Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson had an outstanding rookie season, collecting 9.5 sacks, three interceptions and 52 tackles on the way to a runner-up finish for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
He's now hoping his fellow first-round pick Jameson Williams will have a similarly explosive 2023 in his first full season with Detroit.
Williams was predicted as a top draft prospect in 2022 after a standout season at Alabama, even after tearing his ACL in his final college game. And it was the Lions who nabbed him with the No. 12 pick, trading up in the first round to take the speedy receiver despite his lengthy recovery ahead.
Detroit gambled that the wait for Williams to get healthy would pale in comparison with his output once he returned to the field, and there were glimpses of that potential last season.
While Williams did not make his debut until Week 13, and played very limited snaps over six games as he continued to work his way back from the injury, his only reception on the year was a noteworthy one. During a Week 14 matchup versus the Minnesota Vikings, Williams ran right past the secondary and found himself wide open to haul in a 41-yard touchdown for his first NFL catch.
Hutchinson said this week that there was an immediate buzz around Williams the moment he started practicing again, and that first touchdown catch left the whole team fantasizing about what's to come.
"I mean it happened right as he scored that touchdown," Hutchinson said on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast. "We're all sitting there on the sideline, because we know how fast he is. And I mean, he was still not 100 percent coming off that knee. I mean, those ACL guys are not 100 percent until a year and a half after. We were all sitting there on the sideline just stargazing and really excited about next year."
The only other touch Williams recorded the rest of the season was another big play -- a run for 40 yards in Week 17. Moments like those gave the Lions a taste of what the 22-year-old can do, and while he was limited in 2022, Williams can expect to see a large uptick in targets in 2023 as he fully recovers.
Having another young star lining up out wide would only benefit a Lions offense that shot to the top of the league last season, ranking in the top five. Quarterback Jared Goff already has Amon-Ra St. Brown at his disposal, so adding possibly another No. 1-worthy WR to the lineup in Williams could make for a dangerous pass-catching duo.
Detroit is looking to build upon a strong 2022 season in which the Lions narrowly missed the playoffs, and more contributions -- especially of the big-play variety -- from a fully healthy Williams definitely wouldn't hurt in that endeavor.