An Optimistic View On the Detroit Lions 2020 Draft Class

The 2020 NFL draft wrapped up with the Detroit Lions making nine selections. This draft has widely been considered general manager Bob Quinn‘s best during his tenure as general manager of the Lions. He was able to fill some of the biggest needs such as guard and corner with good players who could be able to contribute early. Here we will try and see what Quinn was thinking with each pick and envision how he could see their fit on the team.

Round 1: CB Jeff Okudah

The Detroit Lions followed most mock drafts and selected Ohio State corner Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick. Okudah was widely considered the second-best defensive prospect in the class and the best corner prospect since Jalen Ramsey. The Lions rely on corners to be able to play press-man on an island and that is exactly where Okudah excels. He should enter the league as a solid number two corner while allowing Desmond Trufant to handle the tougher matchups. As the season progresses, expect Okudah to continue to improve and could even surpass Trufant as CB1. Okudah should immediately be an impact starter and could be an All-Pro within a few years.

Round 2: RB D’Andre Swift

Swift entered the draft as the top running back on many boards and as a potential first-round pick. His selection was controversial as running back’s value are at an all-time low. Plus, the Lions already have Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough. However, both incumbent running backs have a long history of injuries and would be foolish to expect them to handle a full workload. Also, I would argue the Detroit Lions need to accumulate the most talent possible regardless of position, and Swift has the talent to justify the selection.

He is a true three-down back with great vision and elusiveness in the open field. In the passing game, he is a talented route runner with good hands and even has skill protecting the passer. From the start, Johnson and Swift should form a formidable duo, and hopefully, the reduction in workload will allow Johnson to stay healthy and effective for the whole year.

Round 3: EDGE Julian Okwara

The Detroit Lions waited until the third round to upgrade their pass rush with Julian Okwara from Notre Dame. He is an exciting prospect who brings a unique skill set the Lions lacked. Okwara has great burst and athleticism to win with speed around the edge; however, that is not the only way he wins. Like a lot of Lions players, he has long arms and does a great job converting speed to power.

There were reasons he felt to the third round. While he was a successful pass rusher in college, he was mainly able to win with this speed to power move and will need to develop better pass-rushing moves to win against NFL tackles. Additionally, he will need to improve his ability to hold up against the run — which is a key skill in Matt Patricia‘s defense. Even with his warts, Okwara should at the very least improve the Lions pass rush in passing scenarios If he is able to improve in camp, he could play a large chunk of the snaps at the JACK linebacker spot.

Round 3: IOL Jonah Jackson

With their second pick in the third round, the Detroit Lions took guard Jonah Jackson from Ohio State. Guard was easily the biggest need on offense with the departure of Graham Glasgow. The Lions love versatile lineman, and he is not an exception with experience at both guard spots and center. Jackson is an excellent pass protector. Per Pro Football Focus, he only allowed one sack or pressure in his entire career in the Big Ten. This should be a great point of emphasis as the team’s hopes ride of Matthew Stafford staying healthy.

In the run game, he is solid with plenty of strength to anchor against defensive tackles. The one area he does struggle with is pulling. He is a below-average athlete who does not move well, but this weakness can be hidden with the blocking scheme. Jackson should be a solid starter in his rookie year who will excel at helping keep Stafford upright.

Round 4: OG Logan Stenberg

The Detroit Lions went guard back-to-back by taking Logan Stenberg from Kentucky. Stenberg is a nasty run blocker who loves opening up holes in the run game. Often, you can see him driving players down the field and finishing the play with a pancake. This could come back to bite him at times as he was penalized quite often at Kentucky, but that is something that can be fixed. In college, he played in an extremely run-heavy offense, so he does need to work to improve his pass blocking, but that should just come with more experience. Stenberg will probably enter the season as the third or fourth guard but should provide solid depth with starter upside. It is even possible he gets snaps every game if the Lions continue to rotate their guards.

Round 5: WR Quintez Cephus

With their fifth-round pick, the Lions took wide receiver Quintez Cephus out of Wisconsin. He likely would’ve gone earlier but dropped down draft boards due to a 4.73-second 40-yard dash at the combine. He was fortunate enough to have a Pro Day before they were all shut down and improved his time to an official 4.62-second 40-yard dash. Some reports even had him clocked in the mid 4.5s. This seems closer to his play speed and is much more acceptable for a pro receiver.

On the field, he can play both inside and outside and excels at getting off press coverage. His biggest asset is his ability to play the ball in the air and make the contested catches. This should be a great fit for playing with Stafford who is excellent at fitting throws into small windows. Also, coming from Wisconsin, he is a willing and talented blocker in the run game which definitely appealed to the Lions coaching staff. This year, he will be able to sit behind the trio of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola while continuing to improve his route running to get open. He will likely be the fourth receiver who could backup both the slot and outside receiver spots.

Round 5: RB Jason Huntley

The Lions also double-dipped at running back taking speedster Jason Huntley from New Mexico State. He is a versatile back who is a great pass catcher and even played a few snaps in the slot. On offense, he could be moved all around the formation and placed in positions where he can use his speed in the open field. He returned five kicks for touchdowns in college and could have the same role on the Lions roster. Huntley could make an impact from day one as a special teamer and gadget player who is capable of a couple highlight-worthy plays.

Round 2: DT John Penisini

The Lions took run-stuffing tackle John Penisini in the sixth round. He is a one-trick pony as a run stopper, but he excels at that one trick. He is incredibly hard to move in the hole and does a great job eating blocks. he also has experience playing form both an one and three technique — which is necessary for nose tackles in the Lions defense. In his rookie year, he will likely compete with John Atkins for the backup nose tackle position. Penisini has a chance to get meaningful snaps in his rookie year, but if not, expect him to continue to bulk up and contribute on early downs in the future.

Round 7: DL Jashon Cornell

The Lions wrapped up their draft class with Jashon Cornell, another defensive tackle. Instead of a nose tackle, Cornell is a tackle/end hybrid similar to Da’Shawn Hand. Cornell is a tremendous athlete who’s largest impact will be in the passing game. He didn’t do much his first four years of college but broke through and won a starting spot his redshirt senior year. As a starter, he took advantage of the attention placed on Chase Young and had four sacks. He still needs to continue to work on his pass-rushing moves if he wants to stay in the league, but he does have all the tools to develop into a solid player. Cornell will likely be a practice squad player with a chance to backup Hand in the future.

For more Detroit Lions news, follow Lion Lowdown on Twitter @LionLowdown or Tejas Bedi @tdbedi

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