When you draft elite-level talent, your team will have highly-talented players that produce immediately and elite-level players that breakout after a delay in progression or unfortunate injuries. The Detroit Lions have had plenty producers on the field the last couple of years, but it’s really intriguing how many difference makers are waiting at bay.
I looked more into this after former NFL GM Bill Polian gave his list of 10 pivotal players in the NFL this season and sitting at #3 on that list is Detroit Lions’ defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
So, before I get into our other potential season-changing breakout players for the Detroit Lions, here is what Polian wrote about Fairley:
“Fairley could be the missing piece in making the Detroit defense dominant. If the big Auburn alum can reach his potential, a trio of him, Ndamukong Suh and the emerging Corey Williams could make the Lions’ D-line extremely hard to handle up the middle and wreak havoc on the pocket (which will help an improving secondary).
I still think the Lions need more from the running back position to be legitimate title contenders, but if Fairley steps up, an already improved defense will be taken to another level.”
Although I don’t know how an 8 year veteran like Corey Williams is “emerging”, I agree with everything else Mr.Polian said.
The exciting thing for Lions fans though is that this roster is PACKED with young and talented players who could blow up this year and propel the Detroit Lions to the absolute upper-echelon elite in the NFL. You all know what that means
Here’s is my top 10 Detroit Lions players that could breakout and lead this team to greatness.
1. Nick Fairley: Nick is my number one on the list, this guy is immensely talented and plain ol’ NASTY! He showed glimpses of the devastating impact he can have playing on side of Suh. This guy would be a star WITHOUT Suh, so once he can get going on healthy feet, watch the heck out!
For all the naysayers who idiotically called him lazy and such because he couldn’t play on a fractured foot, you’ll eat your stupid words very soon. The man is a giant, expecting him to return and dominate so soon after fracturing a foot was not a smart expectation. Put your expectations into THIS season. They will be fulfilled.
2. Mikel Leshoure: We didn’t get a thing from him last year. But Mikel Leshoure has prototypical size and speed for the type of banger and pile-mover the Detroit Lions need. He was very productive in college, hardly ever fumbled and was looking very, very good in last year’s training camp before the Achilles injury. Maybe a 4-game suspension will end up being a blessing in disguise for the big bruiser out of Illinois. Then the Lions will have a healthy, fresh set of legs to ride out the rest of the season with.
3. Jahvid Best: Jahvid is DYNAMIC when he’s on the field, a true home run hitter. He has as much breakout potential as anyone on this team, literally, he just needs the health to hold up. Whether it can or not…. Well, we’ll see.
4. Willie Young: Whenever Willie Young hit the field he made an impact, this is the third year which is very often a breakout year for players and he’s already started his ascension as a player last year. With Cliff Avril’s situation hanging in the balance will Willie Young find himself playing alot more? He may have been in position for much more playing time regardless of Cliff Avrils’ situation.
5. Ndamukong Suh: Suh played well last year when he was on the field even though his sacks were down, the DT position is more about pocket disruption than it is pure sack numbers. Keeping in mind that Suh was coming off of shoulder surgery last offseason and he was suspended a couple of games, all Suh needs to do to breakout AGAIN is keep his head about him and stay on the field. Period.
6. Jason Fox: People forget about Jason Fox because injuries have made him virtually invisible. But he’s a player that is big, athletic and talented at the tackle position. He actually was able to be drafted in the 4th round BECAUSE of his injury situation at that time, if he’d stayed healthy he wouldn’t have lasted until the 4th round. IF he can stay healthy, he will add great depth and youth to the Detroit Lions O-line for now and the future. If he gets hurt again, he’s likely getting cut.
7. Jacob Lacey: Another player who is entering the “breakout” years in his career. Lacey played well in Indy for a pathetic Colts team and has potential to really show what he can do in a great situation.
8. Doug Hogue: Hogue is a big and fast special-teamer and former running back, it takes time to develop as an NFL linebacker for most. He’s shown good athleticism and has flashed potential at a position that takes a pounding and you definitely need players that can fill in and maybe even steal a job.
9. Matthew Stafford: This may come as a surprise to you but Matthew Stafford can be better. This kid is THAT talented. I truly believe he is a generational-type talent and this is his first full off-season without rehabbing from injury. His stats may or may not eclipse last years stats, because of the running game we should have this year, but Matthew becoming even more savvy to go along with his treasure chest of offensive weapons could lead to a SUPER year for the Lions’ franchise QB.
10. Titus Young: Pretty much in the same vain as Stafford, Titus Young has Lions fans super-excited from what he’s shown and he can get even better. After coming through injuries that slowed his progression early on last year he started REALLY turning it on. He will benefit from being part of this offensive smorgasbord that the Lions have assembled and with a year of experience and maturation he could join Calvin Johnson in the Pro Bowl(if there is one this year).
BONUS MAYBE PLAYER: Amari Spievey: I’m not a big fan of Amari, but he is still young and started to play a little better before his injuries. I’m not expecting him to breakout but it’s a possibility. This is THE year for him to pee or get off the pot. (Not the Charles Roger kind of pot, lol.)
Do you agree or disagree with any of these breakout stars for the Lions? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
- The Brilliance Of Martin Mayhew: GM Moves That Made a Difference For The Detroit Lions (lionsdetroit.com)