In Case of Expansion: Lions Players Worth Protecting
With the NHL’s expansion draft happening today, it got me wondering who the Lions would protect in such a scenario. For the sake of argument, we will say that each team can protect 12 players, with first and second-year players exempt from selection.
First, Matthew Stafford. I’ve written tons of love for Stafford, and he’s really coming into his own under Jim Bob Cooter. The future is bright for this young man, as he is just now hitting the prime for quarterbacks. He looks ready to force himself into the NFL MVP conversation perennially.
Golden Tate gets protection as one of Stafford’s favorite targets. Tate has caught more than 90 passes in three seasons with Detroit, and has eclipsed 1,000 yards twice. Being the most elusive pass catcher in the NFL in recent memory certainly helps him surpass those marks.
I think it’s fair to put the two running backs together. Next, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are protected on the offensive side of the ball. Both are dual threat runners, with Riddick being a bit more of a pass catcher. Either way, the Lions backfield will likely be lethal with both healthy for an entire season. It only makes sense to protect them both.
Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang from the offensive line are up next. Both players are big money, free agent signings from this past summer, so I don’t have much to say about them in a Lions uniform. What I will say, though, is that they are among the best at their respective positions, so it would be stupid to not protect them.
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Defensively, things get a bit more complicated if we base this off last year’s performance. Without a shadow of a doubt, a protection nod goes to Darius Slay. One of the best young corners in the league, Slay has made huge strides in his play over the last two years. Coming up with big plays and shadowing team’s best receivers from time to time certainly helps him a lot here.
Next up is Glover Quin. Playing all of Detroit’s defensive snaps last season, Quin is the definition of an NFL Iron Man. He is the leader of the Lions secondary, as well as the entire defense. Quin gets the nod because he’s still among the league’s best, and he will help in the development of Miles Killebrew.
Ziggy Ansah is on the list because of his past, not so much from this past season. Just one year removed from a 14.5 sack season, he’s shown potential to notch double digit sacks. The Lions front office hopes he can return to form after struggling through injuries for most of last season.
Tahir Whitehead is the last to get the nod on the defensive side of the ball. Not because of play, but because he’s one of the best tacklers in the league. Don’t get me wrong, the man stinks in pass coverage, but moving out of the MIKE position will help him play to his strength. Tackling.
The last two players are the special teamers. Matt Prater and Sam Martin are among the best at what they do: kicking a football really freaking hard. By making many game-winning or tying field goals in the fourth quarter, Prater kicked his way into the hearts of Lions fans last season. Sam Martin had the best punt yard net average in NFL history by a punter not named Johnny Hekker. Both get the nod.