Rebuilding, re-tooling, reimagining: it’s what any team in the NFL with a franchise quarterback is doing each and every year—all to varying degrees of success with some more assembly required for certain teams.
The Detroit Lions have been rebuilding on the fly for as long as the team knew it had their guy in Matthew Stafford, but that’s just the nature of the beast. From Calvin Johnson to Golden Tate to Marvin Jones Jr. to Kenny Golladay, Stafford has been provided with his fair share of dynamic wideouts in his career, but it hasn’t been enough. It wasn’t enough for the team to use the 20th overall pick on a tight end in 2009—Brandon Pettigrew—or the tenth overall pick in 2014—Eric Ebron—and only time will tell if last year’s eighth overall pick—T.J. Hockenson—will finally be the tight end to find long-term success and stick around in the Motor City.
As far as the running game, the team has tried, under multiple front offices and multiple head coaches, to “establish the run” to no avail. No runner has caught on in the Motor City in over two decades, but the drums echo in the night.
Which brings us to today’s Question of the Day...
Which skill position is Detroit most in need of adding this offseason?
One position I didn’t address earlier is the quarterback position itself, which, for everything we know, isn’t going to change at the top. That doesn’t rule out the possibility the team drafts a developmental project some time during the draft, but Detroit could very well be content with David Blough and Jeff Driskel in that capacity.
Last offseason saw Detroit take a two-pronged approach to fixing the tight end position when the team signed Jesse James in free agency and followed that up by drafting the aforementioned Hockenson. While that position has plenty of room to improve their play from a season ago, it’s safe to assume Detroit won’t do much to shake up its depth.
Which leave us a couple of positions to consider: wide receiver and running back. Wide receiver is an interesting case study considering none of the top three players on the depth chart—Golladay, Jones Jr., or Danny Amendola—are under contract after the 2020 season. So while Detroit doesn’t have an immediate need at the position, the team certainly needs to ensure they’re set up for the future. Detroit could very well do what they did a season ago by bringing in a veteran like Jermaine Kearse, or the team could spend as early as a Day 2 pick on one of the numerous talented wide receivers this draft class has to offer.
Detroit had to send Kerryon Johnson to injured reserve last season, while he made it back to the field by season’s end, it’s the second time in as many seasons Johnson has missed significant playing time due to injuries. Bo Scarbrough was an adequate fill-in, and Ty Johnson was around, but Detroit definitely has to address this position before next season starts. Last season was just a carousel of runners, and if Detroit wants their offense to be what head coach Matt Patricia wants it to be late in games—a tough-nosed rushing attack capable of closing out games—the Lions have some work to do to set up that position for success.
For me, it’s the running back position. Kerryon Johnson deserves a third go at heading up this positional group. He has the talent to be a premier runner in this league, but his lack of availability due to injuries gives way to concern. With little evidence as to Scarbrough or Ty Johnson being suitable solutions for the position, Detroit needs to have a reliable contingency plan in place should Kerryon Johnson’s durability become a concern once again.