Pro Football Focus has labeled Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young this year’s Lions “secret superstar”. I really like the sound of that, almost like a secret agent who is so skilled that he is needed for only the most important assignments, that he possess a skill set that only a handful of men on earth can duplicate.
Nathan Jahnke’s article on Pro Football Focus is a great read on the development of Detroit Lions third year defensive end Willie Young. There was always something about Young that caught my eye. He looks a little slight to play the position, but you can’t measure heart until you put on a helmet. The thing that most stands out to me is he’s a 7TH ROUND DRAFT CHOICE.
"With so many star players, it might surprise you to find the one with the highest overall rating on the Lions’ defensive line in 2011 was Willie Young. Usually, players drafted in the seventh round don’t make much of a name for themselves–and with how little Young gets to play it will be hard for him to–but when he is on the field, you will likely catch him making plays."
Those last two words were the ones that stood out to me, “making plays”. It’s been forever around here that the words seventh-round draft choice was synonymous with anything but tackling dummies. Just a body to abuse until until the games counted. Remember that HUGE sack Willie Young got in the Dallas Cowboy game last year when he steamrolled Number one pick Tyron Smith into Tony Romo for a sack at the closing seconds of the game? Cliff Avril, who is currently locked in contract negotiations, didn’t register even one hurry all day. Young’s game clinching sack, my folks, is what they call “making plays”.
Willie Young is just the first, there will be more seventh-round draft choices in the future that will contribute to the Detroit Lions as long as Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz keep weaving their magic on draft day. Zack Follett was a great pick in the seventh round also, but his career was cut shot by neck injuries. With the rave reviews of the Lions latest seventh-round draft choice, Oklahoma’s Travis Lewis is already running with some of the starters during the OTAs, it will be of no surprise to anyone when Lewis makes his mark on this team.
Young’s future looks bright, according to Jahnke:
"Right now, Young remains the fourth defensive end on the depth chart. Cliff Avril has yet to sign his franchise tender, and the two sides haven’t come close to working out a long-term deal yet. After this year Lawrence Jackson is a free agent, and at Kyle Vanden Bosch’s age and salary, he might not live out the last year of his contract. While Young is stuck at No. 4 for now, it shouldn’t be too much longer before he gets his time to shine. Until then, the Lions should be very happy with the depth they have at the position."
The depth at that position is sick, besides the above guys mentioned, Everette Brown and 4th round draft choice Ronnell Lewis will be fighting tooth and nail just to make the team. But their ace up their sleeve is that seventh-round draft choice that “makes plays”, their “secret superstar”, Willie Young.