If you’re looking to get the lowdown on the three need-to-know players in Motown for the upcoming 2020 season, then I’m happy to tell you that you’ve arrived at the right place. Across the country, we Americans are trying to kick COVID-19. Last Tuesday, the 2020 Detroit Lions football team reported to training camp at the team’s training facilities in Allen Park, MI to begin undergoing testing for the virus. As we speak, samples are being poured over and protocols are being put into place for the “Honolulu Blue.” Without further ado, let’s strap-it-up and not forget our helmets while taking the field as we pour over which 2020 Detroit Lions players to keep an eye on this fall.
Faces of the 2020 Detroit Lions
How many touchdowns will we see this season from Kenny G? Last year, the Lions’ go-to receiver managed to lead the NFL with 11 touchdown catches despite playing half the season without his primary counterpart in quarterback Matthew Stafford.
After being snubbed by the recent release of the NFL’s Top 100 for 2020 list, the former third-rounder will continue playing with the same big “chip” on his shoulder that has allowed for him to become one of the league’s premier vertical threats. At 26 years old, the former Northern Illinois product is in no mood to waste time establishing himself as an end zone threat to be reckoned with.
Golladay has been activated from the Lions’ Reserve/COVID-19 List. What does that mean for Detroit? Well, the receiver for one is great in one-on-one matchups. According to Pro Football Focus, he is tied for the most contested catches (43) in the NFL since 2018, with none other than Julio Jones. Furthermore, he had more catches of 25+ yards in 2019 than any other receiver in professional football. He’s a big-time receiver just waiting to break out on the national stage.
Media outlets are already painting the former Ohio State All-American as the face of the defense. At this point, it’s difficult to think of any other Lions’ defender worthy of garnering that much attention. Trey Flowers was considered for this spot but needs to take things up a notch and turn his quarterback pressures into sacks to become the true face of the unit, even though he may be their cultural and schematic leader.
Okudah is an incredible do-it-all defender capable of playing in any coverage or schematic situation thrown at him. His versatility should bode well, as he will be expected to replace the departed Darius Slay as the team’s shutdown corner of the future. It’s no surprise that the Lions have invested $33.5 million into this year’s third overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Last season, Okudah was robbed of winning the Jim Thorpe Award given annually to college football’s best defensive back. He was dominant to the point he only allowed a 44 percent catch rate and 5.1 yards-per-target against opponents in coverage situations. His interceptions and pass-defense numbers weren’t out of this world, simply because opposing quarterbacks didn’t have the gall to throw anywhere near his direction without taking a major risk of turning over the football.
The quarterback has long been the face of this struggling Detroit Lions franchise. He was the team’s first-overall pick in 2009 and has been weathering the storm ever since. Now, with head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn settling into the third season of their rebuild, rookie owner Sheila Hamp-Ford also has intentions of changing the franchise’s fortune by way of modern analytics. Those figures show that Stafford is still the best guy to lead the offense moving forward into the near future.
Pro Football Focus rated Stafford as the top deep-ball passer in the entire NFL last season with a 19.2 percent rate of success. Before he got hurt last season, the signal-caller ranked first in the NFL in pass yards per attempt, touchdown/interception ratio, and passer rating. Don’t forget he was also ranked third in the league in passing yards per game.
Now that it’s been revealed the quarterback falsely tested positive for COVID-19, the Lions can move forward toward their goal of reaching the playoffs as one of this season’s biggest sleeper teams in the league. Stafford has more weapons and more support at his disposal than ever before in his career. I fully expect him to take advantage of it and blow away both league opponents and fantasy football owners everywhere.