Lions Gain 2 Key Youngsters on Breakout Candidate Watch List for 2023

James Houston

Getty James Houston celebrates a 2022 sack.

The Detroit Lions have one of the best draft classes in the league from the 2022 season, and given that is the case, they already witnessed several players break out last year.

It can be a show of how deep that class is that more players could be looked at to break out in the year ahead. Already, the Lions have been seen to be one of the most exciting teams to remember for the future with regards to having that play out.

Pro Football Focus and writer Sam Monson took a look at picking out the best second-year breakout candidates on both offense and defense for the 2023 season. Interestingly enough, the Lions landed a player each on both sides of the ball in wideout Jameson Williams and edge rusher James Houston.

In terms of Williams, he was one of Monson’s picks at wide receiver even in spite of rarely seeing the field. The reason? In the future, Williams could be expected to bring big plays to Detroit’s offense routinely given the explosion he has already shown in a small sample size.

“He didn’t clear 20 snaps in a single game and never saw more than three plays designed to get him the football. Even on that limited workload, you could see the explosive speed he brings to the table and how defenses were forced to adjust. Williams has too much ability not to be a major factor next season in a full-time role,” Monson said in the piece.

Turning his attention to Houston, Monson admits that the defender may have broken out already, but things could get even better for the pass rusher next season if he is able to back up what he was already able to do on the field once again.

“It feels easy to say Houston already broke out as a rookie after ending the season with eight sacks, but those sacks came on just 140 snaps of play and 92 rushes. Obviously, that rate of production is unlikely to continue on a much greater workload, but it does create real excitement for what he can achieve across more snaps. He finished with 17 total pressures on those 92 rushes, itself an outstanding pressure rate, and the Lions have an opening for a secondary threat opposite Aidan Hutchinson,” Monson wrote.

For the Lions, seeing both these players on the list is significant. The team already has a deep class from 2021 and 2022, and if both of these guys break out, the sky could be the limit for the future for the Lions.

The team has needed young talent for a while, and finally, it seems they have an infusion. Fans should keep their eyes fixated on both of these players next year for many different reasons.

Williams’ Strong Finish Leads to 2022 Hope

Statistically, 2022 was never going to be the biggest season for Williams with all he had to work on health-wise within his rookie season coming off ACL surgery.

Additionally, Williams was trying to work on chemistry with Jared Goff on the fly during crunch time of the NFL schedule. None of that was easy, which led to his up and down production during the last month of games that he played.

Williams put up a total of 81 yards from scrimmage on the season with one touchdown. He had an electric debut against Minnesota in which he scored on a 41 yard pass on first down in the first quarter that showed his potential.

Here’s a look at the play, which was a beautiful route and the type of score that Williams turned in plenty of times in his college career:

Williams managed to find a seam down the middle of the field and managed to outrun everybody on the play, showing what he was capable of. Later in the season against Chicago, Williams was unleashed on a 40 yard reverse run for the team.

Though he didn’t score on the play thanks to a flag, Williams showed the goods in Week 18 against Green Bay as well. He caught a deep pass on third-and-one and nearly took it for an electrifying touchdown to break open a 9-3 game early in the second quarter.

Those highlights show a player who could be primed for a major sophomore season given the explosion he brings to the table. Already, some folks see Williams as an easy breakout player next year thanks to those elements.

Houston’s Late Rookie Surge Opened Eyes

In terms of the other potential star in the making, Houston did make a case for himself with an eye-opening run of games down the stretch which saw him as a fixture in the opposition’s backfield.

The major season for Houston started after being called up to the team off the practice squad prior to the Thanksgiving Day game against the Buffalo Bills.

That day, Houston announced his presence to the league with two sacks. While it felt as if it was a bit of a flash in the pan, the rookie rusher would go on to prove why that wasn’t the case at all. He would post 10 tackles and six sacks over the next six games to be thought of as one of the most impressive rookies in the 2022 class.

In total, Houston would finish with eight sacks, and showed that he could be a big part of the team’s future on defense. It’s more than possible he can be a foundational piece moving forward if this is the case.

Both Williams and Houston have the look of fantastic talents, and that’s something most analysts have already opened their eyes to ahead of next year.

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