Low expectations have sadly become the norm in Detroit. But, even by these depressed standards, head coach Dan Campbell’s three-win debut was an unmitigated disappointment.
You are probably familiar with the offensive upgrades aimed at getting things turned around. A receiving corps that ranked 19th in total yards in 2021 has added several names. First, D.J. Chark was brought in as a free agent from Jacksonville. Then, Jameson Williams, the highly coveted receiving prospect out of Alabama, was added with the 12th overall selection in the NFL Draft.
With these pass catching weapons in the fold, and the emerging D’Andre Swift in the backfield, there’s a reason for offensive optimism in Detroit.
But what about the defense? The Lions surrendered the fourth-most real estate in 2021, forfeiting a dismal 379.8 yards per game. They mustered a measly 124 quarterback pressures on the year, third from the bottom of the pack. They were, quite simply, a pushover for opposing offenses, and thus significant changes were needed.
One of the first clues to the Lions’ off-season plan came in March. Speaking with reporters before the NFL Combine, Campbell confirmed that the Lions would be looking to incorporate more four-man fronts in 2022. Granted, presenting multiple looks from a schematic perspective has become the norm in the modern NFL, making ‘base defense’ somewhat irrelevant. Still, the mindset to involve more dedicated rushers from a three-point stance gives some directional insight.
Cha, Cha, Changes
As far as personnel, IDP notable, Trey Flowers was released after a poor showing in 2021. According to PFF, the former Patriot ranked 64th amongst DEs with an overall grade of 63.2. Particularly damning was his lowly pass-rush grade of 61.0, which was not good enough to threaten opposing offenses.
So with Flowers on the way out and new concepts inbound, who stands to benefit? And how might these changes affect IDP? Let’s explore!
IDPs to Know
Hutchinson was the headlining addition of the draft. The Michigan standout should be valued amongst the top IDPs of the 2022 rookie class. I have previously outlined the many attributes which have him poised to become a household name as a pass rusher. With ample size, power, and a tremendous motor, the number two overall selection in 2022’s NFL Draft is poised to make the most of a massive and immediate opportunity.
Inquire about Okwara if he is currently rostered with an impatient owner. Though his production was hampered by injury last season, he still holds enormous potential in the new-look Lions defense. With double-digit sacks and 44 combined tackles in 2020, big-time production is not far in his rear-view. Just be cautious not to overpay. Okwara will likely be asked to play more outside linebacker in the new scheme. A different position from where his greatest production surfaced. Additionally, this may cause his position to be reassigned, depending on your platform, which would also pose a hit to his value.
Athletic LB Barnes entered 2021 as a highly touted rookie prospect. And, despite failing to procure a full-time starting role, he still managed to amass 67 combined tackles in a supporting role. If Barnes can continue his development and win a contested interior LB job out of camp, he will be a serious breakout candidate. Inquire with an impatient owner, and see if you can sneak a deal for him before inflation sets in.
After tearing his Achilles and missing all but one game in 2021, CB Okudah is looking to shake the draft bust moniker. If he can earn the coaching staff’s trust, he and Amani Oruwariye should make for a dangerous tandem. Unless you are in a league that requires CBs, Okudah is not worth a roster spot. However, if corners are a part of your league format, he may be a cost-effective option. Take a flier on Okudah and cut ties if the early production isn’t there. He’s a low-risk investment.
If you find yourself in need of defensive back help, Elliot may also be an excellent gamble. Signing on with Detroit under a one-year deal, the former undrafted free agent will be compelled to prove his worth yet again on this Lions squad. Known for delivering punishment, Elliott has an 80 tackle season on his short resume and could form a potent tandem with the incumbent Tracy Walker. Coming off of an injury-shortened 2021, Elliott should be a cheap acquisition with the potential to pay big dividends this season.
Studying the league’s worst units can be a helpful exercise when searching for IDP gems. Based on poor performance, these defenses are under the greatest pressure for imminent improvement.
In 2022, the Lions absolutely qualify as one of these groups. They are primed for turnover both from a schematic and personnel standpoint. Flush with developmental youth, recovering vets, and under the radar free-agent additions, there’s a lot of IDP potential lurking in Detroit. Roar into your offseason by taking advantage of some top contributors available at discount prices!
I thoroughly enjoyed bringing you this piece and would love to continue the conversation on the Lions’ IDP values. Please feel free to comment below or contact me @Spydes78 on Twitter. And also, stay tuned to @DynastyNerds for a steady pipeline of content from our eminently qualified staff to carry you through your offseason. If you like what you read, please consider becoming a subscriber to any of the elite tools that Dynasty Nerds has to offer. Use the promo code “SPYDES” to receive a 15% discount. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the grind!