Predicting the full Detroit Lions starting offense after the NFL draft

Lions finished near bottom of league in points, yards per game

Kerryon Johnson and T.J. Hockenson should be two of the most exciting players in the Detroit Lions' offense this season. (Getty Images)

DETROIT – The Detroit Lions were very active in free agency and the NFL draft this offseason in an attempt to improve what was a pretty dreadful offense a year ago.

The Lions finished the season ranked in the bottom 10 in both points and yards per game. After trading wide receiver Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions failed to reach 20 points in six of their final nine games.

General manager Bob Quinn made a couple of key free agent signings and used his first-round draft pick to try to bolster the offense.

Here's what the starting offense could look like when the season rolls around.

Quarterback: Matthew Stafford

Last season (Lions): 66.1 percent completion rate, 3,777 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 6.8 yards per attempt.

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 23: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass in the first half against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on December 23, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Last season was not a good one for the Lions' franchise quarterback, as he posted his worst numbers in six years.

Stafford threw for fewer than 4,000 yards over a full season for the first time in his NFL career and averaged just 6.8 yards per pass attempt.

His 21:11 touchdown to interception ratio was a major dropoff from 2017's 29:10 mark.

While he's been extremely durable -- playing in all 16 games over the last eight years -- Stafford hasn't been able to elevate the Lions' offense to an elite level. He had far too many turnovers last season and far too few touchdowns.

He has a great arm, but at 31 years old, there are still questions about whether Stafford can make the players around him better.

Running back: Kerryon Johnson

Last season (Lions): 118 carries for 641 yards, 5.4 yards per rush, three touchdowns.

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 07: Kerryon Johnson #33 of the Detroit Lions runs for yardage against Oren Burks #42 of the Green Bay Packers during the second half at Ford Field on October 7, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Perhaps the most exciting player on the Lions' roster last season, Johnson burst onto the scene with a 101-yard game against the New England Patriots.

The Lions were conservative with Johnson, never allowing him to reach 20 carries and often keeping him in single digits. He only received more than 15 carries twice, and both times he eclipsed 100 yards.

His best effort came in Miami, when he rushed for 158 yards on 19 carries against the Dolphins.

Johnson was also a threat in the passing game, catching 32 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.

Unfortunately for Lions fans, Johnson's season came to an end after 10 games, and he was forced to settle for 641 yards and three touchdowns. He had an opportunity to reach the 1,000-yard mark if he had remained healthy.

For the first time in years, the Lions will begin a season with an exciting, established starter at running back.

Wide receiver: Kenny Golladay

Last season (Lions): 70 catches for 1,063 yards and five touchdowns.

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 07: Kenny Golladay #19 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a second half touchdown with Matthew Stafford #9 while playing the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on October 7, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Golladay was a quiet breakout player for the Lions last season, reaching 1,000 yards in an offense that didn't move the ball with any consistency.

Even during a modest 477-yard rookie campaign, Golladay's potential was obvious. He turned that potential into real production last season, and now he'll get his shot at being a No. 1 receiver for an entire season.

The next step for Golladay is consistency. He had four games of fewer than 50 receiving yards, including a one-catch game against the Seahawks and a five-yard game against the Cardinals.

Golladay has good size and speed, so it's likely he'll finish north of 1,000 receiving yards again if he remains healthy.

Wide receiver: Marvin Jones Jr.

Last season (Lions): 35 catches for 508 yards and five touchdowns.

Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones, guarded by Minnesota Vikings cornerbacks Terence Newman and Xavier Rhodes, catches a 43-year pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL game Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Detroit. (Rick Osentoski/AP)

Injuries derailed the 2018 season for Jones, but he wasn't overly productive even when he was in the lineup.

In six of his nine games, Jones finished with between 50 and 70 yards. He had one breakout game of 117 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two games with fewer than 30 yards.

Stafford needs Jones to be a more reliable target next season without Tate in the mix. He targeted Jones 62 times, and that needs to result in more than 35 connections.

Jones caught 61 passes for 1,101 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017, so he can be a solid No. 2 receiver.

Wide receiver: Danny Amendola

Last season (Miami Dolphins): 59 catches for 575 yards and one touchdown.

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 21: Danny Amendola #80 of the Miami Dolphins dives for a first down against Quandre Diggs #28 of the Detroit Lions during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 21, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

One of Quinn's key offensive signings was Amendola, but it's unclear how much of a difference he will make in the Lions offense.

Amendola caught 59 passes for 575 yards last season as a Dolphin, scoring just one touchdown. He's never reached 700 receiving yards or five touchdowns in a season, but Amendola can be a solid complimentary cog in an offense.

That's exactly what the Lions hope for the 33-year-old slot receiver, who will slide in beneath Golladay and Jones on Stafford's wide receiver priority list.

Tight end: T.J. Hockenson

Last season (Iowa Hawkeyes): 49 catches for 760 yards and six touchdowns.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 25: T.J. Hockenson of Iowa poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen #8 overall by the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The most significant move Quinn made to improve the offense was using the No. 8 overall pick to select the top offensive weapon in the draft class.

This year, the best non-quarterback offensive player happened to be a tight end who can be a weapon in the receiving game and as a blocker.

READ: T.J. Hockenson isn't Eric Ebron, and it's not even close

Luckily for the Lions, that perfectly fit their needs.

Hockenson caught 73 passes for 1,080 yards over 23 games at Iowa and learned how to be a strong run blocker. He should be a Day 1 starter for the Lions and become a favorite target for Stafford.

Hockenson will be an asset in the passing game and the running game.

Tight end: Jesse James

Last season (Steelers): 30 catches for 423 yards and two touchdowns.

Jesse James celebrates after an 8-yard touchdown catch against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on Nov. 8, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

James might not technically be a starter unless the Lions use a double tight end set, but he'll get plenty of playing time.

He signed a four-year deal with the Lions this offseaon and figured to be the team's No. 1 tight end, until Hockenson was drafted.

With James and Hockenson in the fold, the Lions have turned a weakness into a strength.

James is only 24 years old and was a solid contributor for the Steelers over the last three seasons. He caught 112 passes for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns over that span, averaging 10.1 yards per reception.

Left tackle: Taylor Decker

Last season (Lions): 16 starts.

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02: Tackle Taylor Decker #68 of the Detroit Lions scores his first career touchdown during action against the Los Angeles Rams during the third quarter at Ford Field on December 2, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Decker has started 40 games since being drafted No. 16 overall in the 2016 draft.

There have been some ups and downs for Decker, but he will once again begin the season on the left side of the Lions' offensive line.

Decker even had an 11-yard receiving touchdown last season.

Stafford has taken too many hits the last several years, and Decker is one of several offensive linemen who need to improve in 2019.

Left guard: Frank Ragnow

Last season (Lions): 16 starts.

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Frank Ragnow #77 of the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The team's first-round pick in 2018 started all 16 games on the offensive line, holding his own as a rookie.

Though he was drafted as the No. 1 center, Ragnow will once again slot into a guard position and be a major piece of the team's running game.

Center: Graham Glasgow

Last season (Lions): 16 starts.

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 12: Graham Glasgow #60 of the Detroit Lions runs on to the field prior to the start of the game against the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field on November 12, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

The Lions have gotten good value out of Glasgow since selecting him in the third round of the 2016 draft.

He's played in 47 of 48 games since then and started all 32 games the last two seasons.

Glasgow has spent some time at both guard positions, but settled in at center for all 16 games last season. He figures to do so again at the start of the 2019 season.

Right guard: Oday Aboushi

Last season (Arizona Cardinals): Eight games, six starts.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 09: Oday Aboushi #70 of the Arizona Cardinals drops back to block Romeo Okwara #95 of the Detroit Lions at State Farm Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The T.J. Lang experiment certainly didn't work out well for Detroit, but Kenny Wiggins did a solid job filling in at right guard.

Wiggins spent the previous several seasons going back and forth between the NFL roster and the practice squad for the Los Angeles Chargers. After making just nine starts in his first four seasons, Wiggins has started 26 of 32 games with the Chargers and Lions the last two years.

Aboushi seems to be a safe bet to win the starting job, though, after being signed to a one-year, $2 million deal with Detroit. It was the only real move the Lions made along the offensive line this offseason.

Aboushi has played exclusively at right guard the last two seasons, so the Lions appear to view him as a fill-in at the position this coming season.

Right tackle: Ricky Wagner

Last season (Lions): 15 starts.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 19: Leonard Floyd #94 of the Chicago Bears rushes against Ricky Wagner #71 of the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on November 19, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Lions defeated the Bears 27-24. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Wagner signing hasn't gone exactly as planned after the Lions revamped their offensive line in 2017, but he's still a proven NFL tackle.

He started 13 games for the Lions in 2017 and 15 games last season. He's set to make $9 million each of the next three seasons.


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