It happens every year. Some Detroit Lions player who everyone either doubted or just plain forgot about comes out of nowhere to have a really good season. Last year there were a couple of players like that.
T.J. Jones, a player many expected to not even make the final roster, broke out and, for the first time in his career, actually had significant contributions as a No. 4 receiver. Fifth-round rookie Jamal Agnew tore up his rookie season as the NFL’s best punt returner, earning himself a rare rookie All-Pro performance. Even a guy like Anthony Zettel, who finished with 6.5 sacks, arguably had a surprisingly efficient season.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
Which Lions player is most likely to have pleasantly surprising year in 2018?
My answer: Luke Willson. Even though Willson enters the year as Detroit’s likely No. 1 tight end, there seems to be low expectations for the Ontario native. His best career season up until this point is a modest 22 catch, 362 receiving yard performance in 2014. Outside of that year, he has never finished with more than 20 catches in a single season.
Most assume that instead of Willson having a breakout year, the Lions will simply shift strategies. Rather than trying to involve a tight end in the passing game frequently—like they did with Eric Ebron—those snaps will either go to an improved running game or Detroit will involve a player like Kenny Golladay more in 2018.
However, that line of thinking is purely conjecture at this point. It’s just as likely that an improved running game could lead to more effective play-action, causing opposing linebackers to crash down into the box. That would potentially leave the middle of the field open for a tight end to expose, and Willson has all the physical tools to do just that.
I don’t think Willson is going to put up 700 or 800 yards or anything like that, but I think he could certainly surprise some people that may be underestimating him at this point.