LIONS INSIDER

2017 Position Breakdown: Wide receivers

Posted Jan 12, 2018

Tim Twentyman provides the good, the bad, the MVP and more on the wide receivers' 2017 performance.

The good: There is a lot for Lions fans to be happy about when it comes to the wide receiver position in Detroit.

Marvin Jones Jr. has come into his own as a Lion, and has quickly become one of the best deep threats in the game. Jones finished the year with 61 catches for 1,101 yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns.

Jones’ receiving totals included a career single-season high 15 catches of 25-plus yards, which tied for the third-most in the NFL. His average of 18.0 yards per catch ranked second in the league.

His 894 yards at the point of the catch tied with Keenan Allen, and only trailed DeAndre Hopkins (1,081), Antonio Brown (1,062) and Julio Jones (940).

Then there’s Golden Tate, who recorded his third straight season of at least 90 catches. He joined Jones in the 1,000-yard club, recording 1,003 on the year. He and Jones became the first Lions teammates since 2014, and the only the seventh in franchise history, to each record 1,000-yards receiving in the same season.

Tate led all NFL receivers with 639 yards after the catch. He also chipped in five touchdowns.

Rookie Kenny Golladay was a playmaker for this team, especially down the field. Had he not missed five games with a hamstring injury early on, who knows what his numbers would have looked like at the end of the year. He still finished with 28 catches for 477 yards (17.0) and three scores in 11 games. It’s good to see the Lions hit on a mid-round receiver after some recent misses.

Veteran TJ Jones proved to be a reliable playmaker as a third/fourth receiver. He can play all three receiver spots, and had 30 catches in 14 games.

Detroit’s 3.4 drop percentage on catchable passes was the second best mark in the NFL this season to New Orleans’ 3.0 percent.

The Lions have a nice mix of veteran and young talent at the position, and have all three levels of the field covered by playmakers. Lions fans should feel good about where the team stands at receiver heading into the offseason.

The bad: Health was a little bit of a factor at the position. Golladay missed five games in the middle of the season due to a hamstring injury. That might have stunted his development a little bit. It took some time after his return for him to get back into the flow.

The team lost TJ Jones to a shoulder injury Week 14. Hopefully that doesn’t impact his offseason too much.

Key stat: Golden Tate’s 6.7 yards after the catch average per reception is the best in NFL history among receivers since the statistic was tracked beginning in 1992.

Free agents: TJ Jones (restricted)

TJ Jones is one of the players who can be very valuable on a 53-man roster. Not only is he a reliable receiver who can play every receiver spot, but he can also return kicks and play on coverage teams on special teams.

He’s a terrific route runner, and the weight and strength he added this offseason really helped him in terms of being able to make tough catches.

A former sixth-round pick, a restricted tender offer could come his way this offseason.

Draft: This is an average receiver class in terms of top-end talent and overall depth, according to most estimates.

Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is considered by most to be the best talent available, followed closely by SMU’s Courtland Sutton.

Also look out for Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), D.J. Clark (LSU) and James Washington (Oklahoma State).

MVP: The deep ball was back in Motown in a big way in 2017, and Marvin Jones is a big reason why. His ability to separate from defenders down the field and track the football had been missing in this offense since Calvin Johnson retired.

Jones has terrific body control, and can high-point a football with the best of them. He was consistently among the top receivers in the NFL this season in yards, average yards per catch, 25-plus-yard catches and touchdowns.

He’s turned into a terrific free agent signing by GM Bob Quinn.

Most improved: TJ Jones made it his mission this offseason to add strength and muscle to his frame, and it certainly paid off. The added strength allowed him to make some of those contested catches and tough receptions in a crowd that he didn't make in previous years.

Jones turned into a nice third option when Golladay was injured. Detroit's passing game didn’t skip a beat when Golladay went down, and that’s a credit to Jones’ ability to step in and play wherever the Lions needed him.

He finished with 30 catches for 399 yards (13.3 average) and a touchdown. He also returned six punts for an average of 7.8 yards and a long of 17 yards.

Quotable: “I’m going to be better at the yards after the catch,” Marvin Jones said after the season about what he plans to work on this offseason. “I think it’s something that when I was younger and early on was something I was great at that kind of got lost in the years.

“I want to be able to take something to the house on a consistent basis. I just want to be a complete receiver in that manner. If I do that, I mean, the game is over.”