4 underrated Detroit Lions players who could make a massive impact next season

As the Detroit Lions look to take the final step to a Super Bowl next season, these underrated players could make a big impact.

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3. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

After being acquired from the Cleveland Browns at last year's trade deadline, Peoples-Jones did not make an impact (five catches in eight regular season games). But as a sign of what they think of him, the Lions re-signed the Michigan product with a view of him as a "rising player."

At the NFL meetings this week, Dan Campbell talked about the obvious benefit Peoples-Jones will have with a full offseason to learn the Lions' offense.

"He’ll have a better understanding of what we’re doing (when) we go into camp,” Campbell said. “And so I think what it does it just gives us somebody that we know can play the position. He’s a bigger-body guy, too, so he’s a little different than anybody we’ve got.”

With Josh Reynolds now officially gone in free agency, opportunity is knocking loudly for Peoples-Jones. He has had one season of notable production in four NFL seasons (61 catches for 839 yards with the Browns in 2022). But it's also fair to say the quarterback play he's had has not been stellar. Jared Goff is the best quarterback he has played with, and of course to this point he has barely played with the Lions' signal caller.

If the Lions don't use an early draft pick on a wide receiver, or sign a veteran to replace Reynolds, the runway for Peoples-Jones to emerge next season will be fully cleared. Even if his role is smaller that it looks like it could be right now, there should be room for Peoples-Jones to make some impactful plays next season.

2. DT Alim McNeill

McNeill worked hard to get in better shape last offseason, clearly eyeing a third-year breakout. It indeed paid off with a breakout 2023 campaign, with five sacks and 34 quarterback pressures (according to Pro Football Focus). His season would have been even better if he hadn't missed four games with a knee injury. In an intangible sense, a young defensive linemate clearly noticed how the work he did last offseason paid off with performance.

McNeill was PFF's seventh-highest graded interior defensive lineman last season (86.8), as the site named him their most improved player and the "secret superstar" for the Lions in 2023.

McNeill is largely an unknown, in a national sense. If he takes another step next season, which is definitely possible (if not likely), that will change quickly and perhaps pay off in his first career Pro Bowl selection. With DJ Reader added next to him in free agency, McNeill's job stands to be a lot easier in 2024.