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TWENTYMAN: Top rookies Lions will face in 2017

Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and San Diego defensive end Joey Bosa stormed onto the NFL scene last season and won the NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year Awards.

The Lions got a first-hand look at Prescott, who threw three touchdown passes in Dallas' 42-21 win over the Lions Week 16.

Who will emerge as the top two rookies in the NFL this year?

Here's a look at some of the top rookies the Lions will face in 2017:

Myles Garrett, DE (Cleveland Browns)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall

Garrett profile: Garrett had 11.5 sacks as a freshman. He followed that up by becoming a finalist for the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards as the nation's top defender as a sophomore with 19.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Dealing with a knee injury this past season, Garrett was still named first-team All-American and All-SEC with 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks while playing in 11 games with nine starts.

How it affects Lions: It's unclear at this point how much of the regular season, if any, starting left tackle Taylor Decker will miss because of his right shoulder injury. If the injury lingers into the middle of the season, that's obviously not an ideal situation for Detroit facing the likes of the super-athletic Garrett. Detroit allowed 37 sacks last season, though they have revamped that unit.

When Lions face him: Week 10 at Ford Field

Christian McCaffrey, RB (Carolina Panthers)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 8 overall

McCaffrey profile: The son of former NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey was a Heisman Trophy finalist and Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2015 after setting an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards, ranking second in the FBS with 2,019 rushing yards, along with 645 receiving and 1,070 on kickoff returns. The nation's most versatile player rushed for 1,639 yards last season despite dealing with injury.

How it affects Lions: McCaffrey is the type of player defensive coordinators always have to be aware of when they're on the field. McCaffrey is a natural runner, but is also a terrific receiving threat out of the backfield. He's a mismatch piece the Panthers will try to work into space and find favorable one-on-one matchups with.

When Lions face him: Week 5 at Ford Field

John Ross, WR (Cincinnati Bengals)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 9 overall

Ross profile: This rookie has home-run speed, which was on full display at the Combine when he ran a 4.22-second 40-yard dash. Ross had 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns (tied for second in the nation) for Washington last season. He scored 23 touchdowns in 112 total touches in college.  

How it affects Lions: The Lions ranked in the middle of the pack last season (14th) allowing 50 pass plays of 20-plus yards, but they were tied for fifth in allowing just five touchdown passes from 20-plus yards. Ross is the kind of big-play receiver the Lions can't allow to get behind them.

When Lions face him: Week 16 in Cincinnati

Haason Reddick, LB (Arizona Cardinals)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 13 overall

Reddick profile: Reddick finished third in the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss and led Temple with 10.5 sacks last season. He's 6-foot-1, 237 pounds, and runs a 4.52-second 40-yard dash. The Cardinals are going to be able to move him around and unleash him on opponents in a lot of different ways.

How it affects Lions: Reddick has the skillset to rush the passer, play the run and drop into coverage. The Cardinals can use him a lot of different ways, and Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter will have to pay attention to where Reddick is at all times.

When Lions face him: Week 1 at Ford Field

O.J. Howard, TE (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 19 overall

Howard profile: He was essentially un-coverable at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. He's 6-foot-6, 251 pounds, and runs the 40 in 4.51 seconds. He played in an Alabama offense that didn't utilize him as much as it could have. He caught 45 passes for 595 yards and three touchdowns last season.

How it affects Lions: Howard is expected to be a big security blanked for Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. The Lions allowed the fifth-most touchdown passes (9) to the tight end position in the NFL last season.

When Lions face him: Week 14 in Tampa Bay

Dalvin Cook, RB (Minnesota Vikings)

Drafted: Round 2, No. 41 overall

Cook profile: Cook has simply been one of the best running backs in college football the last two seasons. He ranked in the top 10 each of the last two seasons by breaking 1,600 yards (1,691 in 2015 ranked sixth, 1,765 in 2016 ranked fifth) and scoring 19 times apiece.

How it affects Lions: The Lions have been dealing with Adrian Peterson in Minnesota for the last decade. Cook is a different kind of runner than Peterson. His game is based more on speed and allusiveness than it is speed and power, but the Vikings are hoping Cook is just as effective as Peterson was. The Lions ranked 18th in the NFL against the run last year, allowing 106.3 yards per game.

When Lions face him: Week 4 in Minnesota & Week 12 at Ford Field

Takkarist McKinley, DE (Atlanta Falcons)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 26 overall

McKinley profile: He's got a relentless motor and combines good size with speed. He started 12 games as a junior at UCLA where he recorded 7.5 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He stepped it up in his senior year, receiving first-team All-Pac-12 honors with 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and six pass breakups.

How it affects Lions: The Lions host the Falcons Week 3, so it will be interesting to see what Decker's status is early in the regular season. The Falcons have a young, fast defense that was starting to play much better the second half of last season. McKinley should fit right into the mix.

When Lions face him: Week 3 at Ford Field

Marshon Lattimore, CB (New Orleans Saints)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 11 overall

Lattimore profile: He has terrific size (6-0, 193), speed (4.36) and length for the position. The first-team All-Big Ten pick last season had four interceptions and nine pass breakups in his first full year as a starter.

How it affects Lions: The one game the Lions didn't have to come from behind to win in the fourth quarter last year was their contest in New Orleans. In that game, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 30-of-42 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 111.3. Obviously, the Saints are hoping Lattimore can make an immediate impact in their secondary.

When Lions face him: Week 6 in New Orleans

T.J. Watt, OLB (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 30 overall

Watt profile: Watt is the younger brother of Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. A converted tight end, he dealt with injuries his first couple season in Wisconsin. When finally healthy in 2016, Watt won a starting job and garnered second-team AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors with 63 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.

How it affects Lions: The Steelers' defense is very good at utilizing the rush ability of its edge linebackers. They do a good job of disguising their blitzes, and are typically one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the NFL. With Watt, they have a new weapon to unleash on opposing quarterbacks. The Steelers ranked in the top 10 in the NFL last season with 38 sacks.

When Lions face him: Week 8 at Ford Field

Jabrill Peppers, S (Cleveland Browns)

Drafted: Round 1, No. 25 overall

Peppers profile: The ultimate Swiss Army Knife in college, Peppers lined up at safety, corner, linebacker, quarterback, running back and receiver. Last fall, he was the conference Linebacker of the Year and first-team honoree with 72 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception. He was also one of college football's best kickoff and punt return men.

How it affects Lions: It's unclear how much Peppers will play on defense right away, but he's expected to have an immediate impact as a return man. The Lions allowed only 210 yards on punt returns and 494 yards on kickoff returns last season. Those were the lowest combined totals for the team since at least 1941. Detroit hasn't allowed a kickoff or punt return touchdown in either of the last two seasons.

When Lions face him: Week 11 at Ford Field

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