Predicting the Lions Biggest Surprises & Breakout Players

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2012

The Detroit Lions have their share of elite talent—guys who perform like the stars we expect them to be.

The more intriguing players are the ones who have a sudden explosion of production—guys who were one day still getting their feet under them and the next are running plays as easily as they breathe.

Mikel Leshoure is someone who will have a great 2012. Missing out on the 2011 season has made some forget how excited Lions fans were to get him in last year's draft. A back who is equally adept at running between the tackles as he is heading outside, or even catching the ball, Leshoure represents a step towards consistency in a backfield which has lacked it for some time.

While it is unclear whether Leshoure will see some sort of suspension because of his arrests this winter, even if he misses a game or two, his impact should be immediately felt when he does step on the field.

Titus Young has already had an impact—just not the one we were hoping for.

However, the incident with defensive back and teammate Louis Delmas seems to have snapped him to reality and refocused his efforts. If he truly has had what fellow Bleacher Reporter Sigmund Bloom calls a "career near death experience," it could be just the thing to put a chip on this player's shoulder and push him to a great season.

With targets like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Nate Burleson pulling defenders away, the opportunity is there for the taking.

On the defensive side of the ball—and keeping in theme with the "guys in trouble" selections we've already made—Nick Fairley seems primed for a big season.

If anything holds him back, it's the likely suspension he's bound to incur due to three arrests in a handful of months. The first two drug related, which landed him into the NFL Drug Treatment program, making the third—a DUI in Alabama—a potentially serious offense as far as the league office is concerned.

We have, as yet, no idea how long he'll be gone. However, when he does play, he looks poised to have a breakout season. If reports from minicamps and OTAs are accurate, he's in great football shape and with the natural talent he has and the defense around him, along with the motivation he has to prove everyone wrong, Fairley should be a beast this season. 

Rookie Ronnell Lewis is behind a big group of players, but has the talent to make his presence known both in special teams and on the line. Lewis played a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position, so he could conceivably see time at either spot. Projected to defensive end in Detroit, Lewis hits hard and earned the nickname "The Hammer" in college. 

His high-motor and high-velocity collisions will quickly make him a favorite of the defensive coaches and help him fit in perfectly with the Lions defense. If Cliff Avril misses any time due to his contract dispute, Lewis could get a chance to step up and prove himself in short order.