In an offseason where Titus Young goes on twitter rants, Ndamukong Suh goes on a celebrity diving show and Jahvid Best appears closer than ever to retirement, it’s easy to forget about Detroit Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles.
The 24-year-old continues to recover from a torn right ACL he suffered in Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts. This injury came just over a year after Broyles tore his left ACL during his final season with the Oklahoma Sooners.
If Broyles can make a full recovery and continue where he left off prior to the injury, he could end up playing a much more significant role in the offense over the next few seasons.
Obviously Calvin Johnson will remain the No. 1 receiver for many years, but the futures of Titus Young and Nate Burleson are less certain.
Young’s behavior continues to be an issue. Young was sent home from the team’s practice facility and later placed on injured reserve after lining up in the wrong spot on several plays against the Green Bay Packers in Week 11—not to mention his recent string of tweets, which certainly haven’t won him any fans in the Lions’ organization.
Burleson, on the other hand, broke his leg in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears. And, while Burleson should make a full recovery, he will be 32 years old when the season starts. At that age, a decline in production is to be expected.
With Young’s issues, it’s possible he could continue to see reduced playing time or possibly be off the team by the time September rolls around. Burleson’s role will diminish with time and therefore opportunities will arise for Broyles.
At 5'10" and weighing a little less than 200 pounds, Broyles has the potential to be a solid slot receiver. He is quick off the line, has great catching ability and is a very strong route-runner. He has also shown to have a good sense and understanding of defenses, which could help make up for his lack of skill in other areas.
Broyles doesn't have Young’s speed and Megatron’s strength, but he can be very effective in short-yardage situations.
Over the course of seven games is his rookie season, Broyles was targeted 33 times and caught 22 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Broyles averaged an impressive 14.1 yards per reception, gained 162 yards after the catch and had no fumbles.
Given his limited playing time in 2012, Broyles would benefit from gaining some significant NFL experience in 2013. However, that will depend on how well his recovery goes and if he’s able to return to play at the same level he was at prior to his second ACL tear.
Broyles said early this year that he hoped to get some advice on the ACL rehab process from Adrian Peterson, who had a remarkable season less than a year after tearing his ACL (via NBC.com’s Pro Football Talk).
Wes Welker is another example of a talented player who overcame an ACL tear and returned to dominant form.
If Broyles can have similar success in recovering again, he could be one of Detroit’s top receivers behind Megatron within a couple seasons.