The biggest narrative to follow as the Detroit Lions kick off training camp later next month will be the competition at wide receiver. Gone are names like Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, and Marvin Jones Jr. as the new regime in Detroit has decided to rely on relative unknowns to populate their receiver corps.
Several veteran free-agent receivers were signed to one-year deals this offseason to help offset the numerous losses at the position. New arrivals like Tyrell Williams, Kalif Raymond, Breshad Perriman, Chad Hansen, and Damion Ratley are all hoping their newest NFL home in Detroit becomes the start of Pro Bowl NFL careers.
And with a depth chart that only featured names like Quintez Cephus, Tom Kennedy, Victor Bolden, and Geronimo Allison before their arrived, there’s ample opportunity for anyone to shine this summer and earn a significant role within the Lions’ new offense. Especially considering there’s a new quarterback under center in Jared Goff who hasn’t designated his favorite targets on his new team yet.
One NFL insider is putting his chips on a rookie to emerge as the Lions’ top receiving threat in 2021. And that’s the team’s fourth-round selection, USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. Here’s what Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports wrote about St. Brown after ranking him third in his top five rookie receivers based on predicting their production in their first season.
"“There were plenty of receivers in the 2021 class more explosive than St. Brown. Not many ran more routes — and ran them better — than the USC product … St. Brown reminded me a lot of Robert Woods as a prospect. And who was a favorite target of new Lions quarterback Jared Goff during his time with the Rams? That’s right! Robert Woods!”"
Robert Woods is a former second-round selection by the Buffalo Bills in 2013 who joined the Los Angeles Rams a year after the team drafted Goff number one overall in 2016. Over the past three seasons, Woods has led the Rams in targets as Jared’s favorite receiver.
During that span, Goff targeted Woods an average of 132 times per season since 2018. Last year, with Jared having a down year, the veteran wideout was still able to record impressive numbers. Woods caught 90 receptions off his 129 targets for 936 yards and six touchdowns.
Coming out of college, NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein believed St. Brown possessed the talent to go as high as the second round in the 2021 NFL Draft. Zierlein highlighted his release techniques and route running as his best qualities. And ones that Goff might lean towards as a reliable target … just like Woods.
As a junior this past year, St. Brown posted 41 receptions for 478 yards and seven scores in a mere six games for the Trojans. Against Washington State, he became just the second player in NCAA history to bring in four touchdown passes in a single quarter.
The 21-year old Amon-Ra St. Brown possesses a similar build and shares some of the attributes that Robert Woods has displayed during his time in Los Angeles. If the rookie can build a strong connection with Jared Goff this summer, perhaps he can put up similar numbers and become his quarterback’s new favorite target in 2021.