The Lions learned how important a good slot receiver was to Jim Bob Cooter’s offense the hard way in 2018. With the season likely lost already and a stagnant offense, Bob Quinn & Co. traded away Golden Tate without any semblance of a backup plan at slot receiver. The result was the Lions’ already stagnant offense somehow sputtering even more, and the rest of the season was a pain to watch.
The Lions were sure to address the glaring need in free agency when they signed former New England Patriot Danny Amendola, who the Miami Dolphins cut after the season. There are legitimate questions as to whether Amendola will fill the hole as well as needed going into 2019, as he will be 34 years old this season and is coming off of a down year. That being said, the Lions need to have a backup plan in case something happens to Amendola, or even worse if he simply doesn’t pan out.
Next Man Up: Brandon Powell
For a lot of fans, memories of Brandon Powell are fond. After all, he closed out the season with a six reception, 103-yard performance in a blowout win against the Green Bay Packers — how could you not love that?
Unfortunately, however, Powell isn’t the answer.
The training camp darling finally got his chance shortly after Golden Tate’s departure, but struggled to find his niche in the Lions offense. Aside from Week 17, he was only active for three games in which he posted a total of five receptions for 26 yards. He failed to consistently create separation and was much more effective as a kick returner than he was a receiver, but that isn’t enough reason to keep him around.
The Lions are in trouble if their starting slot receiver isn’t available for any reason, as Powell has shown himself incapable of stepping into that role in a consistent manner. There may be hope for Powell and his speedy nature as new Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell runs a very vertically-attacking offense that may be a better fit. Nonetheless, his inability to create separation is still a problem and I’ll have to see a new Brandon Powell before I believe it.
The Lions really ought to address the issue further in this week’s draft, as there isn’t much talent to be had at the position in what’s left of free agency. Players like Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin, and Parris Campbell are all potential Day 2 picks to keep an eye out for.
Drafting a solid slot receiver would not only provide insurance in case Amendola fizzles out or get injured, but would also address the problem long term. Amendola’s contract is only for a year and the last thing the Lions need is for it to be a glaring hole going into next offseason.
Previously: Quarterback, tight end, safety