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TWENTYMAN: Top rookies Lions will face in 2024

Seattle cornerback Devon Witherspoon and Atlanta running back Bijan Robinson made an immediate impact for the Seahawks and Falcons in 2023, including games against the Lions as rookies last season. Witherspoon was a Pro Bowler and Robinson was second to only the Rams' Puka Nacua (1,575) with 1,463 scrimmage yards among rookies.

There were a number of rookies who made a significant impact for their teams a season ago. Who will emerge as the top rookies in the NFL this year? Quarterback C.J. Stroud and defensive lineman Will Anderson Jr. won Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors last season for Houston. Detroit will face both second-year players this season.

Here's a look at some of the top rookies the Lions will face in 2024:

1. Bears QB Caleb Williams

Drafted: No. 1 overall

Williams bio: A finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (nation's top QB). Ranked top 10 in FBS with a passing efficiency rating of 170.1. Threw for 3,633 yards and 30 touchdowns and led USC with 11 rushing touchdowns. Won the Heisman Trophy in 2022.

How it affects Lions: Will Williams struggle like most rookie quarterbacks do in their first season in the league, or will he have instant success like Stroud did last year? The answer to that will have a huge impact on the Chicago Bears' 2024 season. The Lions struggled at times last season defending mobile quarterbacks and Williams rushed for 27 touchdowns over three college seasons.

When Lions face him: Week 13, Nov. 28 at home, 12:30 p.m. (Thanksgiving) & Week 16, Dec. 22 at Chicago, 1 p.m.

View photos of Lions fourth-round pick Sione Vaki from the 2024 offseason.

2. Cardinals WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

Drafted: No. 4 overall

Harrison bio: Won the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football and was the Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year. Led the Buckeyes with 67 receptions for 1,211 yards and tied for third in the FBS with 14 receiving touchdowns. First player in Ohio State history to have two 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

How it affects Lions: The Lions struggled containing the pass last season and allowed some huge receiving performances down the stretch and into the playoffs. Detroit worked hard to revamp their secondary this offseason to be better against the pass. Harrison will be an early test.

When Lions face him: Week 3, Sept. 22 at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.

3. Bears WR Rome Odunze

Drafted: No. 9 overall

Odunze bio: Finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Led the FBS with a school-record 1,640 receiving yards (17.8 ypr), tied for sixth with 92 receptions and had 13 receiving touchdowns. He is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds and ran the 40 in 4.45 seconds at the Combine.

How it affects Lions: Odunze was the second first-round pick by the Bears as they made significant investments to improve one of the league's worst passing offenses the last couple years. Odunze joins Keenan Allen and D.J. Moore to form arguably one of the best receiving trios in the NFL on paper entering 2024. It will be another good test for Detroit's revamped secondary.

When Lions face him: Week 13, Nov. 28 at home, 12:30 p.m. (Thanksgiving) & Week 16, Dec. 22 at Chicago, 1 p.m.

4. Vikings QB J.J. McCarthy

Drafted: No. 10 overall

McCarthy bio: Big Ten Quarterback of the Year. Led Michigan to a National Title. Finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Ranked sixth in the FBS with a school-record 72.3 completion percentage. Threw for 2,991 yards with 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. Set school record by completing 67.6 percent of his career passes and also had the lowest career INT percentage (1.54).

How it affects Lions: The Lions face Minnesota for the first time Week 7 in Minneapolis. The question is whether they'll be seeing McCarthy for the first time or veteran Sam Darnold, who enters training camp as the starter. Will the Vikings be forced to play McCarthy in 2024 or will he have a chance to sit behind Darnold and learn?

When Lions face him: Week 7, Oct. 20 at Minnesota, 1 p.m. & Week 18, TBD at home, TBD

5. Colts EDGE Laiatu Latu

Drafted: No. 15 overall

Latu bio: Won the Lombardi Award (nation's top OL/DL) and Ted Hendricks Award (nation's top DE). Was the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year after leading the FBS with 21.5 tackles for loss and tied for fourth with 13.0 sacks.

How it affects Lions: Latu was the first defensive player taken in this year's NFL Draft and most analysts believed he was the best pure rusher in the class. The Lions have one of the best overall offensive lines and tackle duo in the NFL in Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker. They've handled elite edge rushers pretty well the past couple seasons and Latu will surely have his hands full against those two in this matchup.

When Lions face him: Week 12, Nov. 24 at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

6. Seahawks DT Byron Murphy

Drafted: No. 16 overall

Murphy bio: Big 12 Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year. Started all 14 games and finished the year with 29 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. Scored two touchdowns on offense, one rushing and one receiving.

How it affects Lions: Murphy joins a formidable Seahawks defensive front alongside Leonard Williams, Jarran Reed, Dre'Mont Jones and others which should allow Murphy to see a lot of one-on-one matchups. He really landed in a terrific spot to succeed right away. This will be another good test for Detroit's talented offensive line right before the bye.

When Lions face him: Week 4, Sept. 30 at home (MNF), 8:15 p.m.

7. Vikings EDGE Dallas Turner

Drafted: No. 17 overall

Turner bio: SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Led Alabama with 14.5 tackles for loss. Tied for eighth in FBS with 10.0 sacks. Also forced two fumbles. Finished his three seasons at Alabama with 22.5 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss.

How it affects Lions: It's a new-look defense in Minnesota. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores has an aggressive scheme, and Turner will try and fill the void left by Danielle Hunter leaving in free agency. Turner has the speed and versatility to move all over and play a number of different spots in the defense.

When Lions face him: Week 7, Oct. 20 at Minnesota, 1 p.m. & Week 18, TBD at home, TBD

View photos of Detroit Lions sixth-round pick Mekhi Wingo from the 2024 offseason.

8. Rams EDGE Jared Verse

Drafted: No. 19 overall

Verse bio: Transferred to Florida State after starting his college career at Albany. Recorded 16.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks in his first season with the Seminoles in 2022 and followed that up with another 9.0 sacks this past season to go along with 14.5 tackles for loss.

How it affects Lions: Verse and fellow rookie Braden Fiske (No. 39 overall) are expected to start right away on the Rams' revamped defensive line. The first test for both rookies will be a matchup with Detroit's elite offensive line. The one thing both Verse and Fiske will have going for them in this Week 1 matchup is Detroit won't have much film to study on either player and that can sometimes influence early matchups.

When Lions face him: Week 1, Sept. 8 at home (SNF), 8:20 p.m.

9. Jaguars WR Brian Thomas Jr.

Drafted: No. 23 overall

Thomas bio: Led the FBS with 17 receiving touchdowns in 2023. Played in all 13 games and had 68 receptions for 1,177 yards. Was one of the fastest receivers at the Combine running the 40 in 4.33 seconds at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds.

How it affects Lions: Detroit's secondary will have nine games under their belt to gel before Jacksonville comes into Ford Field Week 11. They'll hopefully be playing at peak level as Thomas, fellow receivers Gabe Davis and Christian Kirk, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence come to town with an explosive passing game. Thomas will challenge the Lions vertically, and we'll see just how improved Detroit's defense is in that department in this matchup.

When Lions face him: Week 11, Nov. 17 at home, 1 p.m.

10. Packers OL Jordan Morgan

Drafted: No. 25 overall

Morgan bio: First-Team All-Pac 12 Conference. Started 12 games at left tackle allowing two sacks and one quarterback hit in 477 pass block reps.

How it affects Lions: The Packers left the NFL Draft in Detroit thinking they got a player in Morgan who could play four different positions (LT, RT, LG, RG) for them. At rookie minicamp he played left tackle and he got reps at left tackle, right tackle and left guard in OTAs. Training camp will ultimately decide who the best five in Green Bay are and where Morgan will settle in initially. If that's at tackle, Detroit's Aidan Hutchinson, Marcus Davenport and the Lions' other edge defenders will be licking their chops at the chance to face off against a rookie tackle. If it's guard, Alim McNeill and DJ Reader will be a difficult matchup for Morgan.

When Lions face him: Week 9, Nov. 3 at Green Bay, 4:25 p.m. & Week 14, Dec. 5 (TNF), 8:15 p.m.