The Detroit Lions' first year under head coach Dan Campbell wasn't pretty, but that doesn't mean the team doesn't have a lot to look forward to in 2022.
Campbell's Lions, who finished 3-13-1 last season, took Michigan's own Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft and traded up for Alabama's Jameson Williams at No. 12. Compiling that with offseason pickups of wideout D.J. Chark and cornerback Mike Hughes, among others, could give fans reasons to believe this season could be better than last.
Still, the Lions return a majority of their roster that started 0-8 last season, before tying the Pittsburgh Steelers and picking up their first win of the season two games later. So, how could this year's squad fare? ESPN's early roster rankings for the 2022 season may hold the answers.
Ranking Detroit as the No. 25 best roster in the NFL, ESPN's Ben Linsey says the Lions have one of the best offensive lines in the game.
"You won't often find a team this low on the list that has a top-five positional unit, but Detroit's offensive line is in that conversation," Linsey wrote. "It's not difficult to see Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell both being top-10 players at their respective positions in 2022. From a PFF grading standpoint, Sewell was a top-10 graded right tackle as a rookie in 2021, and Decker finished 15th among qualifying left tackles.
"Throw in one of the NFL's best centers (Frank Ragnow) and a promising young guard (Jonah Jackson), and the Lions have a nice core to build around up front."
The offense averaged 322.6 yards per game last season, with the rushing attack accounting for 110.9 yards.
To ESPN, the Lions' biggest weakness is also on offense.
"There's reason to be excited about the direction that this Detroit roster is trending, but the hole at quarterback makes it difficult to set expectations too high," Linsey wrote. "Across his past two seasons with the Rams and Lions, Jared Goff's passes have traveled fewer than 7 yards downfield on average (6.8), and his 8.8 yards per attempt on throws 20 or more yards downfield is a bottom-five mark among 31 quarterbacks with at least 50 such attempts.
"There's not going to be much of an explosive, downfield element to this passing attack with Goff at quarterback unless he gets back to 2018 form."
Goff ranked 20th among the league's passing leaders last season with 3,245 passing yards. He also ranked 20th in touchdown passes, with 19, yet his 39.5 QBR was his lowest since his rookie season.
If anything special will happen for the Lions this season, ESPN believes it'll likely be because of defense.
If the Lions' young cornerback group can step up, interesting things may happen.
"That's true for Jeff Okudah more than anyone," Linsey wrote. "The former No. 3 overall pick struggled in limited action as a rookie in 2020, battling injuries and difficult coverage responsibilities in Matt Patricia's defense. Last season, Okudah played just 48 defensive snaps before a left Achilles tendon injury ended his season.
"Okudah looked like a can't-miss prospect coming out of Ohio State given his size, skill set and production, but he hasn't lived up to his reputation through two seasons. Detroit will be hoping that changes for a healthy Okudah this season."
Chandler Engelbrecht is a reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press and can be reached at CEngelbrecht@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @ctengelbrecht.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' biggest strength & weakness: ESPN has answers