It might not seem like it, but the Lions, coming off a 3-12-1 season in 2019, are in win-now mode. Two years into the Matt Patricia era, and four years into the Bob Quinn era, no results have been yielded, and the pressure is mounting for Detroit to contend once again. They desperately need something, anything, out of Matthew Stafford‘s illustrious quarterbacking career. With nine picks and four early-round selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, Patricia and Quinn were presented with a potential lifeline — a chance to expedite their success, in one of the toughest places to win. Did they get what they could out of that opportunity? Let’s take a look at the Detroit Lions 2020 NFL Draft grades.
Lions Draft Selections
Round 1, No. 3 overall: Jeffrey Okudah, CB Ohio State
Round 2, No. 35 overall:D’Andre Swift, RB Georgia
Round 3, No. 67 overall: Julian Okwara, EDGE Notre Dame
Round 3, No. 75 overall: Jonah Jackson, OG Ohio State
Round 4, No. 121 overall: Logan Stenberg, OG Kentucky
Round 5, No. 166 overall: Quintez Cephus, WR Wisconsin
Round 5, No. 172 overall: Jason Huntley, RB New Mexico State
Round 6, No. 197 overall: John Penisini, DT Utah
Round 7, No. 235 overall: Jashon Cornell, DT Ohio State
Best Player: Jeffrey Okudah, CB Ohio State
In the second round, the Lions drafted what some believe to be a first-round talent in running back D’Andre Swift. But even with that selection in mind, Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah is far and away the best player the Lions nabbed on draft night. The circumstances coalesced well for the Lions. They sat at third overall, watched as the expected scenario with Joe Burrow and Chase Young played out, and then picked the best remaining player, who also filled their most significant need.
Okudah checks every box possible, and it’s especially impressive that he was able to separate himself as the surefire number one cornerback in this strong cornerback class. Okudah has great length and ball skills, and he couples those traits with elite functional athleticism, closing speed, and a warrior’s mentality in one-on-one situations. He has early lockdown potential for Patricia’s defense, and he’s the kind of cornerstone player you’re supposed to get in the top three.
Best Value: Julian Okwara, EDGE Notre Dame
Relative to other teams, the Lions didn’t stray far from projections in terms of where they selected prospects. There were no egregious reaches or stellar value deals, but one qualifying pick for best value was Julian Okwara, who the Lions snagged at the beginning of the third round. Okwara has a combination of burst, bend, and length, which could have easily seen him drafted in the second. Instead, the Lions were able to lock down his athletic upside past the halfway point of day two, and with a glaring need on the edge, they could see early returns from the younger Okwara.
Biggest Reach: Logan Stenberg, OG Kentucky
Logan Stenberg has a good mentality as a blocker, and his mental traits and fundamentals should allow him to carve out a role at the next level as a long-time backup. But at the top of the third day, there were options with more upside available for the Lions. After drafting Jonah Jackson in the third round, they could have afforded to table the interior depth for a couple more rounds, while capitalizing on better value in the fourth. Stenberg isn’t a huge reach but he’s an average athlete, plays with leverage issues, and doesn’t have inspiring length or power. He just doesn’t move the needle as much as other available prospects could have.
Biggest Sleeper: Jason Huntley, RB New Mexico State
Running backs are inherently more replaceable than other positions (hence why D’Andre Swift wasn’t the best value addition in the second round). The smart move to make each year is grabbing high-upside options somewhere on day three of the NFL Draft — players who can break off big runs with minimal opportunities, and potentially carve out larger roles. New Mexico State’s Jason Huntley is that kind of player. He’s a versatile mold of running back who can provide value in different phases of the game, and any late-round prospect who can check that box has the potential to earn a place early on.
Detroit Lions Draft Grade: B
The Detroit Lions’ 2020 NFL Draft grade isn’t going to be an outlier in either direction. The Lions didn’t turn down value at every turn (looking at you, Packers), but they weren’t routinely finessing the board either. Okudah was a no-brainer at three, and additions like Swift, Okwara, and Jackson provided good value.
On the last day, however, the Lions played it safe in some areas where they could have been more aggressive, and while that isn’t going to tank their grade, it is going to weigh down the work they did earlier on slightly. The Lions put together a solid draft class, and their earlier additions should help them compete in the NFC North, about as well as they could have. One simply has to wonder if they could’ve done more to move the needle, but adding depth is never a bad thing. They also managed to snag some high-upside players like Huntley and defensive lineman Jashon Cornell.