The Detroit Lions wrapped up Day 2 of the draft having addressed several positions and added some starters, but reactions were very heavily split about both the picks and the value. Even outside of our staff, some of the selections the Lions made and their decision to trade up in the third round were met with skepticism and caution.
Every year there are going to be picks we like and picks we don’t like. Sure, there’s the sunshine crowd that loves everything the Lions do, believing that everyone the Lions select was in free fall until the team wisely snatched them up, stealing them a round or two later than they should have been valued. There’s also the hater crowd, where every pick is the worst possible selection and SOL and 0-16 and fire everyone. So I’ll be doing my usual and trying to simply give my view and you’re free to agree or disagree or call me stupid or laugh or cry or whatever.
Best pick, best value
Julian Okwara, JACK, Notre Dame
The Detroit Lions need for a pass rush has been at the forefront of fans’ minds for years now and they finally made a good pick with good value. Okwara was being viewed as a possible first-round talent prior to his leg injury, and while I wasn’t one to buy into the value there, it’s worth pointing out just how well thought of he was.
He’s a guy that sort of fell off the map during the process this year as he didn’t test, wasn’t active at the NFL Combine, and has went unspoken about due to the quarantine. As a pass rusher, he’s a true fit for this defense at the Jack linebacker position and should step onto the field day one and start. My expectation is that he plays at least 67 percent of snaps in this defense and not only soundly replaces but improves upon the play of Devon Kennard.
That’s usually a high ask for a third-round pick, but I see very few scenarios where that isn’t the case. After the pick I gave it a solid “B” due to other options that were available at other positions, but after sleeping on it I think it’s a pretty clean “A” with what he should provide and the value of where he was taken. Okwara has a strong chance to be the Lions rookie of the year, even with as high of hopes as I have for their third overall pick, Jeff Okudah.
Worst pick, worst value
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
When your team has no quality starting guards, addressing the running back position is a nearly unheard of luxury. Drafting a finesse back early in the second round on a team that uses a power run game is nearly unforgivably bad value.
While there are some that have Swift as their top running back in the class and others that had him in the first round as a player, I had Swift ranked as my RB6. So taking him as the second running back off the board 35th overall was not a pick I enjoyed.
Still, as the biggest critic of the pick, I offered some thoughts on what the Lions may be thinking and what value such a player would bring to this team during our live stream. My initial grade for the pick was a loud “F” and after taking the time to think about the pick, consult with others in the draft community, and talk to some of our own back channels... that’s still the grade for me.
I don’t like the value of taking any running back that high with this roster (I’m not in the “Never draft a RB high” crowd, I’m speaking solely as it pertains to this Lions roster). I don’t like the pick of Swift in this offense over someone like Jonathan Taylor (who, admittedly, has similar fumbling issues to Swift), AJ Dillon, or Eno Benjamin (who’s still available, but also shouldn’t have gone that high).
I don’t think taking a RB when the team’s guards are all replacement level is a good team-building strategy in the short term, let alone long term (where taking a RB early is always a bad idea).
I’m sure Swift will be popular among fans and readers, because this tortured fan base hasn’t had a good run game since James Stewart and Barry Sanders, but choices like this are why that is the case.
Best pick, worst value
Jonah Jackson, IOL, Ohio State/Rutgers
I came into the day with one real hope. When I wrote my best remaining players piece, I had intentionally omitted interior offensive linemen, hoping to write about that specifically. Time commitments prevented me from doing that, but I wrote a brief thread on the subject which you can check out on Twitter here. To summarize for those Twitter averse, the Lions desperately needed to upgrade their interior offensive line, and if they waited on day two, they’d pay for it since this class is so weak in that area.
I mentioned three players I think the Lions should target early on Day 2 and a fourth that is a Day 3 guy they might pick that I could talk myself into. Taking Robert Hunt to pair with Halapoulivaati Vaitai would have been great, but he was off the board shortly after the Lions took D’Andre Swift (which factored into why I didn’t change my grade for that player). When the Lions traded up in the third round, I just knew it was for an interior lineman, which it ultimately was, but taking Jackson over the other two (Matt Hennessy and Lloyd Cushenberry) was just terrible value.
To me, the team traded multiple picks to take a late Day 2/early Day 3 guy. In a bubble, that’s not terrible. Doing so when there were multiple better picks still sitting there made this a bad value pick for a decent player. Jackson lacks the upside of the other three players I mentioned, and while I have little doubt he starts (see our replacement level guards for reference), I doubt he’s ever playing at the level we had from Graham Glasgow or T.J. Lang or Rob Sims before him.
Athletically middling, Jackson caps out for me as a pass pro primary left guard who will probably struggle against quicker interior rushers but should do fine against nose tackles and the more powerful interior rushers.
Grade for the day
Ultimately, I don’t think Day 2 did much to move the needle for this team. With only one pick that was a serious upgrade at a position of value, the team is left looking at Day 3 without long-term fixes at wide receiver, linebacker, and interior defensive line. They’ll still need to address depth at almost every position on the roster, too.
I’ve seen some saying the same thing they did with the Jahlani Tavai and Amani Oruwariye picks last year where “If you just flip the picks of Swift and Okwara, it’s great value!” But, for me, the Lions still haven’t made a selection where I would have taken a RB (that’s today), so we haven’t hit the part where I can talk myself into that pick.
I think this offense looks very different in 2020 than what we’ve seen from Darrell Bevell in the past, and I had initially thought that might mean a move to more outside zone or something similar. That didn’t make sense with the guards they have on the roster, and it still doesn’t with Jackson, who isn’t nimble or agile enough to do the sorts of pulls and cross-formation stuff that would take best advantage of Swift’s quickness. So I’m still left trying to figure out what the offense might look like.
But the addition of Okwara makes total sense in the confines of what we know this defense is and will be. For me, it was a mildly-disappointing Day 2 of the draft. Believing that the team is doing something different on offense gives me some hope, at least, but it’s tough to be confident in those types of moves without a clear direction of what they’re trying to create. It may be something to revisit as the season nears.