Each year, NFL rosters experience significant makeovers and it brings excitement to fanbases as they imagine which new players acquired in the draft or free agency will stand out during the upcoming season.
Bob Quinn, in his third year as Lions general manager, has acquired wide receiver Marvin Jones, guard T.J. Lang, left tackle Taylor Decker, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, linebacker Jarrad Davis and wide receiver Kenny Golladay, just to name a few.
Not all of Quinn’s pickups have panned out thus far. In fact, last year’s second-biggest free agent addition, right tackle Rick Wagner, was a mixed bag and had trouble staying healthy. Detroit’s 2017 fifth-round pick Jamal Agnew was more impactful as a rookie than fellow corner Teez Tabor, who was taken in the second round of the same draft.
The Lions didn’t add a ton of high-profile players this offseason, as I profiled in my Lions divisional outlook article, but someone is bound to stand out early. Here are three new Lions players whom I feel could have the biggest impact this season.
TE Luke Willson
Willson has never been a game-changer at the tight end position, but contrary to the Eric Ebron saga, I think this will be a case of a guy with little expectations doing big things. Willson was playing behind Jimmy Graham the past few seasons, causing his production to dip. He’s a big target at 6-5, with good speed to get open over the middle. Unless he’s jumped on the depth chart by Levine Toilolo or Michael Roberts, there’s a good chance for Willson to have a breakout year.
LB Devon Kennard
Kennard was an under-the-radar signing which upgraded a relatively thin linebacking core. He was the first player to highlight the defensive philosophy shift under new head coach Matt Patricia. Detroit had traditionally stayed away from pass-rushing linebacker types as they have been running a 4-3 base with the last three coaching staffs. Kennard gives the Lions a dimension they didn’t really have last season on the edge.
RB Kerryon Johnson
This one is really a no-brainer. The Lions do have what looks to be fierce competition brewing at the running back spot, but Johnson is bound to get a good amount of touches being Quinn’s first long-term investment at RB. Johnson has a good mix of power, vision and toughness to potentially help kick-start what has been a putrid Lions ground game over the past few seasons. Running back is one of easiest positions to transition to in the NFL, which helps Johnson’s case in 2018.