9. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler
It was difficult picking between the two, so I’ll just say both tight ends because of how frequently Matt Stafford looks their way. Pettigrew is the younger, first round draft pick with more upside and big-play ability. He also holds the edge over Scheffler in blocking schemes, but Scheffler has his own way of being Johnny On The Spot. Think about it: how many times in the last couple seasons has Scheffler, out of thin air, come up with a huge touchdown or 35 yard completion? Defenses forget that he is still a factor and let him slip up the seam from time to time. For these reasons, the tight end position, rather than one player, will prove to be quite important to the success of the Lions in 2012, more so, I would say, than the majority of other NFL teams.
8. Jason Hanson
In terms of importance to his team, Jason Hanson is one of two kickers I would place in their top ten. Sebastian Janikowski is other, largely because there aren’t enough talented guys on the Raiders, but also because, well, SeaBass can drill it. Hanson’s not on the list because the Lions don’t have talent. The Lions really aren’t even lacking leadership, though Hanson provides that just by showing up day after day. Number 4 is so important to the success of Detroit because he is the Nick Lidstrom of the Lions. The Captain. The guy who was there for all the ups and downs; he’s the guys Lions fans can most easily relate to. He’s seen as a staple to the city and someone we can always count on. Oh yeah, and at age 42 (later in June), he still kicks like a champ.
7. Jeff Backus
This is just a stubborn pick by me. I have to say right now, I’m a big Jeff Backus fan, and I get a little upset when I see him getting a lot of negative attention…which happens a lot. And you know what, he probably deserves it most of the time. Despite this, there’s something about the way he carries himself and the way he acts. Can you think of any instance, outside of bad blocking or a penalty, that you thought to yourself, “Man, I wish Backus weren’t on our team.” I can’t, and neither can his teammates. The difficulty is that he does give up sacks. Probably in the top ten or so over the past few years for left tackles. I’ll give up a sack every third game for his leadership, however. And good news! If everything works out just like I planned it, Backus will be moved to the interior for 2012! The drafting of Riley Reiff spelled out his eventual departure from the tackle spot- hopefully that will come into fruition this offseason. I’m so sorry if you read why I like Jeff Backus.