Lions Rookie Class Receives Impressive NFL Production Ranking

Kerby Joseph

Getty Kerby Joseph celebrates a big play in a 2022 game.

The Detroit Lions enjoyed a productive season from their rookies in 2022, and the team was seen to have one of the most impressive classes of anyone in the league.

Most agree the Lions grade out as a top group in the NFL in terms of rookies, but how about the production? The team got what they bargained for there as well, with one of the most productive classes in the entire league this year.

A new ESPN ranking with the help of Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders and Alex Vigderman from Sports Info Solutions helped to shed some light on the most productive young classes in the league.

The Lions came in at seventh overall, due mostly to the fact that their rookie defenders were insanely productive, something which was quickly pointed out in the piece. Led by names like Aidan Hutchinson, Kerby Joseph and James Houston, Detroit defensive rookies impressed all season.

“The Lions’ rookie class primarily made waves on the defensive side of the ball. Second overall pick Aidan Hutchinson led rookies with 9.5 sacks and 53 pressures. He also tied the record for interceptions by a defensive lineman — rookie or otherwise — with three. Yet Hutchinson was not the most valuable rookie on the Lions, according to SIS Total Points. That title goes to safety Kerby Joseph, a 14-game starter who allowed a 55% completion rate in coverage and famously picked off Aaron Rodgers three times. The Lions also got 15 starts at linebacker from sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez, who had a surprisingly low 11% broken tackle rate. And edge rusher James Houston had eight sacks and 15 pressures in part-time work,” the piece said.

Detroit being nestled within the top 10 isn’t a surprise, but perhaps the only surprise is that the team wasn’t a top-five group. The biggest reason in the end may be the fact that their offensive players didn’t give them much given they were recovering from injury. That was true for tight end James Mitchell, who only posted 113 yards and one touchdown.

Wideout Jameson Williams was a part of this as well, given he couldn’t even be activated until December. He collected just 81 all-purpose yards and one touchdown, but the expectation was he wouldn’t offer much.

“On offense, the Lions expected to get very little from WR Jameson Williams this season since he was still recovering from a torn ACL, and that’s what they got: just one 41-yard touchdown. But a couple of plays nullified by penalties brought glimpses of the talent he’ll bring to the table with a full season in 2023,” the piece said of the offense.

Only Jacksonville, Houston, Tennessee, Kansas City, the New York Jets and Seattle were ahead of the Lions in terms of production in this piece. Detroit’s class was still easily top 10 in the league, and seems to have a very bright future as things progress.

Lions Rookie Class Ranked High for 2022

Not only quality in terms of production, but quality in terms of overall rank. Detroit’s team has impressed folks in a big way.

Also recently, Pro Football Focus analyst Trevor Sikkema ranked every rookie class in the NFL by what they were able to do and how the site ranked them this season. Detroit didn’t have the top class, but they did place third-overall in the mind of PFF behind the likes of the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks.

As Sikkema wrote, Detroit’s defense seemed to benefit the most from the infusion of talent that the Lions managed to find within the latest draft.

“The Lions’ defense needed some big-time playmakers, and they certainly found a few in the 2022 class. Hutchinson led all rookies in sacks (9.5) and pressures (53), while James Houston IV led all rookies in pass-rush win percentage (25.0%). Throw in Kerby Joseph’s three interceptions and Malcolm Rodriguez’s 28 solo stops, and you’ve got one of the most impactful rookie classes from 2022,” Sikkema said in the piece.

Many in Detroit would make the case that the Lions had the top class, but this ranking disagrees with that fact in terms of metrics. It’s still very notable that the Lions would have a top-three class in the league. That points to much hope for the future.

Lions’ Rookies Dominant for 2022

No matter how they are ranked by this site, it’s safe to say that the Lions are in great shape for their future, especially on defense.

Led by Hutchinson in the trenches, the Lions have seen their rookie class set the tone on the defensive side of the ball. Hutchinson has been phenomenal already, and has been joined by James Houston and Josh Paschal in terms of consistency up front.

At linebacker, Rodriguez has stepped up to look like one of the most important rookies on the team for the future. His toughness and leadership has been downright impressive. In the second level, Joseph has come on strong to look like a star in the making for many reasons.

As a whole, this is great news for the Lions. They’ve needed some talent on the defensive side that is young, and these guys will combine with names such as Alim McNeill, Jeff Okudah, Derrick Barnes and others to make the team formidable into the future.

As the class continues to produce on the field, things might only get better for the Lions team as a whole, especially as their roster takes more steps forward in plenty of ways.

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