Detroit Lions’ 2017 Draft Class rated one year later

Jamal Agnew #39 of the Detroit Lions returns an 88 yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 18, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Jamal Agnew #39 of the Detroit Lions returns an 88 yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 18, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions 2017 draft class was lackluster its first year but could take a step forward in their second year.

The Detroit Lions selected nine players in the 2017 NFL Draft. Two of those players, Brad Kaaya and Pat O’Connor, never saw a snap for the team. Some of the players in this draft class made an immediate impact. Others made little to no impact on the team. Luckily for the Lions, this draft class has the tools to take a big step forward in their second year.

Jarrad Davis

Jarrad Davis started as the Lions’ middle linebacker right from the get-go. He went on to lead all rookies in tackles with 96, but with that came some issues. It became apparent the load was getting too heavy.  About midseason, he came off the field in obvious passing situations to lighten it. The move helped because he finished the season on high note with a 12 tackle, one interception performance against the Green Bay Packers and became a top linebacker through the final games of the season. Expect Davis to take a big step forward with Matt Patricia helping him honing in his craft and orchestrate the defense.

Jamal Agnew

One rookie who took the league by storm was Jamal Agnew. the rookie returner and defensive back went on to lead the league in return yards (447), return average (15.4). He was the only returner to have two touchdowns in the 2017 season. He earned All-Pro honors for his efforts. Agnew’s role increased in all aspects of the game as the season progressed. The Lions used him a little on offense and started seeing snaps on defense towards the end of the season. He is already getting significant looks at nickel corner during this years OTAs and minicamp. Agnew has the opportunity to become the teams starting nickel corner.

Kenny Golladay

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Kenny Golladay was on fire the start of the season. He recorded a two-touchdown game in the Lions’ season opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately, due to a hamstring injury, he ended up only playing in 11 games last season. In those games, he caught 28 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns. Golladay averaged 17 yards per catch and caught six receptions that went for more than 30 yards. The final four games he was gaining more trust with the coaches at a point where he was out snapping Golden Tate. Golladay is a big body receiver and a red zone threat. He will be the Lions’ No. 3 receiver this year and continue to see an increased role.

Teez Tabor

Teez Tabor essentially went through a redshirt season for his first year. For a cornerback, the learning curve to the NFL is steep. The Lions had the luxury to bring him in slowly because of the depth in the secondary. He went on to play 10 games making 11 tackles, but towards the end of the season, he started seeing more snaps. Tabor is already getting looked at playing outside corner opposite of Darius Slay. If he keeps that status, expect a big jump for Tabor in Year 2.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Jalen Reeves-Maybin played a limited role on defense last year. He had 25 tackles, half a sack, and a forced fumble. Where he made an impact was on special teams. He played in 63 percent of the Lions special team snaps as a rookie. It took him some time to get adjusted to the NFL speed and he fell down the depth chart early. He might have a hard time finding the field this year on a consistent basis with the expected scheme changes and roster battles.

Jeremiah Ledbetter

Jeremiah Ledbetter ended up having a bigger role than anyone anticipated. He slotted right into the rotation along the defensive line after the Lions suffered a slew of injuries last year. Ledbetter recorded 14 tackles and half a sack. He also became a solid contributor on special teams. He has the versatility to play tackle and end. For those reasons, he is a valuable piece this year with the expected multiple looks for the defense this year.

Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts saw a very limited role on offense this past year. Because of the set roles at tight end last year with Eric Ebron and Darren Fells, he only made four catches on seven targets. Where he saw the most work was being used as a blocking tight end. He continually improved his blocking technique leading towards more snaps throughout the season. With Ebron and Fells gone and the influx of new personnel at tight end, expect Roberts to take a step forward this year and solidify his status as an all-around tight end.

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Year 2 will be a different story for this draft class over Year 1. Davis will continue to be a critical piece to the defense. Tabor is getting starting outside corner looks. Golladay is primed to gain a bigger role on offense. Reeves-Maybin has the potential to earn snaps in the right base defense. Roberts looks to take over the wide-open tight end spot. Agnew will continue his dominance as a punt returner; while earning nickel corner snaps. Finally, Ledbetter’s versatility will earn him snaps as a rotational defensive lineman. Look for the Detroit Lions’ 2017 draft class to take big leaps this year.