2020 Detroit Lions Draft Recap

To say that the Lions had an interesting draft would be putting it mildly. The whole weekend for the entire NFL was strange and new, but it was not bad. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I know more than Bob Quinn or Matt Patricia when you get into Day 3 of the NFL Draft…but I’m not sure they did anything to assuage fears that they are in over their heads.

Do not get me wrong, I think the Lions had a solid draft. If we were grading it, I would probably give it a B…but there were just some picks that kept it from being a slam dunk and kept people wondering what they were doing.

First and foremost, based on the players they drafted, it is clear that they do not think defensive line and EDGE is as big of a weakness as everyone else seems too. Drafting D’Andre Swift at 35 over Yetur Gross-Matos, AJ Epenesa, and Ross Blacklock certainly shows that. I’m sure they are counting on a guy like Austin Bryant being able to perform this year as well. Secondly, their draft showed that they’re committing to a nasty, power run game. Drafting Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg shows that they’re not concerned with athleticism so much as strength and playing powerful. And lastly, it’s unfortunate the Lions were not able to trade down and acquire more picks, but you cannot manufacture trades out of thin air. I thought Bob Quinn did a good job moving around the board to get the players he wanted and it did not end up costing him any picks.

1st Round, 3rd Overall: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

What is really left to say about Okudah at this point? He’s been touted as the league’s next elite corner for quite some time and he has been linked to the Lions for basically the entire draft process. He’s a fantastic man coverage corner and the Lions spend most of their time in man coverage…it’s almost too perfect of a fit.

6’1″ 205 with elite explosiveness? Gimme.

Both allow him to cover practically any type of receiver and he is versatile enough to play in any scheme. Everything that has been said about him is he loves the game and is a student of the game, something I’m sure the front office and coaching staff loved. With trading away Darius Slay, grabbing a new franchise corner was necessary. Assuming we have a season this year (let’s just go with that for now), I’ll be curious to see how he handles the jump. There will likely be less practice and prep time than ever before and I think the Lions will have to throw him right into the fire. Unless Amani Oruwariye takes a large step, he will not have much competition to start opposite Desmond Trufant, which allows Justin Coleman to slide into the nickel.

The only knock on Okudah that I’ve read is that he can slide off tackle attempts (especially solo) and he does not always play the deep ball well.

Yeah…I’ll take my chances.

2nd Round, 35th Overall: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

After the first night of the draft, it seemed like Lions fans were divided into three sects. 1) Happy with Okudah, 2) happy with Okudah but wished they had traded down and 3) upset they did not draft Tua.

After about 20 minutes into night two, the fan base was split yet again. Some were happy with the draft, some were wondering why they cannot make two good picks in a row (particularly in the 2nd round), and some were left wondering what new team they should look for.

D’Andre Swift was viewed as one of the best running backs in the draft. No way around it, there were four guys at the top and I’m sure almost every team had them in a different order. For me, taking Swift in the 2nd round is the type of move you make if you had traded down with the Dolphins and had two 2nd round picks. I like Swift and I think he will fit in well with the Lions, I’m just not sure I would have taken him over Yetur Gross-Matos, AJ Epenesa or Ross Blacklock. That being said, we have no idea if the Lions tried to trade down or were thinking about drafting someone else and then move back up to get a running back, we don’t know the plan. But, I do know that the five best running backs were gone by #55 and the Lions did not pick again until #67.

Clearly the Lions were big fans of Swift and thought that it would cost too much to trade up from #67, or they had him high enough on their board that they thought the value was there. Not to mention the fact that Kerryon Johnson has only played 18 games in two years and Matt Patricia is committed to a run-first offense with a committee. I’ve tried to talk myself into this pick quite a bit, but it still feels like a bit like a luxury for a team that had plenty of holes on the defensive side of the ball.

Now, maybe they’re going to move Swift around the field like a chess piece and have him line up in the slot, while Kerryon is in the backfield as well and use him in a versatile manner. Swift can play, that’s not the argument, and he’s definitely a fit. It’s just there were other positions to address.

It’s pretty clear he’s agile and makes a lot of dudes miss once he has the ball in his hands. He’s going to be an asset in the passing game and has great vision. While it’s great he only had 440 carries in college (Jonathan Taylor had 926), I am slightly concerned that Swift was dinged up quite frequently in college. Nothing that ever really kept him out of play, but enough nagging issues to limit his effectiveness. He only had six carries in his final two college games because of a nagging shoulder injury.

Like I said, he can play.

3rd Round, 67th Overall: Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

Julian Okwara was a guy that ended up being a big time value pick for the Lions. If he had not broken his leg, I think he would have been a second round pick. But with the timing of his injury, he was only able to get measured and bench press at the NFL Combine. His Pro Day was canceled and teams did not get a chance to have their doctors take a look at him or have him come on a visit. This type of thing scared NFL teams away from spending a 2nd round pick on him and the Lions got to benefit from it.

I know what you’re thinking…holy shit it’s the end of days, Jeff wrote a blog post praising Ohio State and Notre Dame football players. Yeah, well, here we are.

Okwara is a big time athlete and he uses his explosiveness and his bend to make plays and to get to the passer. He’s athletic enough to drop back in coverage and while his technique can be refined, I see that as a coachable issue.

I love athletic high-ceiling players. Okwara is definitely a guy that fits that mold and assuming he is healthy and can stay healthy, I think he’s a big time value pick here.

3rd Round, 75th Overall: Jonah Jackson, G, Ohio State

When the Lions traded up in the 3rd round, I really was not sure who they were targeting. I thought offensive line would be possible, but I thought that it was going to be a defensive lineman like Neville Gallimore, Jordan Elliott or McTelvin Agim.

I personally do not mind the Jonah Jackson pick, I had him listed as one of the potential guys in the 4th round for the Lions. Jackson is a guy that the Lions had at the Senior Bowl so they got to spend time with him. He’s an aggressive blocker and he’s physical and gets to the second level. He’s also versatile and has played all three spots in the interior offensive line during college. At 6’3″ 306, he’s a big time body but he is not athletic. As you can see from the RAS card he has brutal explosiveness/quickness, but that’s not why the Lions drafted him. They drafted him because they are all in on the power run game and they even doubled down on it with their next pick in the 4th round.

And do not worry, Jonah Jackson is not just a run blocker.

He played at Rutgers before grad transferring to Ohio State and while I’m not sure he will be a plug-and-play starter, he will definitely be given every opportunity to start opposite Joe Dahl.

4th Round, 121st Overall: Logan Stenberg, G, Kentucky

Almost as soon as the day started, the Lions traded out of their spot at the top of the 4th round. I’m not sure if they were planning to do this all along or if they wanted Akeem Davis-Gaither. It seemed as soon as the Bengals turned in their card they moved out of the spot. And for those of you that liked John Simpson more than Jackson or Stenberg, the Raiders took him with the pick the Lions traded them so obviously they were not fans of his.

Stenberg is another guard that was at the Senior Bowl but he was on the South team. The Lions still would have gotten a chance to meet with him during one of the crossover times and we all know how much they love the Senior Bowl. Stenberg is known as “Mr. Nasty” because of how he plays and he sells his own shirts proclaiming himself as such.

I’m sure between saying something like this to the Lions staff and his game film, this guy was destined to be a Detroit Lion. Clearly the Lions are not in love with their starting guards after losing Graham Glasgow (and if they felt otherwise I would be gravely concerned for the future of the franchise). Going with back-to-back guards give them two players to add into the competition to start with Joe Dahl, Kenny Wiggins, Oday Aboushi and Josh Garnett. In my mind, Dahl, Wiggins, Jackson and Stenberg should be the only real guys with a chance to start and the rest should be cut after the preseason. I’m hoping that the Lions will not go with a rotating guard system again, but unfortunately, it’s highly possible that they will rotate these four throughout the season.

Now, Stenberg was a tackle coming out of high school and moved to left guard and only played left guard in college. I have a hard time envisioning him switching to right guard at this point, so I think he will have to challenge Joe Dahl at the LG spot, while Jonah Jackson goes to RG. Like Jackson, he’s not a great athlete and he is a power run game mauler. He’s strong and physical and blocks until the end of the whistle…sometimes too long and he was one of the most flagged interior offensive linemen in college football last year. The Lions doubled down here, not only on guards, but on guards that are powerful run blockers. Whether you like their plan or not is always up for debate, but Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia certainly have a plan.

I’m not sure I buy this quote from Quinn. Especially when you consider this January quote.

5th Round, 166th Overall: Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin

I was expecting the Lions to draft a wide receiver the entire draft, but going with Cephus was not what I expected. I can see why they like him, but I am also not the biggest fan. Best case scenario is he is Anquan Boldin, which would be great, obviously.

Cephus was lucky to be able to re-run his 40 at his Pro Day and was able to improve his 4.72 to a 4.62. Some places had his Pro Day time at 4.56, but I’ll go ahead and trust Dane Brugler’s 4.62.

Since he was picked, I have been guessing that Cephus is going to end up being the Lions “big slot” receiver. He’s only 6′ and does not have very good speed/separation. He’s quick and explosive and can run routes, which makes him an ideal slot receiver.

Alex Reno put together a great thread about Cephus and I would highly recommend checking it out and seeing his plays.

He’s great with contested catches and coming down with the ball, but having to deal with so many contested catches because he cannot separate past the line of scrimmage is a problem for me.

If you cannot separate in college, it is HIGHLY LIKELY you will have an even harder time in the pros. He will be able to win at the line of scrimmage and he will be able to get open early, but I do not see him being able to separate on routes down the field. If he was 6’4″, you might still be okay with this and he could just be bigger than everyone and make plays. But even with a 38.5″ vertical, he’s only 6′ tall…it’s not as though he’s the only guy in the NFL with a vertical like that.

He is awesome tracking the ball and making adjustments to it, there is no denying that. I just have issues with guys that have to make so many contested catches (in case you could not tell by now). Not to mention that receivers that run 4.7 or worse have an incredibly low success rate for the long term. According to Kent Lee Platte, of the 263 receivers that have run 4.7 or worse from 2000-2019, only 3 have had seasons with 750 yards or more in a season. Anquan Boldin, Jarvis Landry, and surprisingly Devin Funchess.

If Cephus can be a poor man’s version of Boldin or Landry, there will be a chance for him, but he has a very low probability of taking over for Marvin Jones as the Lions future #2 with Golladay. If the Lions end up making the playoffs or have a successful enough season that this regime stays in place, I would expect them to address wide receiver next year in what will be another excellent class.

Oh yeah, and the expelled from the program thing? He got kicked out of school because he was charged with sexual assault. He was acquitted of it after it went to trial and Bob Quinn says they did their research and are comfortable with him…I guess we’ll see.

5th Round, 172nd Overall: Jason Huntley, RB, New Mexico State

This pick from the Lions caught me the most off-guard of all of them. Especially after they had drafted D’Andre Swift. I had heard of Huntley, but only because of this play below.

Why do I remember that play? Well because I’m a degenerate and I watched the Arizona Bowl because I watch every bowl game. There were back-to-back kickoff returns in this game and it was electric.

Huntley clearly has speed but I still do not understand why the Lions took him. They have Jamal Agnew to return kicks and punts and they have Tyler Johnson already on the roster. I’m guessing this was a “Best Player Available” pick, but I still do not know why they had him so highly rated if that was the case.

Obviously he is athletic and he can return kicks. If you look at his college stats, he had over 1,000 career receiving yards which is absolutely nothing to turn your nose up at. I’ve got to assume that they envision him returning kicks and potentially lining up at wide receiver. It definitely is bad news for Tyler Johnson, and perhaps they want to lighten Jamal Agnew’s load? Or perhaps they only want Agnew to only return punts? Either way, if I were Johnson I would be worried. Agnew was an All-Pro kick returner so I do not think I would be too worried yet if I was him. I do not mind picking Huntley to bring in an explosive player into the running back room and potentially have him for trick plays or to line up at wide receiver. I just question taking him in the 5th round.

He certainly is fun as hell to watch.

6th Round, 197th Overall: John Penisini, DT, Utah

Now we’re starting to get into the portion of the draft where I’m flying in the dark. Hell, the Lions social media crew did not even put a highlight reel together for him.

From what I’ve gathered, Penisini is a member of the All-Name Team and is a run stuffing nose tackle. He’s a large man that works hard and cannot rush the passer. I’m guessing he ends up as a rotational or depth player and that’s about it. You cannot expect much more out of a 6th round pick and getting any sort of production out of him would be gravy.

His USC game film was pretty good to watch. He plays strong and with a lot of leverage. He’s got a low center of gravity and actually got double-teamed quite frequently. He definitely had a tendency to just stand still and hand fight, but for a 6th round pick, I’m intrigued.

7th Round, 235th Overall: Jashon Cornell, DT, Ohio State

Completing the hat trick of Ohio State players was Jashon Cornell. Cornell did not play much until his senior year and he rotated back-and-forth between defensive end and 3-technique.

Looking at this pick, it is a pure dartboard throw on a late-bloomer. He’s versatile and I would say highly unlikely to make the roster out of camp. He has upside, but you just do not know if he will be able to tap into it and continue to develop. At 23 with one real year of playing time, it is unlikely he ever makes it.

Undrafted Free Agents

Initially it looked like the Lions were only going to be able to sign 3 UDFA’s but they ended up cutting 4 players to make room.

The seven players they added were:

TE Hunter Bryant – Washington
S Jeremiah Dinson – Auburn
S Jalen Elliott – Notre Dame
S Bobby Price – Norfolk State
FB Luke Sellers – South Dakota State
P Arryn Siposs – Auburn
LS Steven Wirtel – Iowa State

Looking at this, I think that Hunter Bryant has a chance to make the roster and I think the rest will be practice squad fodder (maybe Siposs will beat out Jack Fox). With the Coronavirus, offseason time for UDFA’s to make impressions will be as limited as ever. Sellers will have to beat out Nick Bawden, who has had injury issues, and potentially Isaac Nauta, who played fullback in a pinch last year. Wirtel is just coming to camp to give Don Muhlbach some rest. And the three safeties seem to be dartboard throws, though one was given real money.

Dinson is extremely versatile. Of the three UDFA safeties he has the best chance to make the final 53-man roster, even though he is a total NARP.

Bryant was a great pickup and I was wondering why he was not drafted. The rumor is he fell out of the draft because of uncertainty with his past injuries but I’m glad the Lions picked him up. Bryant is a slower Eric Ebron that catches the ball better. Both are equally bad blockers, but Bryant is an intriguing piece and the price is right.

Siposs is 27 and is an Aussie Rules Footballer so we’ll see if he can beat out Fox. Either way I’m just glad they did not spend a draft pick on a punter.

Looking back on the class and what the Lions did, I firmly stand by my B grade. They drafted good players, I may have addressed their need positions in a different order or drafted some different players, but obviously they had a plan. They have committed hard to a power run game and clearly they are comfortable with the EDGE rushers and the defensive linemen they have on the roster. Hopefully we have an NFL season this fall so we can see how this draft class truly turns out.

Only time will tell…but working smarter is always the best method.

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