Danny Webster

Broyles Could Be Big-Time For Lions

Created on Sept. 07, 2013 6:00 AM EST

He's got speed. He's got good hands. He has a nose for the end zone. But he can't stay healthy.

That's the only thing hurting Ryan Broyles's chances of becoming a quality slot receiver for the Detroit Lions. Other than that, he's got the tools to become Matthew Stafford's favorite target not named Calvin Johnson.

Broyles had all the makings of first-round talent when he was catching passes from Landry Jones at Oklahoma. He broke the Football Bowl Subdivision record of career catches with 349, playing all four years under head coach Bob Stoops. Added with that, he was a two-time All-American and a two-time All-Big 12 member. Yes, even in the Big 12 where the spread offense rules the world, he had first-round talent.

Then came the ACL injuries. 

Broyles only dropped to the second round, and even coming off that first ACL surgery, Detroit got itself a steal by landing a guy who can dominate in the slot.

The first time he tore his ACL came in 2011 against Kansas, and that abruptly ended his playing career as a Sooner. Then, eight months later, Broyles tore his ACL for a second time. After a sensational preseason and training camp, he was slotted to be the No. 2 or No. 3 guy in Detroit. Now, it's a matter of whether Detroit can rely on him for the future.

"Your body shows up some days and some days it doesn't," Broyles told the Lions' official website. "This has been one of the most challenging things of my life, coming off two ACLs. I'm out here trying to compete at a high level."

2013 may be the year that happens.

I listed Broyles as my X-Factor in the NFC North heading into this year, almost by default. It was between him and Chicago Bears WR Alshon Jeffery, but Detroit's offense has the chance to be scary this year. If Broyles finds his way to 100 percent, then forget scary: The Lions may have a top-three offense in the league.

Now, that may not get you any brownie points for playoff consideration. Detroit's defense is still atrocious, but the Lions have proved that they can match any team point-for-point. As much of a force Megatron is, for Stafford's sake — and for the sake of the Lions investing $100 million on him — he needs another target to throw the football to. The best part is, Broyles won't be asked to become the next Wes Welker this year.

Even if Broyles doesn't play all 16 games — and there's a chance he could sit out the opener against the Minnesota Vikings — it doesn't take much to learn about speed. He'll still be a fast Lion ready to roar out of his cage when he steps onto the field. The battle for the No. 2 receiver position is between Nate Burleson and Broyles. 

Burleson is penciled in as the one opposite of Johnson, but he only recorded 27 catches for 240 yards and two touchdowns a year ago. The numbers on Broyles? Twenty-two catches, 310 yards and two touchdowns. The potential is there, no question. That's why if you're starting your fantasy football draft this week, you may consider him as a late-round steal.

Claims like these are always cliche: If a player stays healthy, he could be really good in this league. But with Broyles, the situation he's in with the Lions could make him succeed. It's up to Stafford to get him the ball, though. Broyles caught those 22 passes, but was targeted 33 times. Meanwhile, Burleson — who played in only six games last year — was targeted 43 times. That part is on Detroit's franchise quarterback.

Again, I'm all for my No. 1 receiver grabbing everything in sight. But Megatron needs help, and Stafford needs to make it happen.

If that guy is Broyles, Detroit is sliding into the playoff conversation this year.

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