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Top 10 Detroit Lions players for 2019: Lions’ corps is getting younger

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A look at the top 10 players for the Detroit Lions.

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We’ve made it. Our countdown of the Detroit Lions roster concludes with the top 10 players on the 2019 roster.

Interestingly enough, last year’s top 10 list includes four players that are no longer on the team at all. Ezekiel Ansah, Golden Tate, T.J. Lang and Glover Quin.

You’d think maybe that would make this year’s list a little less impressive—and maybe it is—but what I see is a strong, younger corps of players. Ansah, Tate, Lang and Quin are all 30 years old or older. Now let’s look at the newcomers to the top 10: A’Shawn Robinson (24 years old), Quandre Diggs (26), Kerryon Johnson (22), Da’Shawn Hand (23), Kenny Golladay (25) and Trey Flowers (25).

This is the kind of young corps you build a franchise around, and it could really spell a bright future for the Lions.

Previously:

10. DT A’Shawn Robinson (High: 8, Low: 13)

Last year: 11

Last year, expectations were high for A’Shawn Robinson, even though his career had been a bust so far. Robinson absolutely met those expectations and became one of the best run defenders on the team. He also earned some seriously high praise from teammates.

“He will be probably one of the top three run defender or d-linemen in the league,” Ricky Jean Francois said. “He’s that special that he can do it. Now he just has to finish this season out great.”

He did finish the season out great and now he’s in a contract year. 2019 could be big for Robinson.

9. WR Marvin Jones Jr. (High: 7, Low: 11)

Last year: 5

Jones’ 2018 season was cut short due to an injury, but even before being placed on injured reserve, there were signs that he wasn’t as effective as previous years. He was averaging just 56.4 yards per game, which is a career-low for his time in Detroit (although still higher than any season with the Bengals).

There’s a feeling that Jones is slowly being demoted to WR2, but he’s still an integral part of the offense with his big-play ability.

8. DB Quandre Diggs (High: 5, Low: 11)

Last year: 13

Last year, the Lions rewarded Diggs with a three-year contract extension just before the regular season. Days later, Diggs rewarded the Lions with a game-opening pick-six against the Jets.

In his four seasons with the Lions, Diggs has emerged as a versatile and essential chess piece. He can come down into the box and play nickel corner. He’s a fantastic box safety and run defender. And he’s even improved on his coverage every single year.

With Glover Quin gone, Diggs is undoubtedly the leader of that back end of the defense, and with a pair of young safeties beside him, he’ll be an important locker room presence, too.

7. RB Kerryon Johnson (High: 5, Low: 9)

Last year: 23

Aside from the injury that cost him the final five games of the season, Kerryon Johnson’s rookie year was about as successful as Lions fans could’ve hoped. He finished the year second in yards per carry (5.4), flashed as a receiver and showed he has no problem getting physical for the extra yards.

The sky is the limit for Johnson, as long as his body holds up. And with the Lions’ newfound love for the running game, Johnson is undoubtedly a key piece that holds this entire team together.

6. DL Da’Shawn Hand (High: 4, Low: 9)

Last year: 43

The Da’Shawn Hand hype is almost out of control at this point. Last year’s fourth-round pick surprised many by having a dominant rookie year as a rotational piece. Though his traditional stats remain modest—27 tackles, 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles—he was an advanced stat darling.

With his role only expected to increase this year, Hand is likely to be Detroit’s best pass-rushing option from the interior. That being said, six seems a little high for Hand. There’s plenty of tape out there on Hand now, so it won’t be easy to replicate his play in Year 2.

5. WR Kenny Golladay (High: 5, Low: 9)

Last year: 14

Golladay had a breakout year in 2018, eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. Now expectations may be even higher for the third-year receiver. His touchdown numbers remain relatively low (eight scores in two years) and he certainly seems capable of more than 70 catches a year.

Last year, Golladay was a highlight machine. Now, it’s time for him to be a regular part of the game plan. It’s still unclear whether Golladay can take on the opponent’s No. 1 cornerback, so 2019 should be telling.

4. DE Trey Flowers (High: 2, Low: 7)

Trey Flowers could prove to be the biggest free agency signing for the Lions since Golden Tate. Flowers comes to Detroit after his most successful season with the Patriots. He’s still young (25). And he’s a perfect fit for what the Lions defense needed.

He’ll bring some much-needed pass-rushing skills from the edge, while also not giving up any benefit as a run defender. He’ll be a valuable voice in the locker room with his knowledge of Matt Patricia’s system. And he’s already leading by example in the weight room.

Let’s just hope he comes off the PUP soon.

3. DT Damon Harrison Sr. (High: 1, Low: 4)

Anyone with eyeballs saw the difference Damon Harrison made when the Lions traded for him midseason. Simply, the Lions run defense went from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.

It’s not often you find a player that makes that kind of a difference, but Snacks is a rare breed. Criminally underrated nationally, Harrison is a top-two run stuffer in this league, and you could see how he made everyone around him better as the season went on. Christian Jones, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarrad Davis all saw tremendous growth down the stretch, and much of that likely had to do with Harrison’s presence.

With contract stuff now out of the way, the path is paved for Harrison to remain a key part of this defense in 2019.

2. CB Darius Slay (High: 2, Low: 3)

Last year: 2

He may not be a top-50 player anymore according to his colleagues, but Darius Slay is still a shutdown corner in this league and the leader on this defense. Just about every week over the past two or three years, Slay has been charged with locking down the opponent’s No. 1 corner. The fact that he has remained in the conversation as a top-five corner in this league while being one of the rare players who takes on those responsibilities speaks to his natural abilities.

With an improved secondary around him, we’ll see if Slay bounces back after a down year (by his impossibly-high standards).

1. QB Matthew Stafford (High: 1, Low: 3)

Last year: 1

Whether you consider this a list of the most important or the most talented player on the Lions roster, Matthew Stafford makes a good case for both. For as long as he’s been in Detroit, the Lions have lived and died by Stafford. He plays well, the team succeed. He struggles, they don’t.

And while Stafford has clearly lifted the team from horrible to average during his 10-year career, fans are no longer okay with that, and for good reason.

2019 could be different, though. The Lions are finally trying to take some of the load off Stafford’s shoulders. A focus on the running game should only help make the offense a little less predictable and a lot more balanced.

We’ve only seen glimpses of Stafford with a running game, and most of it has been very positive. But coming off a rough year and entering this season with a new offensive coordinator, there are plenty of Matthew Stafford skeptics abound.