Going into the 2020 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions had one of the most enticing picks of the 1st round. With pick #3 and no real need for a new franchise QB (although I'd happily argue otherwise), it became clear that the Lions should trade back knowing their guys, Derrick Brown and/or Jeff Okudah, would still be there at picks #5 or #6. However, thanks to Bob Quinn not even attempting to bluff that he was going to take a QB, no one ended up offering him a trade. The Lions took Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah with the #3 pick, as many expected, making it the highest a CB had been picked in the NFL Draft since Shawn Springs in 1998. I have nothing against Okudah, but Bob Quinn messed this pick up for weeks by not even giving the impression they were interested in a QB to groom under Stafford. He should have made it almost too obvious that he wanted Tua or Herbert so that he could add more picks in the first couple of rounds. And if no one believed him, he should have drafted Tua anyways and then trade him to the team that took Okduah for more picks. Bob Quinn stating how there were no official offers and that other “pundits” don’t understand how to look at rosters like other teams was a very poor statement and reflect that he didn’t do his job properly. However, the rest of the draft, he actually did a decent job for once in at least attempting to fill team needs, something rarely said after a Detroit Lions draft.
1. #3, Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Look, by all accounts, Okudah will become a shutdown corner in the NFL for years to come. The size, speed, and overall range on the field are a scouts dream and there’s a good reason he was going to be a Top 10 pick. Plus, he is expected to start right away. Whether that be at the #1 or #2 spot remains to be seen. The problem is the value of the pick. Anything less than becoming a Top 5-10 corner in the league is not going to help Jeff Okudah. We’ve seen the Lions reach for Top 10 picks way too much over the years. Eric Ebron, TJ Hockenson and all those WRs from the Matt Millen era all were picked Top 10, and fair or not had massive expectations they never lived up to. That’s the danger of taking a corner at #3 and a reason to be skeptical. However, he does still fill a giant need and the potential is clearly there to be a great player for the Lions.
2. #35, D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
I know there will be a few fans who hate this pick, but this may be my favorite pick of the draft. I understand there was much more of a need elsewhere other than at RB, but the Lions still don’t have a reliable run game after all these resources spent on the OL and at RB. Kerryon Johnson continues to show great potential but has had trouble staying healthy. RB is the most fragile position in the NFL and it’s a big reason as to why teams load up on more than one. Swift never should have even been there at #35. Adding him gives you more depth and more talent on offense which can never be overlooked. He’s an explosive back who can play all three-downs, in case Kerryon isn’t working out, can catch passes out of the backfield and, maybe the most important part, had less than 500 carries in college meaning he should be fresher in the long run. Kerryon and Swift could very well become the next great 1A and 1B RB duo in the NFL.
3. #67 Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame
I don’t mind this pick at all. Do I think he can become a Pro Bowl EDGE guy? No, I don’t. But the athleticism and size are certainly there for Okwara to develop into a nice, consistent player. The worry with him is now going up against NFL O-Lines because there were times where he couldn’t even bull rush College O-Lines (go watch the Michigan tape). I think he’s more of a project but clearly the tools are there to succeed. The scare for me is it comes down to coaching now. That’s right, Okwara’s future is in Matt Patricia’s hands.
4. #75 Jonah Jackson, OG, Ohio State
He’s big, physical and can offer the Lions multiple options at both the C and G positions if need be. The problem I had with the pick is the fact they traded up for a guy who not only would have probably been there at #87, but struggles mightily in run blocking. Even after all these years of Bob Quinn and the resources put into the running game, it’s still below average at best. He certainly can pass block and does a nice job of picking up and adjusting to blitzes, but I am a little confused after reading more on Jackson’s game. But hey, it fills a need, right? Once again it comes down to coaching. *gulp*
5. #121 Logan Stenberg, OG, Kentucky
Going back-to-back guards helped answer a pretty big question as to who the OL starters will become Week 1, and the answer is a mix of everyone. You may say, what? Well, the plan as I see it is to find the best mix for both passing and running among every guard, every tackle, and even the centers. Find out who fits best where and in what situations and schemes. I don’t mind the strategy at all, I do mind that it’ll be Matt Patricia trying to figure it out. Honestly, I like Stenberg more than Jackson. The biggest knock on him is his strength is nowhere near NFL ready, which is easily fixable after a few months, or maybe a year, in an NFL locker room. He may not be ready to go in 2020, but in the long run, I expect him to be better than Jackson. He also is MUCH better in run blocking, opposite of Jackson, which again plays into the mix-and-match OL strategy. Yes, I saw the stat that said he allowed 0 sacks a year ago, but guys, Kentucky had a WR at QB in Lynn Bowden, not exactly running anything close to an NFL offense. Stenberg is my early sleeper to start come Week 1.
6. #166 Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
I’ll admit, I wanted to avoid Cephus ever since I saw his 40 times at the NFL Combine (No I don’t believe his Wisconsin pro day 40 time as pro days exist to hype up their school's prospects). I don’t care how smart or good he is at running routes. Speed is the name of the game in the NFL, especially for 99% of WR's. Name me anyone else outside of Jerry Rice and Anquan Boldin with 4.7+ 40 times who had great careers. Plus, the Lions need a slot guy with Golladay and Jones occupying the outside. So no, this pick makes no sense to me unless they plan on having him replace Marvin Jones after his contract expires at the end of the year. But hey it fills a need, right? The name of the draft for Bob Quinn. The build is there to be an NFL WR, and I hope I am wrong about my assessment of Cephus, but that speed, or lack thereof, scares me if he actually wants to be a reliable target in this league. Also, Matt Stafford’s 40 time is 4.81 to give you an idea of where my heads at with Cephus.
7. #172 Jason Huntley, FLEX, New Mexico State
I mentioned I wanted speed, and the Lions certainly got that with their next 5th round pick. However, another RB?! Probably the most confusing pick of the entire draft. You have Kerryon Johnson and just added D’Andre Swift, why spend another pick on an RB? However, I did my research and combined with Huntley’s 4.35 40 and 87 total receptions his last two years at NMSU I wonder if they see him as more of a slot guy on the team, which I certainly wouldn’t mind. Also, he managed to return 5 kickoffs for TD's in college, so the kick return aspect of his game is there as well. In 2017, Darrell Bevell’s final year in Seattle, “RB” JD McKissic was 5th on the team with 34 receptions. Seattle's RB’s caught 79 passes in total that year, so clearly the Lions new offense will involve pass-catching RBs. However, again, it comes down to fit and coaching. Do I trust Patricia, and Bevell, to get good usage out of him? Not at all.
8. #197 John Penisini, DT, Utah
“Sleeper.” Drink. Stop me if you have heard this before, but I have the sleeper of a team's draft class. I’ll start with this if your friends were making jokes about him and you claimed to “not get it” or “I didn’t even notice it” you and I both know that’s a lie. Now to the actual player, he sounds like the perfect Snacks/A’Shawn replacement. Penisini clogs lanes has a good first step and according to NFL.com's report on him it’s “Like running to into a mailbox for single blockers.” He’ll be perfect in the run game. The problem is the disruption. The Lions DL couldn’t get pressure even if they strapped a briefcase with $1 million to the QB. They had the 3rd fewest sacks in the NFL a year ago, and 4th lowest Pressure %, getting to the QB on dropbacks only 18.8% of the time. Penisini will help in the run defense that’s for sure, but the pass rush will need to be developed big time.
9. #235 Jashon Cornell, DT, Ohio State
Cornell is another project. The athletic make-up is certainly there and he is one of those “high motor” kind of guys who go beyond the whistle. He’s only 285 lbs so he’s styled more to be a better interior pass rusher than a run stopper, but the strength is not there yet to be a consistent pass-rushing DT in the NFL. Getting him into the weight room is the priority and then he needs to work on his pass rush moves as well, which are few and far between. Like I said, he’s certainly another project, but Cornell still does fill a need, and now it comes down to coaching (stop me if you’ve heard that before).
1. Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington
Did someone tell Bob Quinn you can get a young, promising TE without wasting a Top 10 pick on one? I, like most, was SHOCKED to see Bryant go undrafted as he was mainly listed as a Top 5 TE prospect going into the draft. There have been talks that long term he’s more of a slot receiver, which I’d be okay with because it is smaller than your average TE and struggles with blocking, which isn’t always an easy fix in the NFL. His 40 time didn’t blow me away either, but scouts rave about his catch radius and strong hands. I really think he could end up a Top 3-5 player out of the Lions entire draft class this year, but again, coaching….
2. Arryn Siposs, Punter, Auburn
Oh yes, there’s the punter! The Jets nabbed Texas A&M punter Braden Mann six picks ahead of the Lions in the 6th round otherwise I truly believe Mann would be a Lion. With Sam Martin leaving in the offseason, the punter battle was down to 4th-year vet Matt Wile and Jack Fox, who the Lions signed as a UDFA last year. Siposs is an Aussie with good size to be an NFL punter as well as outstanding directional punts. The issues? Leg strength and the fact he will be 28 in November. Time will tell who gets the nod as the starting punter come Week 1, but I do love competition at the position.
3. Jalen Elliott, Safety, Notre Dame
He’s hard-hitting, can cover large areas, and was a three-year starter at Notre Dame. The reason he was undrafted is that he struggles to anticipate throws and runs a well below-average 4.80 40-time to be a great Safety in the NFL. However, your starting safeties at the moment are Patriot FA signing Duron Harmon, who’s 29, and Tracy Walker. So adding a little more competition never hurts. Plus, he can hit and hit hard in pursuit of ball-carries so that will certainly be an added bonus on special teams.
You probably recognized a common theme in this year's draft class for the Detroit Lions and that is guys who fill a need and just need to be coached well. On one hand, I’m so glad there weren’t several head-scratchers like normal with Lions draft classes but I also don’t have the confidence in Patricia and company to develop a lot of these guys into great players. I guess only time will tell, but it certainly does feel nice coming away from a draft not swearing off the team “for good this time” like normal only to get sucked back in August. The team should be better than a year ago, that’s for sure, but also I don’t expect much as far as playoffs go at the moment. After all, the Ford still own the team.
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