3 foundational players the Detroit Lions can build on

Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Detroit Lions forced a regime change this offseason. With a new general manager and a new head coach at the ready, the Lions are heading into an exciting new direction.

But the Lions aren’t calling it a rebuild. Instead, it’s a retooling. And the fact is the Lions have a solid core of young, but very talented players to build the future upon.

Here are our top three foundational players that we believe will lead the Motor City into their next era.

T.J. Hockenson, TE

Lions fans raised an eyebrow or two when Detroit made yet another tight end their first round selection. This time Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson with the eighth overall selection in 2019.

But after a mostly-down rookie season, Hockenson matured into a Pro Bowler this past year. The 23-year old was targeted a whopping 101 times and became the favorite target of quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Hockenson racked up 67 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns in 2020. And entering his third season, he figures to be the top target for incoming quarterback Jared Goff and for any young passers the Lions may decide to bring to Motown soon.

Frank Ragnow, C

Along with starting left tackle Taylor Decker and impressive rookie guard Jonah Jackson, center Frank Ragnow represents one of the top up-and-coming offensive lines in the NFL.

Their presence should also make the Motor City an ideal landing spot for any quarterback looking for high investments made along the offensive line.

Ragnow was the Lions’ first-round selection in 2018. And after spending his rookie season at guard, found his stride at center in year two.

Elected to his first Pro Bowl in 2020 as well as being a second team All-Pro selection, Ragnow has established himself as an elite center in the league and the heart of the offensive line in Detroit.

Jeffery Okudah, CB

It’s easy to be discouraged following cornerback Jeffery Okudah’s terrible rookie season. After all, he was selected third overall in the 2020 draft and was touted to be a generational talent who should have an immediate impact.

Instead, Okudah looked like most rookie cornerbacks in their first season in the NFL, struggling to learn the scheme and catch up to the speed on the next level.

Yet, Okudah also suffered from the lack of a true offseason program, no preseason games, and a complicated defense scheme that even hardened veterans struggled to figure out.

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There’s little doubt that Okudah has deep reservoirs of potential and talent ready to be tapped into. Perhaps the new coaching staff in Detroit will be able to unlock it and make the recent first-rounder a defender worth building around for years to come.