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TWENTYMAN: Top rookies Lions will face in 2021

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow and Washington edge rusher Chase Young made immediate impacts for their teams in 2020 as the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks, respectively, in the 2020 NFL Draft, with Young winning the AP Rookie of the Year award.

There were a lot of rookies who made significant impacts for their teams a season ago. Who will emerge as the top rookies in the NFL this year? Could the Lions square off against them at some point in 2021?

Here's a look at some of the top rookies the Lions will face in 2021:

1. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta

Drafted: No. 4 overall

Pitts bio: Pitts racked up 770 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games this past season, earning the highest grade (96.2) Pro Football Focus has ever given to a pass catcher. Pitts is built like a tight end (6-6, 245) but runs like a receiver. He has an amazing 83 3/8-inch wing span and ran the 40 in 4.44 seconds at Florida's pro day.

How it affects Lions: Pitts is expected to be a matchup nightmare. This will be a good test for the back seven of Detroit's defense under Aaron Glenn's new scheme.

When Lions face him: Week 16, Dec. 26 at Atlanta, 1 p.m.

2. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati

Drafted: No. 5 overall

Chase bio: Chase put up 1,780 yards and 20 scores with a 21.2-yard average per reception as Burrow's favorite target in the Tigers' run to a national title in 2019. Eight of those touchdown catches went for 50-plus yards. Burrow and Chase reunite this season in Cincinnati.

How it affects Lions: Detroit's revamped secondary will get a good midseason test from Burrow, Chase and the rest of the Bengals' receiving weapons. Could Chase have the same impact as a rookie as former LSU teammate and current Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson had last year when he caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards in 2020?

When Lions face him: Week 6, Oct. 17, vs. Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

3. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver

Drafted: No. 9 overall

Surtain bio: Recorded 23 passes defended, three interceptions and three forced fumbles over the last two seasons and allowed only four touchdowns and a 46.1 completion percentage on throws into his coverage in 41 career games. He was the top rated college cornerback by Pro Football Focus last season and was also voted a first-team All-American by the Associated Press and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2020.

How it affects Lions: One lingering question still surrounding the Lions heading into the season is just how good their receiving corps can be. There isn't a true No. 1 receiver in Detroit, but they have a nice mix of veteran experience and young talent they hope can become a solid and consistent unit overall.

When Lions face him: Week 14, Dec. 12, at Denver, 4:05 p.m.

4. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia

Drafted: No. 10 overall

Smith bio: Last year's Heisman Trophy winner finished the season with 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns for the national champion Crimson Tide. Smith also holds the SEC and Alabama career records for receiving touchdowns (46) and receiving yards (3,965).

How it affects Lions: The Lions will get a look this season at three of the top four pass catchers taken in this year's draft, which will be a good test for Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, Tracy Walker and the rest of Detroit's secondary.

When Lions face him: Week 8, Oct. 31, vs. Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

5. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago

Drafted: No. 11 overall

Fields bio: Fields recorded the fastest 40 time for a quarterback (4.44 seconds) at his pro day since former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III ran a 4.41 coming out of Baylor in 2012. Fields threw for 5,373 yards with 63 touchdowns and just nine interceptions over the last two seasons. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019 after throwing for 3,273 yards with 41 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

How it affects Lions: The Bears drafted Fields to be their quarterback of the future, but how quickly will he supplant veteran starter Andy Dalton in Chicago? Could the Lions face him as early as their Week 4 matchup? Is Thanksgiving a more realistic timeline? Whenever the Lions see him for the first time, they better be ready for a multidimensional weapon at the quarterback position.

When Lions face him: Week 4, Oct. 3, at Chicago, 1 p.m. & Week 12, Nov. 25, vs. Chicago 12:30 p.m.

6. Zaven Collins, LB, Arizona

Drafted: No. 16 overall

Collins bio: Collins was named the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner, the Chuck Bednarik winner and the Lombardi Award winner last season. He totaled 53 tackles (11.5 for loss) with four sacks, four interceptions, two pass breakups and a forced fumble with one fumble recovery.

How it affects Lions: Collins is a versatile defender that should mesh nicely with the Cardinals' top 10 defense from a year ago. Collins should be a nice matchup weapon for Arizona against talented tight ends and running backs like Detroit's T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift.

When Lions face him: Week 15, Dec. 19, vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

7. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Minnesota

Drafted: No. 23 overall

Darrisaw bio: Three-year player, full-time starter as a 2017 freshman. Started 26 games at right tackle in 2017-18 and 12 at left tackle in 2019. Opted out in 2020.

How it affects Lions: The Lions made significant improvements along their defensive line this offseason, especially at defensive tackle, but Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara and the rest of the Detroit's rushers on the edge will no-doubt be looking forward toward a matchup against a rookie at tackle.

When Lions face him: Week 5, Oct. 10, at Minnesota, 1 p.m. & Week 13, Dec. 5, vs. Minnesota, 1 p.m.

8. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh

Drafted: No. 24 overall

Harris bio: Alabama's all-time leader for total touchdowns in a career with 57 (46 rushing, 11 receiving). Harris totaled 3,843 career rushing yards to rank atop the Alabama all-time list and amassed 4,624 all-purpose yards for his career, a total that is second all-time at UA.

How it affects Lions: Pittsburgh wants to control the ball on the ground, play good defense and hit the big play in the passing game off play action with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and that talented receiver corps. The Steelers have been missing a big-play threat in their backfield since Le'Veon Bell left a few years ago. Can Harris provide that for them and make Pittsburgh a top 10 offense again?

When Lions face him: Week 10, Nov. 14, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

9. Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore

Drafted: No. 27 overall

Bateman bio: Made 147 receptions (sixth in school history) for 2,395 yards (sixth) and 19 touchdowns (fifth). Bateman recorded ten 100-yard receiving games in his college career at Minnesota.

How it affects Lions: The Ravens have been missing a true No. 1 receiver to complement quarterback Lamar Jackson in the passing game. The hope in Baltimore is Bateman provides that for them. He's a burner with 4.39 speed in the 40, so expect him to stretch the field and help make the Ravens a little more balanced on offense.

When Lions face him: Week 3, Sept. 26, vs. Baltimore, 1 p.m.

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