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2020 NFL Draft grades: Detroit Lions among many experts’ top draft classes

The Lions draft class is receiving high praise from most.

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Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It’s one thing for fans to be optimistic about a team’s draft class. Fans tend to skew things positive, even a fan base that is—let’s admit it—as jaded as Detroit Lions fans. Case in point, despite a 38 percent approval rating prior to the 2020 NFL Draft, Bob Quinn managed to pull in a draft class that is currently pulling in a B grade or higher by 86 percent of Lions fans.

And while I trust some of these fans to be as objective as possible, sometimes it takes an outsider’s view to be a little more grounded. While some national guys may not know the Lions as well as their fans, they are able to give a more objective viewpoint without any preconceived biases.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at what some of the national experts are saying about the Detroit Lions’ 2020 draft class.


Grade: A

Pro Football Focus was a huge fan of the Lions’ draft haul, and it’s easy to understand why:

PFF’s Mike Renner was specifically a big fan of the Julian Okwara and Jonah Jackson picks:

“Of all the players that we at PFF were high on this year, Okwara is the one who I can’t understand why he didn’t get more love.”

Jackson is quite easily my favorite pass-protecting guard prospect in the entire draft.”

It wasn’t PFF’s highest overall grade—four teams earned A+s—but only three other teams earned a straight A, making the Lions’ draft haul among the top eight by PFF’s standards.

SB Nation (Dan Kadar)

Grade: B

Kadar wasn’t quite as high on the Lions’ haul, but he didn’t really have an particular criticisms of Bob Quinn’s picks, either. He noted that Jeff Okudah “was no reach,” Julian Okwara, if healthy, “can be the type of pass rusher the Lions have needed for a few seasons,” and the “Lions also added some toughness” with the guard additions of Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg. (Chad Reuter)

Grade: A-

Reuter gave the Lions at least an A- for each of the three days of the draft, though he seems especially impressed with Detroit’s first two days:

“On the first two days of the draft, the Lions secured a shutdown cornerback, explosive running back, much-needed interior offensive line help and brought together two family members in a literal sense.”

Sports Illustrated (Andy Benoit)

Grade: A

The Lions landed a top-three draft class according to Benoit, as only one team managed an A+ (Cowboys) and one other team earned a straight A (Broncos).

Benoit goes into nice detail on most of Detroit’s picks, so I’d recommend reading the entire thing, but here’s a short snippet on second-round pick D’Andre Swift:

The Lions resumed their ongoing efforts to find Barry Sanders’s replacement. The latest swing here, D’Andre Swift, was a highly refined zone runner at Georgia and will operate mainly out of those designs in coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense. Swift has the lateral agility to create his own space, and his potential explosiveness as a receiver could do wonders for a Lions offense that must regain some aerial balance after becoming heavily skewed toward vertical throws in 2019. With sustaining third-year back Kerryon Johnson aboard, expect Swift to fill an Alvin Kamara type role

Draft Wire (Luke Easterling)

Grade: A

Easterling was a little more generous to the entire 2020 NFL Draft class, with 10 teams receiving an A or better, but he still had a few nice things to say about the Lions’ class:

“The Lions scored big by doubling up on two of this year’s best guard prospects in the third and fourth rounds with Ohio State’s Jonah Jackson and Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg.”

ESPN (Mel Kiper Jr.)

Grade: B

Kiper’s grade may seem low, but his grading scale is clearly a little tougher than some of these other analysts. Only seven teams received a B+ or higher, so you could argue that Detroit may have procured a top-10 class per Kiper.

His conclusion:

Overall, for a coaching staff and front office that needs to win now, the Lions did about the best they could, though this class won’t wow you.

Local beats

Let’s take a closer look at what some of the local writers thought of the Lions’ draft class:

Detroit Free Press (Dave Birkett)

Grade A-

Though Birkett hated the pick of Quintez Cephus in the fifth round (he gave it an F), every other selection earned a B- or higher. All of Detroit’s first five picks earned a B+ or higher from Birkett, who particularly liked both Jeff Okudah and D’Andre Swift.

Detroit Free Press (Carlos Monarrez)

Grade: B+

Like Birkett, Monarrez loved the picks at the top of Detroit’s draft, giving Okudah, Swift and Okwara all A grades. However, Day 3 was not a great one, according to Monarrez.

The Lions got two Cs from me and both were given in part because they ignored the defensive tackle position. In the fifth round, they got a C for drafting Wisconsin receiver Quintez Cephus, who comes with some baggage and probably isn’t an immediate contributor. They got another C for waiting until the sixth round to take undersized Utah defensive tackle John Penisisni.

Pride of Detroit (Alex Reno)

Grade: B

No spoilers. Just read it.

Pride of Detroit (Fans)

The majority of fans gave this class a B. For comparison’s sake, here’s what y’all thought of the draft class last year.

People were a little more down on last year’s class. If I had to guess, the big difference between the perception of each draft lies with the first-round pick in each year. This year, Detroit’s selection of Jeff Okudah earned an A from 64 percent of fans. T.J. Hockenson only received an A from 32 percent last year.

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