesting wrinkle within their offense, and not really expected given his size.
With former tight end Eric Ebron being released earlier this offseason, the Lions will need Golladay to break a game or two. He enters the 2018 season firmly entrenched as the No. 3 option behind Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate. Golladay is the clear candidate to take a majority of Ebron’s targets in the offense (86 last season).
He showed lots of promise last season with 28 receptions for 477 yards and three touchdowns. In 2018, I see him catching around 60 balls for 800-900 yards and six touchdowns.
If he’s fully healthy throughout the season he could round out the Lions offense into one of the best in the NFL.