3. Cliff Avril
Avril will continue to improve and live up to the hype he generated last season. He’ll play with a chip on his shoulder after receiving the franchise tag, but not in the same way some of the other guys do. I think he’ll play like to prove that he’s worth a long-term contract, rather than playing angry to show the organization made a mistake. He’s said he wants to stay in Detroit and is overall a pretty mature guy, so he’ll be focused on improving his own game in order to help the Lions improve on their first round exit in the playoffs last season. So, with his mind right and an elevated game, Avril is primed to be considered a premiere defensive lineman once the season’s wrapped up. After that, or hopefully during the year, a big payday is coming his way, and I really hope the Lions figure out a way to keep him wearing Honolulu Blue.
2. Calvin Johnson
He’s the best wide receiver in the game. You could make the argument that he is the best play-maker in the league, too. As far as athletic ability goes he’s in the freakishly-elite class there as well, amongst guys like Adrian Peterson, Mike Vick, Cam Newton, Maurice Jones-Drew. CJ has led us to victories, make incredible catches, bailed us out of tough games and overall made the game much easier for the rest of the offense. When he’s on the field, there’s eleven sets of eyes that have to know his whereabouts or they’re going to get torched. He’s the definition of a game-changer. The more I think about it, it’s really cool to have someone on your team who is often referred to as “the best at his position.” Other than Barry, that’s never happened for the Lions, at least not in my lifetime.
1. Matthew Stafford
A bit anticlimactic, I know. Megatron is on the Madden cover, earned an incredible new contract , scored 16 touchdowns last season and averaged 105 yards per game. But he’s not the most valuable player on the Lions’ roster, or even the offense. It’s difficult to get around the fact that without an excellent quarterback, you won’t be successful (save for the few exceptions like Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, etc.), and you can have all the talent in the world lining up outside the tackles, but they’re worthless if the quarterbsack can’t get them the ball.Stafford proved last year that, when healthy, he’s the real deal and was worth the first overall pick in 2009. I don’t need to list his incredible statistics (all the while being sacked 36 times) from last year, you all saw what he’s capable of.
Just missed: Ndamukong Suh, Nate Burleson, DeAndre Levy.