The Matt Millen years have produced a Pavlovian response to drafting a wide receiver early in the NFL Draft. Even bringing up the idea of picking a receiver in the first round will induce nausea among Detroit Lions fans immediately.
But it may be time to reprogram our brains. While the Lions’ wide receivers were not a problem last year—in fact, they were a strength; they had two receivers in the top four in touchdowns—the future outlook could be bleak.
Good teams are proactive about their problems and have long-term solutions in place. If that’s the case for Detroit, it’s time to start looking at this year’s wide receiver draft class.
Lions positional breakdown: Wide receivers
(Final year under contract in parentheses)
Under contract: Marvin Jones Jr. (2020), Kenny Golladay (2020), Marvin Hall (2020), Travis Fulgham (2020), Chris Lacy (2020), Victor Bolden (2020), Jonathan Duhart (2020), Tom Kennedy (2020)
Free agent: Danny Amendola (UFA), Jermaine Kearse (UFA)
While the Lions have their two big receivers—Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay—signed through the 2020 season, this team has no current depth beyond next year. Not a single receiver is signed beyond next season, and with Marvin Jones turning 30 in a couple months, there’s no guarantee he gets a new contract. Golladay, on the other hand, seems like a likely candidate to receive and extension... and a hefty one.
As for their free agents, the Lions may very well be interested in re-signing both. Amendola is coming off a year in which he nearly set career highs, and despite his injury-prone label, he has now played in 15 games in three straight season.
Kearse remains a bit of an unknown commodity. He suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason, but his versatility and experience with Darrell Bevell may earn himself a second chance in Detroit next season.
Level of need: 8/10
If the Lions go ahead and give Golladay the extension he’s earned, the Lions need to consider going cheap with their WR2 position. That means it could very well be time for the Lions to dip their toe back into the draft pool for a receiver. Since 2013, the Lions have only drafted one wide receiver in the top four rounds (Golladay), but this would be a good year to get back into it. The NFL Draft is chock full of wide receiver talent, including some real possibilities with Detroit’s first-round pick in Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III, among others.
The free agency class isn’t quite as fruitful, with the top options being A.J. Green, Amari Cooper and Breshad Perriman.
To me, the question isn’t if the Lions should draft a wide receiver this year, but when. It’s probably not wise to do it in the first round if there’s an elite defensive talent available, but receiver is certainly in play on Day 2 of the draft.
Ultimately, it’s time to consider life beyond Marvin Jones Jr. and this year’s draft class presents plenty of options. Because the Lions have Jones around for another year, this is the perfect time to snag a young player, take him along slowly and build him to be the ideal complement to Golladay for the future.