By now, we’ve all been treated to a ride on the Tracy Walker hype train. Though the Detroit Lions’ 2018 third-round pick only played 267 snaps last year—about 27 percent of the defensive plays—his performance was very promising. With Detroit deciding to move on from Glover Quin this offseason, it was a telling sign that the Lions saw enough in Walker’s rookie season that they could rely on him going forward, even if they would end up drafting another third-round safety this year.
Well, if you’re expecting the hype train to slow down right now, you’re going to have to find another place to calm the dragon. Pro Football Focus recently released their 2018 NFL Clutch Team, and while Walker did not make the first team, he did crack the second team.
PFF’s Clutch Team is defined by each players’ grades during clutch time, which is classified as a seven-point game (or less) in the fourth quarter. What’s interesting is that in order to be eligible to make the PFF Clutch Team, you must have logged at least 100 snaps in those scenarios. That means that of Walker’s 267 snaps, at least 37 percent of them came in the fourth quarter of close games, another sign of Detroit’s trust in their young safety.
Eddie Jackson was the league's best safety in the fourth quarter of one-score games during the 2018 season pic.twitter.com/HDJ2GjHIFn— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 24, 2019
While there aren’t a lot of standout plays Walker made in his rookie season—he had just one interception and two passes defended, neither of which happened in these clutch situations—Walker did just about everything else well. His tackling was on point. His coverage grade was one of the best on the team.
Oh, and if you remember in Week 2, Walker made one of the most clutch plays any Lions player made all season:
Of course, that play would end up being negated by a ticky-tacky defensive holding call away from the action, but it still represents Walkers’ ability to show up big in clutch moments... and in his second career game, no less.
Walker has a big task ahead of him. He’s almost certainly going to take on a much bigger role in 2019, and now that teams have some film on him, he’ll have to adapt and grow in a hurry. But if 2018 was any indication, the Lions’ second-year safety will be up to the task and could emerge as a defensive playmaker this team has desperately missed.