Allen Park — The Detroit Lions landed two premier talents with top-12 picks in the most recent NFL Draft, and they’ve each had a wildly different start to their pro careers.
No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson has hit the ground running. He looked good on the defensive line from the start of training camp, drew ample praise from his teammates and coaches throughout, and gave the people exactly what they wanted to see in preseason competition.
Wide receiver Jameson Williams, on the other hand, has been stuck in neutral since going No. 12 overall out of Alabama. A torn ACL has kept him on the sidelines, and while Lions general manager Brad Holmes said there’s a chance his successful rehab could “accelerate that return,” Detroit’s brass isn’t ready to guess a return date just yet.
“You gotta be a little bit conservative and on the safer side when it comes to forecasts and those returns to play,” Holmes said.
“But hopefully he stays on track, and hopefully it’s sooner than later, but we’re going to continue to be smart with him. We’ve always said that from Day 1. I know he’s chomping out the bit, I mean he’ll put on a helmet right now and go out there. He would jog a slant route if he could, but he — I mean — but we’ve got to be smart because we didn’t make that move for him just for Year 1. This is a long-term investment.”
Oh, how hard it is to play a game of patience when the immediate returns Detroit has gotten with Hutchinson have been so, so good.
“I can’t stop smiling,” assistant general manager Ray Agnew said. “I love the kid. The kid’s relentless, effort, and a much better athlete than you thought he was in the draft process. Man, the things he can do rushing the passer, inside, off the edge, using his hands. He’s very creative as a rusher.
“I would just say this: We got the right one.”
The selection of Hutchinson, who set the single-season Michigan sack record in his senior year with the Wolverines, was thought of at the time to be a bit on the safe side. In the early goings, the Lions have found that to be true — but that doesn’t mean his ceiling is limited.
“With Aidan, we pretty much knew that he was a high-floor player. But that also comes as a question mark, when it comes to (the) draft sometimes, because it’s like, ‘Oh, what’s his upside?'” Holmes said.
“But there was a lot of things that we knew that he could get better at, and so, him having the immediate impact that he’s had so far — and he hasn’t played a regular-season NFL game yet, but since he stepped out there on the grass, he made it known pretty quickly he was about business.”
With Williams, the obvious anticipation is to see how big of a weapon he can become — and what a weapon like him can do to Detroit’s offense — when he returns.
But while Holmes said Williams’ role will be a question for head coach Dan Campbell to answer, from the sounds of it, they’ll be strongly considering the option to use him in a variety of ways.
“I will say, just because of his skillset, he’ll be able to — he’ll have a lot of versatility for us,” Holmes said.
“So, if he’s not a full-time wide receiver, does he play special teams? Well, he’s got some damn good gunner tape out there in the SEC. He’s got some good return tape out there in the SEC, so we’ll have some options.”
We’re offering a great rate on digital subscriptions. Click here.