NFL Analyst projects two young Lions players will be the best at their position in 2024


Every year ESPN analyst Mike Clay does a full on projection for the new season using stats and analytics. It’s a really cool 80 page PDF that’s well worth looking at. He projects the leaderboards of every position as well as the final standings in each divsion. 

Clay pick the Detroit Lions to win the NFC North with a projected 10.6 win season. That’s cool, but the big thing that caught our eye is that he’s projecting two second year players to ascend to the top of their position in 2024. That’s Sam LaPorta and Brian Branch.  

It’s not hard to think that Sam LaPorta could put up the biggest stats of any tight end in 2024. He just had one of the best rookie seasons a tight end has ever had in NFL history. With Josh Reynolds gone, he could be an even bigger part of the Lions offense going forward. 

Statistically, Clay projects that LaPorta will net 84 receptions for 860 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s not bad at all. It’s a tiny bit of a step back from his rookie year, but that’s to be expected because he had a monster year and most guys slow down a bit in their second year. This is obviously still really good. 

Then there’s Brian Branch. Clay believes he will be the leagues top cornerback in 2024. That is a huge leap. Branch was very good in his rookie year, but to be the leagues top corner in year two, that would be quite the ascension. 

Clay projects that Branch will have 97 total tackles, eight TFL’s, two sacks and 2.6 interceptions. 

The only thing that really gets in the way of this is that we don’t really know if he will actually play at cornerback in 2024. There’s been a lot of thought that the Lions may move him back to safety after rebuilding their entire cornerback room and the team having rookie Ennis Rakestraw working as a slot corner at rookie mini-camp. Could Branch then just be the best safety in the league? 

In terms of other Lions, here’s how they ranked out:

  • Jared Goff: 22nd (What?)
  • Jahmyr Gibbs: 7th 
  • David Montgomery: 21st
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown: 5th
  • Jameson Williams: 57th
  • Kalif Raymond: 92nd
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones: 140th 
  • Antoine Green: 169th
  • Maurice Alexander: 186th
  • Brock Wright: 56th
  • Alim McNeill: 31st
  • DJ Reader: 41st
  • John Cominsky: 73rd
  • Aidan Hutchinson: 8th
  • Marcus Davenport: 75th
  • Alex Anzalone: 24th
  • Jack Campbell: 47th
  • Derrick Barnes: 68th
  • Carlton Davis: 40th
  • Terrion Arnold: 63rd (All rookies are ranked pretty low. Don’t get upset. Quinyon Mitchell isn’t even ranked for example.)
  • Kerby Joseph: 36th
  • Ifeatu Melifonwu: 60th

Some other notable things are that Clay has the Lions offensive line unit ranked as first in the league. He has running backs at second, interior defensive line at second and cornerbacks at sixth. 

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