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NFL Draft grades: Assessing all 9 Detroit Lions picks

Analyzing and handing out grades for each pick in this year’s draft class.

NFL Combine - Day 2

First round (3): CB Jeff Okudah (Ohio State)

Considering that multiple sources—including Bob Quinn himself—were able to confirm that the Lions did not receive any firm offers for a trade back, I don’t see how you could possibly knock this pick from a standpoint that you wished the Lions added more picks.

Aside from that, it all comes down to personal preference. If taking a CB and grabbing Okudah was your favorite option, then this has to be a solid A. If Isaiah Simmons or Derrick Brown was your guy, then it might be a softer grade. If Tua Tagovailoa was your guy, seek help.

Okudah had been my favorite option for the Lions for quite a while, and I’m a firm believer in CB being a premium position that you should absolutely consider in the top five. He just so happened to be the best player available at a huge need, so this one’s pretty easy to grade for me.

Role: Starting CB2
Grade: A

Second round (35): RB D’Andre Swift (Georgia)

Things get a little controversial here as the Lions take a running back very high in the draft. Whether running backs “matter” has been a very hot topic in general. When you simplify it that much, it can be a bit demeaning to RBs, because of course they matter. But I do believe that they have become less valuable as the NFL has evolved into more of a passing game.

I am not a fan of taking a running back this high, so my grade is immediately capped off, especially with so much defensive talent on the board at more premium positions and with the Lions having holes galore at this point in the draft.

But let’s focus on the player and the fit itself. Swift was my RB3 coming into the draft. I liked J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor over him as prospects, with all three being very talented players. Despite that, I think you can easily make the argument that Swift is the best fit for the Lions of the three due to his elite traits in the passing game, while the other two are better pure runners if you ask me.

When I look at running backs, I care most about three things: vision, burst and contact balance. Swift checks two of those three boxes (burst and contact balance) with ease, while his vision is a work in progress if you ask me. When he gets to the second level, I think he is a terror in space and is extremely difficult to bring down. The issue I have with his game is at the line of scrimmage, and I believe he struggles at times to find creases when he’s not getting a 10-foot hole in front of him.

Role: Starter (split carries with Kerryon Johnson and heavily involved in passing game)
Grade: D

Third round (67): EDGE Julian Okwara (Notre Dame)

Immediately following this pick, I think I started to settle down and feel much better about the second-round pick and the entire draft overall. I don’t think you can find a better value pick unless you go back to the Amani Oruwariye pick last year. Okwara is a guy that I really enjoyed watching and had him as a top-three edge rusher on my board, even higher than K’Lavon Chaisson. I would even have been happy with him in the second round.

From a traits standpoint, Okwara has it all. Explosiveness, hand usage, flexibility and versatility. There’s not much that he doesn’t offer. Had he not suffered a broken leg injury last year, and if he were able to showcase his athleticism at the combine, I think he sneaks into the first round.

For the Lions, I expect Okwara to fill in more so as a JACK linebacker due to his explosiveness and bend, but he has the size and power to line up in a three-point stance if the coaching staff wants to move some bodies around.

Role: Starter (JACK linebacker/DDE)
Grade: A+

Third round (75): OG Jonah Jackson (Ohio State)

Some may have been upset with the trade up, but I actually admire it, seeing as the front office made absolutely sure that they address the interior line—probably their biggest need—and made sure that they got their guy.

Jackson is a giant body and has the chance to immediately step in as the starting left or right guard. He was a big PFF darling, ranked 40th on their overall big board, and by their metrics, Jackson gave up just one sack on 1,020 pass blocking snaps.

Role: Starter/role player (starting left or right guard) — guard rotation??
Grade: B+

Fourth round (121): OG Logan Stenberg (Kentucky)

The Lions going back-to-back guards was certainly a surprise but not a bad surprise. Grabbing a nasty mauler like Stenberg is a welcome addition and an obvious move to provide some extra depth to the guard rotation.

Stenberg’s mentality and brute force style brings some much needed toughness to the run game, but he’s no slouch in the passing game either. In 2018 and 2019, Stenberg gave up zero sacks on a total of 601 pass blocking snaps. I guess that’s pretty good.

I’d expect him to challenge for a starting guard spot right away, most likely the right guard spot. If he can’t win a starting job right away, then I’m sure he’ll be included in their guard rotation or at the very least provide some solid depth on the interior.

Role: Role player (possible starting right guard or rotational guard)
Grade: B+

Fifth round (166): WR Quintez Cephus (Wisconsin)

Cephus is a familiar name if you heard Jeff Okudah speak at the NFL Combine. Okudah name dropped him as the toughest wide receiver that he went up against, mentioning that Cephus was the only player to get over 100 yards on them last year.

He’s not a burner and not a very good athlete in general, but he was able to improve on his 40-yard dash time at his pro day (4.56) which helped improve his draft stock. Drafting Cephus gives the Lions at least one wide receiver who will be on their roster in 2021 (Kenny Golladay to follow shortly, hopefully). If he makes the team, I’d expect him to be an immediate contributor on special teams and in the run game with his run blocking and physicality being his biggest strength.

In the passing game, Cephus is at his best with the ball in the air in contested situations and brings a ton of physicality to the position. I don’t really love him as a developmental prospect, but you won’t see me getting all that mad or upset about a Day 3 pick (unless it’s a long snapper, of course).

Role: Role player (depth at WR)
Grade: C

Fifth round (172): RB Jason Huntley (New Mexico State)

The Lions double dip again, but this time at running back. With the addition of a speedster and return specialist like Huntley, I think this could possibly mean that either Ty Johnson or Jamal Agnew’s time in Detroit could be in serious jeopardy. But Huntley is more than just a return specialist and he offers more than just running really fast in a straight line.

Huntley is electric with the ball in his hands and has a knack for making defenders miss.

I see Huntley being able to nail down the role as a returner for the Lions right away, with the potential to become involved in the offense in a Tarik Cohen type role down the line.

Role: Developmental (return specialist/gimmick player on offense)
Grade: B

Sixth round (197): NT John Penisini (Utah)

Shoutout to friend of the site and PFF’s own Brett Whitefield for calling this selection as a possibility over popular prospect Leki Fotu.

Speaking of PFF, they really like Penisini over there and had him 104th overall on their big board with a run grade of 90.6 last year.

Walking around at about 320 or so pounds and with how he was used at Utah, I’d expect that the Lions view Penisini as a nose tackle for them and should be in contention for that backup nose slot behind Danny Shelton.

Role: Role player (backup nose tackle)
Grade: B+

Seventh round (235): DL Jashon Cornell (Ohio State)

You know the Lions got a real good look at Cornell when watching their film on Okudah, and they liked him enough to use their final draft selection on him. He’s listed at 285 pounds as a defensive tackle, but probably plays even lighter than that, so I think he fits more as an edge rusher on early downs with the opportunity to kick inside as a 3-tech on passing downs.

I see this as more of a developmental type selection with hopes that Cornell can contribute in their defensive lineman rotation should he earn a spot on the active roster on Sundays.

Role: Developmental (D-line depth; EDGE/3-tech)
Grade: B

Overall grade: B

I tend to consider my scale to be on the harsher side, so a “B” draft to me is very successful, and that’s how I felt about this draft class as it started to shape together. Bob Quinn went out and addressed some of their biggest needs with very good players and a lot of great value picks.

The one pick that I felt overly negative about had less to do with the player and more to do with the lack of value taking a running back in the top-40 with more pressing needs at more premium positions. However, Quinn was able to bounce back and still address some of those more important needs with great value picks in the third round, where he’s known to do some of his best drafting. And that was more than enough to raise my overall grade up to a solid B.


What is your grade for the Lions’ 2020 NFL Draft class?

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