ESPN has released its rankings of the top 200 NFL players, and the Lions are well-represented on their list.
Receiver Calvin Johnson is the highest-ranked non-quarterback at No. 4, trailing Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
“Johnson is an outstanding combination of size, strength and athleticism for the position,” ESPN wrote. “His length and strength create mismatches in most NFL secondaries.
“Opposing coordinators have to game-plan for him, and his impact is evident. He is physical with the ball after the catch and as a perimeter blocker. He wins most jump-ball opportunities and shows courage and concentration in traffic.”
Johnson had 96 receptions for 1,681 yards last season and scored 16 touchdowns.
Other Lions making the list: defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (33), quarterback Matthew Stafford (77) and defensive end Cliff Avril (113).
ESPN on Suh:
“Suh is a gifted interior defender for whom offensive coordinators have to account. He has excellent power to push the pocket in the passing game and hold the point as a run defender. He has great initial quickness with agility and balance to penetrate gaps.
“He is an instinctive player who feels pad pressure well. Suh bring a physical presence to the Lions’ defense that can intimidate his opponent, but he can also cost his team with unnecessary penalties.”
ESPN on Stafford:
“Stafford was able to stay healthy and had his most productive season of his short career in 2011. He has good size and athleticism with a powerful arm.
“He has improved his decision-making and was able to push the ball downfield more last season. He is best in the pocket but can improvise effectively to make a play downfield. Stafford is a talented, young signal-caller around whom the Lions can build.”
ESPN on Avril:
“Avril is an excellent athlete with great quickness off the edge. He is undersized but has deceptive strength to hold the point defending the run.
“Avril has expanded his pass-rush package with quick counter moves off his speed rush. He has good range in pursuit and chases down ball carriers from the back side. He has active hands to separate as a pass-rusher and set the edge versus the run. Avril wins with effort, instincts, technique and athleticism and should continue to make progress in future seasons.”
Tags: Calvin Johnson, Cliff Avril, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh
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