The Lions need a new wide receiver badly. How badly? It should be one of their top concerns going into the offseason. That’s how badly.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Believe me, I’ve seen all the tweets that go against this idea that I’ve been spitting out since late in the season. The Lions have needs that are way more important than receiver. Fan favorites have been pass rushers and corners. I couldn’t agree more with that. Those positions should be held in high importance, but receiver needs to be right after that. Here’s why.
The current group can’t separate.
I like Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. a lot. I really do. Golladay showed in 2018 that he can definitely be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, and he has not reached the top of his skill set yet either. Jones is great when it comes to contested catches. But neither of these guys can get separation.
How bad is it? NextGenStats ranked all wide receivers in ability to create separation and no Lions receiver made the list until Kenny Golladay did at 95. Marvin came in at 117. That’s really bad in case you’re wondering how to feel about it.
I know that Lions fans are inherently defensive about their receivers, and I share some of that as a fan, but when is enough going to be enough? The Lions need help here.
There are going to be receivers available in free agency that excel in this category. Guys like John Brown and Chris Hogan come to mind immediately. Hogan may particularly interest the Lions, given his connection with the Patriots. and high marks in separation—2nd in the league per NextGenStats.
Tight end is important, but how important is it to Bevell?
A lot of people have been bringing up the tight end position as something that is more important than receiver. I agree that it is important, but I don’t find it as pressing as their need for a receiver.
One of the big reasons is because the Lions can wait until April to fill that position, and they’ll probably score big seeing as though many are saying this tight end class is the deepest ever. With that in mind, the Lions can afford to put other needs in front of that without risking much.
Besides, there isn’t much to be had in free agency at this position, and you have to wonder if Luke Willson will figure into Darrell Bevell’s plans since they’ve already worked together. Additionally, Levine Toilolo did enough to at least earn another year on the team.
But how will tight ends figure into the Lions offense? You could point to the past and see that in Seattle, Bevell used his tight ends a lot. Willson was one of those guys. Jimmy Graham was the other. But you can also see that Bevell liked to spread the ball around a lot, utilizing all of his receivers.
In his final year with the team, Bevell orchestrated an offense that saw three receivers go for 40 or more receptions. Graham finished the year with 65 catches and Willson had 15. To me, it seems clear that the numbers are a little skewed because he had one of the greatest tight ends to ever play on his roster. The Lions aren’t going to have that unless they magically wind up with Graham on the roster through a trade... with Green Bay. That seems pretty unlikely.
So with that in mind, the Lions can get a guy that can both block and be a more of a receiving threat in the draft. For free agency, receiver jumps that need. From the looks of Bevell’s past, he’s going to want that third receiver pretty badly too.
Just because it’s a top need, that doesn’t mean it’s the top need
I think this is where Lions fans and I butt heads. When I say that receiver is a top need, that doesn’t mean I want this team to spend the eighth pick on it. Frankly, if the Lions did do that, I’d cry a thousand tears just like so many others would.
But I still believe the Lions should go all in on the position if they could. I’ve made it pretty clear that I would like the Lions to do anything they can to get Antonio Brown on this team. I know that likely won’t happen, and that’s okay.
Still, I believe the Lions should be looking for a way to get a receiver that can take that No. 1 spot. Again, I love Kenny Golladay and believe he is the future at the position for the Lions, but he doesn’t have to be that right now. As far as Marvin Jones goes, there’s a place for Marvin to thrive, and that’s not as the No. 1 guy. Marvin needs to be able to take advantage of coverage instead of fighting to make things happen.
In the end, I expect the Lions to make a move in free agency for a receiver that can get separation, but not necessarily take over the WR1 spot. That is something that will fit into what Darrell Bevell will want to do with the Lions offense, but it would be nice to see them just go all in.