The Detroit Lions have had a superstar problem for a long time. Building young talent is absolutely key to success in this league, and while the Lions have been able to get solid contributors through the draft in the past few years, they’ve been lacking young All Pro talent for the better part of the last two decades.
Media outlets commonly compile lists of the 25 best players in the NFL under the age of 25. The list is supposed to be a good gauge of which teams have the brightest future, because young, talented players are the key to building a team. The Detroit Lions haven’t had a player on these lists in the past in five years. Not in 2019. Not in 2018. Not in 2017. Not in 2016. And not this year.
NFL.com’s Marc Sessler is the latest writer to compile the list of today’s rising stars in the league. The list is full of some of the biggest stars in today’s NFL, including Patrick Mahomes, Nick Bosa, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, but no Detroit Lions players.
One could argue that the Lions haven’t had the opportunity to grab elite talent, mostly choosing players in the mid-to-late first round prior to the 2019 NFL Draft. And while nine of the 25 players on Sessler’s list were taken in the top 11 of their respective drafts, only 14 were taken in the first round. Players like wide receiver Chris Godwin (third round), tight end Mark Andrews (third round), and offensive tackle Braden Smith (second round) all were available for the Lions to pick at some point, and all have emerged as elite talent at their position.
That isn’t to say the Lions don’t have any young talent. Da’Shawn Hand (24) could be one of the best young defensive tackles in the league if he can stay healthy. Frank Ragnow (24) is currently on a very promising trajectory to be an elite center. And players like T.J. Hockenson (22), Jeff Okudah (21) and D’Andre Swift (21) all have the potential to be the best among their position, but need to simply do it at the next level.
Still, this points to an overall problem with the Lions roster that has persisted for far too long. Their drafts have not produced any elite talents since Darius Slay in 2013 and Ndamukong Suh in 2010. That’s far too long of a stretch for any team—let alone a team that has had a few picks in the top 10.
If the Lions want to turn around the fortune of their franchise, they need to start acquiring players that make lists like this, and with a top-three pick in Jeff Okudah, they have a legit chance.