ALLEN PARK — Another day, yet more love for the Detroit Lions rebuild.
Peter King just released his first power rankings for the 2022 season, and the Lions climbed all the way to 20th despite finishing with the second-worst record in the league last season.
“I’m higher on them than most,” King wrote for NBC Sports. “Consider how hard they played in a disastrous rookie year of coach Dan Campbell, and how, despite winning only three games, they were 11-6 against the spread, indicative of a team outperforming expectations. Consider a schedule that includes eight games against the NFL’s netherworld (Giants, Jets, Carolina, Jacksonville, Washington, Seattle, Chicago, Chicago). Consider a team that entered December winless and finished 3-3, though the last one was against the Pack playing out the string.”
King nails why there is some excitement growing around the Lions rebuild. They opened the Dan Campbell era 0-10-1, but finished 3-3 down the stretch, and were 3-2 in Jared Goff’s final five starts despite a roster left threadbare by months of injury, illness and attrition.
Their draft effort has added to the buzz. Their eight-man class, led by first-round picks Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams, added playmakers on both sides of the ball. They invested six picks on defense overall, and drew some of the highest grades of the year. They were one of four teams to earn a A-plus from ProFootballTalk.
The defense should be better. So should an offense that was already pretty good, then added a whole lot of perimeter speed in Williams and free-agent wideout DJ Chark. That should create more space for rookie sensation Amon-Ra St. Brown, Pro Bowl tight end TJ Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift. And that’s saying nothing of an offensive line that could be among the best in the game, nor the friendly schedule that appears to await, not to mention an NFC North that has been turned inside-out by regime changes in Chicago and Minnesota.
With that, expectations are rising in Detroit.
“This is one of the most interesting teams in football,” King said.
Buffalo was ranked No. 1 by King, while the Chargers, Chiefs, Rams and Packers rounded out the top five. Around the NFC North, Minnesota was 19th and Chicago was 28th.