Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes has done a nice job reshaping the Lions roster with a nice mix of young and veteran talent. The Lions are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, with veteran defensive lineman Michael Brockers the only player currently on the roster 31 years of age or older.
Detroit had 17 rookies play in games last season – 1,056 offensive plays, 1,092 defensive plays and 432 special teams plays. They've got a good core of players under 25 years old looking to make a huge impact in 2022.
Here is my list of five players under 25 Lions fans should be excited about:
1. Running back D’Andre Swift, 23 years old
Swift has a chance to have a monster third season playing behind arguably one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and with some of the additions the Lions made at the wide receiver position that opposing defenses will have to turn their attention to. Swift ranks fourth in scrimmage yards (1,947) in franchise history through a player's first 26 career games and ranks first in franchise history in receptions (108) by a player before turning 23. He was one of only four players last season to record 150 rushes and 60 receptions.
In only 13 games last season, Swift became the first Lions running back to surpass 1,000 scrimmage yards in a season since Joique Bell in 2014. Since entering the NFL in 2020, he is one of five NFL players to total 1,000 rushing yards and 100 receptions in that span. Swift has at least two receptions in 23 straight games and was leading all running backs in receptions before his shoulder injury suffered on Thanksgiving forced him to miss a month. He has a chance to be a big part of this offense, so don't be surprised if he surpasses 1,500 scrimmage yards this season.
View photos of running back D'Andre Swift from the 2022 Detroit Lions offseason training program.
2. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, 22 years old
St. Brown had the most receptions (90) and receiving yards (912) by a rookie in franchise history last season. His 90 receptions ranked second among all rookies. Asked about St. Brown this offseason, Lions wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said he expects St. Brown to be even better in 2022. St. Brown is the only rookie in NFL history to record at least eight catches in six straight contests. He also became the first Lions rookie in franchise history to produce a touchdown reception in four straight games. He played 781 offensive snaps in 2021, the fourth most by any offensive player not selected within the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
In the month of December, St. Brown totaled 35 receptions for 340 yards (9.7 avg.) and three touchdowns. His dominant performance earned him NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month honors, becoming only the fifth Lions rookie to win the award. He's quickly become a security blanket player for quarterback Jared Goff, and he's expected to have a big second season in Detroit.
3. Offensive tackle Penei Sewell, 21 years old
Sewell became the youngest player in NFL history to start a game at left tackle (20 years and 202 days) as a rookie last season. He started his first eight career games at left tackle before moving over to play right tackle the rest of the season. He only allowed five sacks on the season and only two over his final 12 games. He was named to the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie Team, earning an 81.9 grade by PFF at right tackle, ranking sixth best at his position. Don't be surprised if he gets some consideration for the Pro Bowl in his second season.
4. Defensive lineman Alim McNeill, 22 years old
McNeill had a terrific rookie season, making Pro Football Focus' All-Rookie team as the second highest graded rookie interior defender with a 60.3 overall grade. He also earned the second highest PFF run defense grade of any rookie interior defender to play at least 100 run defense snaps. McNeill had 2.0 sacks on the season alongside 39 total tackles and a pass defense. Part of the reason why the Lions are transitioning to more of an attacking 4-3 scheme upfront this year is because they think McNeill's strength and athleticism will allow him to play more in the opponent backfield.
View photos of nose tackle Alim McNeill from the 2022 Detroit Lions offseason training program.
5. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, 21 years old
There's obviously a lot of expectations for Hutchinson in 2022 after the Lions made him the No. 2 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. The Heisman Trophy runner-up this past year set the University of Michigan single-season sack record with 14.0. He also notched 16.5 tackles for loss. The Lions plan to utilize him up and down their defensive line and expect him to have a lot of impact wherever he lines up. He has a relentless motor, which contributed to his 62 total tackles for the Wolverines, helping lead them to the college football playoff last year. The Lions' 30 sacks last year were the third fewest in the NFL. Hutchinson was brought in to help improve that number.