Surprising Detroit Lions wide receiver graded out among best at one particular route last year

Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Among Pro Football Focus' highest-graded wide receivers by specific routes last year, a surprising Detroit Lions wide receiver landed highly.

Through two seasons, Amon-Ra St. Brown has matched high-level production with complementary grades from Pro Football Focus. He should not be pigeonholed to just being that, but PFF numbers make a case for him as the best slot receiver in the league last year.

Opportunity knocked for Kalif Raymond when he landed with the Detroit Lions in 2021, and he put up clear career-best numbers (48 receptions for 576 yards). Then last year, he came close or topped those numbers (47 catches for 616 yards) while also being one of the best punt returners in the NFL.

Ask any pertinent Lions' coach, and they'll tell you how valuable Raymond is. This week, with veteran players not required to be there for the waning days of OTAs, he was on-site at Allen Park to get extra work in. For someone who bounced around before landing in Detroit, that work ethic is not surprising.

Kalif Raymond among Pro Football Focus' highest-graded receivers at a particular route last year

Lauren Gray of Pro Football Focus recently outlined the site's three-highest graded wide receivers last year based on each route type. St. Brown did not land on any of the lists, for crossing routes, slant routes, etc.

But Raymond did.

1. Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers: 92.2
2. Kalif Raymond, Detroit Lions: 86.2
3. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams: 84.3"

The blurb about wide receiver screens is solely focused on Deebo Samuel, and probably rightfully so. But there's Raymond, with an 86.2 grade on said routes, ahead of Cooper Kupp. "One of these things is not like the other....", at least in terms of star power.

According to Player Profiler, Raymond was 11th among wide receivers in yards per target last year (9.6). He was also 25th in formation-adjusted yards per route run (1.93) and 27th in yards per route run (2.03). He's a sneaky good piece of the Lions offense, with 24 of his 47 catches last year going for a first down as he also added 36 yards on seven rushing attempts.

Raymond's role in the Lions' offense will be interesting to see while Jameson Williams serves his six-game suspension to start the season. There's an argument for him to have a sustained, and fairly large, role all season long.

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