If this season was any indication, Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn may have bought himself a couple of years of job security. The Lions’ 2018 draft class showed tremendous potential in their rookie seasons, and it’s quite possible they got bonafide starters in each of the first four rounds.
As a result, we’ve got a competitive field for our second Pride of Detroit Award: Rookie of the Year. Here are the candidates.
The Lions traded up to get the rookie running back out of Auburn, and while they initially brought him along slowly, after the bye week, Johnson was not only the clear starter, but one of the best starters in the league. Check out the league leaders from Week 7 to Week 11:
Todd Gurley: 420 rushing yards, 5.19 YPC
Nick Chubb: 406 yards, 5.21 YPC
Adrian Peterson: 384 yards, 4.09 YPC
Kareem Hunt: 368 yards, 4.72 YPC
Ezekiel Elliott: 367 yards, 4.96 YPC
Kerryon Johnson: 355 yards, 5.22 YPC
Had Johnson gotten a full workload from the start and stayed healthy all year, there’s a very good chance we’re talking about him potentially winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday. Still, his season-long 5.4 YPC was second among running backs, and that’s pretty impressive.
Before they picked up Johnson in the draft, the Lions wanted to make sure he was put in a position to succeed. Drafting Frank Ragnow was the last piece in the Lions’ offensive puzzle. Though his season was marked with some ups and downs, it’s undeniable that Ragnow was a big reason Johnson had the success he did in 2018:
The left side of the #Lions OL gave Kerryon Johnson (@AyeyoKEJO) room to run— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) February 1, 2019
Johnson Between the Tackles (Per Carry)-
To the Left
Yards Before Contact: 3.30
Yards After Contact: 3.25
To the Right
Yards Before Contact: 0.78
Yards After Contact: 3.20
Pass protection was inconsistent for Ragnow, but it was a promising rookie year, to say the least.
Last April, as the Lions entered Day 3 of the NFL Draft, many were worried the Lions hadn’t addressed their defensive line yet. Then Quinn made the aggressive move to go up and get Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand, and he was instantly rewarded for it.
Hand has been a revelation as an interior pass rusher in 2018, and gives the position some hope for the future.
It wasn't even close as Da'Shawn Hand ran away with the highest graded season from an interior defensive linemen. pic.twitter.com/gWhirv1skl— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 5, 2019
Hand’s traditional statline looks like most rookies’—27 tackles, 3.0 sacks, and two forced fumbles—but it was his consistent pressure that got him a lot of looks on third down. He had 25 pressures despite missing the last three games, and he was well balanced with 18 defensive stops, as well.
One of the most puzzling picks the Lions made was their third-round choice of a small-school safety. Walker didn’t project to be a starter in 2018—and may not even be one in 2019—but that didn’t stop him from making an impact in his rookie year. Not only did Walker stand out on special teams duties, but in his limited playing time on defense, he made a big impression. He had 21 tackles, two passes defended and an interception. He had a potential game-winning interception back in Week 2, but an unrelated defensive penalty took that off the board.
Walker showed enough in 2018 to believe the Lions expect him to be their safety of the future, and considering how far he’s had to climb, that’s pretty impressive.
Who was the Lions’ rookie of the year?
This poll is closed