Lions’ Travis Swanson and Haloti Ngata discuss how the team can overcome the loss of Taylor Decker (shoulder surgery) on Saturday, June 10, 2017.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
For the second straight year, we’ll spend the summer counting down the top 20 players on the Detroit Lions’ roster in anticipation of training camp.
This isn’t meant to be a gauge of how players have performed in the past or what they did last year. This is more a prediction of how valuable each player will be to the Lions this fall, accounting for the role they’ll play on the team. Left tackle Taylor Decker would have been a top-five selection had he not torn the labrum in his right shoulder in early June. With Decker potentially out for half the season or more, his role has diminished to the point he does not appear on this list.
Here, in reverse order, are your top 20 Lions for 2017.
No. 11 Haloti Ngata
Position: Defensive tackle.
2016 stats: 13 games, 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks.
Contract status: Entering the final season of the two-year deal he signed last spring.
Why he’s No. 11: Statistically, Ngata is coming off the worst season of his 11-year career. The future Hall of Famer missed time with injuries for the second straight season and didn’t have a huge impact in games when he was on the field. Compared to other run-first defenders in the league, though, Ngata still can be a force. He should start for the Lions at defensive tackle and share snaps inside with A’Shawn Robinson and Akeem Spence. The Lions have to be wary of overusing the 33-year-old, but as long as they manage him right, Ngata can be an effective and occasionally overpowering interior lineman.
2017 projection: Ngata probably won’t top the two sacks he has averaged over the last four seasons, but that’s not really his role. The Lions need him to collapse the pocket and help as a run-stuffer — things he’s still capable of doing at age 33. He won’t put up big statistical numbers, but in what could be his final NFL season, Ngata remains an important cog in the Lions defense.