1. TE Sam LaPorta
From the moment he was announced as the 34th overall pick in last April's draft, LaPorta became the best tight end on the Lions' roster-and it wasn't particularly close. From the start, literally during rookie minicamp, he has defied and accelerated the generally accepted "rookie tight end" timeline to become a prominent player and a big producer.
LaPorta is set to own all the single-season tight end records for the Lions this year. Not just rookies, he has left those records in his wake. All Lions' tight ends in franchise history. With three receptions against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 18, he will pass Brandon Pettigrew (83 catches in 2011) and capture the record for catches by a Lions' tight end in a season.
As how long to realistically keep starters in Sunday's game is weighed, with the Lions practically locked into the No. 3 playoff seed, you can be sure every effort will be made to get LaPorta the catches he needs before he may depart.
Coaches know when players have records, contract incentives, etc. on the line in a season finale, and LaPorta has to be at the top of the Lions' list in that regard for Week 18. In this case, LaPorta's teammates definitely know how close he is to one last season record for a tight end in team history.
LaPorta has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations anyone could have had for him going into the season. Amid heavy competition from his fellow rookies, he was the clear choice for No. 1 on this list of Lions' 2023 newcomers.