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Roundtable: Are Lions League's Most Popular Team?

Latest SI All Lions Roundtable focuses on whether the Detroit Lions have become the NFL's most popular team.

1.) Are the Detroit Lions the new version of "America's Team"? 

Vito Chirco: No. First off, the national media couldn't care less about the Lions. Second, they haven't earned the respect of the media. 

Remember, Detroit has never made a Super Bowl, and hasn't won an NFL championship since 1957. 

If anything, the Lions are the NFL's lovable losers, because they're clearly not "America's Team."

Adam Strozynski: This is funny. Really, I laughed out loud. No, they are not. I think people want them to do well, because they have a "loveable loser" feel to them. But, they will never be America's No. 1 rooting interest.

2.) Will Aidan Hutchinson have a better NFL career than Chris Long?

Chirco: It's obviously hard to project long term. But, at this point, I'm going to say yes. While I don't see the Michigan product being a 10.5-sack-a-season guy, he doesn't have to be in order to have a better career than Long. I think Hutchinson is more likely to be a 7.5-9.5-sack-per-season player, which is still better than the 6.4 sacks a season that Long averaged over his 11-year career.  

Now, Long did record a 13-sack season, followed by an 11.5 one in back-to-back campaigns (2011-12). Maybe Hutch will never reach the 13-sack plateau in a single season. However, on a consistent, season-to-season basis, I think the former standout Wolverines EDGE will be a more productive pro. 

Strozynski: I think so. Depending on how long Aidan Hutchinson plays, he only has to average 33 total tackles and 6.5 sacks a season to outpace Chris Long's season-by-season average. 

3.) Which wide receiver will have the most touchdowns in 2022?

Chirco: If it weren't for Jameson Williams recovering from a torn ACL as he prepares for his rookie campaign in the NFL, I would say him. However, with that being taken into account and not knowing when he's going to be cleared to play, I'm going to go with fellow offseason acquisition DJ Chark being the receiver to record the most touchdowns for the Lions in 2022. I see the former Jacksonville Jaguars wideout leading the way with six touchdowns, while second-year pro Amon-Ra St. Brown ends up with five for a second straight year and Williams grabs four.

As for the league as a whole, I'm going to go with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. He recorded 13 reception TDs a season ago, and I think he'll continue to put up prolific numbers as long as he's catching passes from former Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.

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Strozynski: I'll go with the Buffalo Bills' Stefon Diggs. He's not a sleeper, but another year with a top-10 quarterback, in an offense that can explode down the field and has no problem putting up points, I think Diggs is a safe bet to be sitting at the top when the 2022 season is over.

4.) How much should tight end T.J. Hockenson's yearly salary be?

Chirco: Well, Hockenson clearly is a tier below the Travis Kelce's and the George Kittle's of the world, both of whom make $14-$15 million a year.   

A more accurate player comp for "Hock" is New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry. Henry signed a three-year deal with the Patriots an offseason ago that pays him around $12.5M a season. 

Hockenson doesn't have as big of a track record of productivity as Henry, but he is younger than the former Charger (Hock will be 25 in 2022) and is expected to make a bigger impact than Henry as a pass-catcher over the long term.

For those reasons above, I think Hockenson deserves to be paid $12M on a yearly basis. 

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Strozynski: This is tough, because the market will dictate that he should be earning $14-$15 million. But, I think he's worth more like $10-$12.5 million a season. You have a guy like Darren Waller earning less than $8 million a season, and he is a better tight end right now than I think Hockenson will pan out to be. 

5.) Do you think Romeo Okwara is a part of the Lions' long-term plans? 

Chirco: With the Lions' recent additions of Hutchinson and Josh Paschal via the draft, I feel that it's less and less likely. Remember, the soon-to-be 27-year-old also wasn't brought in by the present Lions regime. I think those factors all contribute to Okwara eventually having his role lessened with Detroit.

Strozynski: Another good question. At this point, I would say no. However, if he returns to that 2020 level of production, he will have a place on any team in the NFL. I don't think we will see that, though. Returning from a torn Achilles is hard enough, and not having the same explosiveness he once had to make plays really caps his ceiling.