Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Jamal Agnew might not see much of the field in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he will not have an impact.
As the Detroit Lions edge nearer and nearer to training camp, their rookies are coming closer to seeing their first NFL action. Cornerback has long been a position of need in Detroit, and Jamal Agnew became the second corner the Lions selected in the draft, behind Teez Tabor. He a smaller player (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) but he has the skill set to be a contributor on special teams.
Agnew is pretty much the exact opposite of Tabor, the Lions’ second round selection, in every way. His small frame make him a candidate for the nickel corner role. Agnew was one of the fastest cornerback prospects in the draft, while Tabor was one of the slowest.
Agnew will most likely not make an impact his rookie season. He will provide depth at corner for the Lions, especially in the nickel role. The San Diego product has a quick first step and is extremely agile. He plays well in close quarters and rarely allows a receiver to beat him at the line of scrimmage. If he makes a good read on a play, he is exceptional at jumping routes.
Agnew can make a great play on the ball against even the most physical of receivers. The Lions defensive backs struggled with injuries last season and if called upon the rookie corner can be a decent depth option.
Where Detroit’s 2017 fifth round selection will see playing time though is as a special teams returner. With the departure of Andre Roberts this offseason, the Lions are without a return man at the moment. Agnew is fast and agile. And since he won’t see much of the field anywhere else, he is an ideal return man.
Agnew’s 5’10” height makes him a pure nickel corner as his stature puts him at a disadvantage. At only 165 lbs, he will get thrown around by bigger receivers and tight ends. He is scrappy and has great hustle, but it may not be enough for him to contribute at the next level.
Agnew is fast enough to keep up with receivers split wide, but he isn’t tall enough or strong enough to properly make plays on the ball. His competition for playing time includes D.J. Hayden, Quandre Diggs and maybe even Nevin Lawson depending how the chips fall this offseason. Agnew is not a lock to make the roster, but he should at least make the team’s practice squad.
Don’t expect to see much of Jamal Agnew in his rookie season. He is joining a crowded group of potential slot corners fighting for playing time. Agnew is undersized for his role, but expect the Detroit Lions to give him a year or two to develop before he gets regular playing time. Where he could makes an impact, though, is as the Lions’ newest punt and kick returner.