Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn does not really have the best league-wide reputation—like most things Detroit Lions, he doesn’t have any sort of league-wide reputation—but he may be a better drafter than he gets credit for. He has largely done fine in the draft outside of a terrible 2017, and while he has not found any stars in the late rounds, he has been able to find contributors with late-round picks.
Today we enter the good part of this list. While earlier parts were marred with the GM’s failures, everyone covered today is either a player that contributed heavily to the team or greatly outproduced what would be expected of them for their draft status.
15. Kerryon Johnson
2018 second-round pick, 43rd overall — Running back — Auburn
Detroit traded up in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft to get one of the most important players in their offense for the near future. Johnson became the centerpiece of the offense within a month of his NFL debut, and in his third career game, he broke the team’s four-year 100-yard rushing drought while leading Detroit to an upset victory over the New England Patriots.
The running back now has three 100-yard performances in his 17 games played, most recently against the Kansas City Chiefs early in the 2019 season. While he has been a great weapon for the offense, health has been a concern for him throughout his short career.
Johnson has already missed 14 games over his first two seasons. His long-term potential in the league is severely limited. Detroit realizes this as well, as they decided to select Georgia running back D’Andre Swift in the second round of the 2020 draft. Johnson has certainly been great for the Lions while he is on the field, the problem is that he is not on the field as often as they would like.
Games played: 18 for Lions (18 in NFL)
Currently: With Detroit Lions, roster lock and projected starter heading into 2020
14. Dwayne Washington
2016 seventh-round pick, 236th overall — Washington — Running back
Dwayne Washington may have never made the team’s 2016 53-man roster had he not taken a kickoff return back for a touchdown in the preseason finale. The touchdown springboarded his career with the team, where he turned into an option out of the backfield.
The running back played 12 games in his rookie year, starting two of team. He carried the ball 90 times for 265 yards and a touchdown—which averages out to an abysmal 2.9 yards per carry. He returned to the team in 2017 where he featured in five games for the team.
Washington was never a good running back for the Lions, but a seventh-round pick being able to stick around and contribute to the team that drafted him for two seasons is quite the accomplishment. Seventh-round picks are not even expected to make the initial roster, but, instead, Washington managed a career that will be entering its fifth year in 2020 — though he is now with the New Orleans Saints.
Games played: 17 with Lions (46 in NFL)
Currently: With New Orleans Saints, will compete for roster spot in 2020
13. Jalen Reeves-Maybin
2017 fourth-round pick, 124th overall — Tennessee — Linebacker
The Lions had a desperate need at linebacker heading into the 2017 draft. They decided to double dip at the position, selecting Jalen Reeves-Maybin in the fourth round after choosing Jarrad Davis (who featured previously on this list at No. 23) in the first.
Reeves-Maybin has not a feature piece of the Lions offense, but he has been a contributor. The linebacker has played a rotational role on defense and featured on special teams throughout his three-year career.
The linebacker has notched 80 combined tackles and half a sack in three seasons. He has only missed seven games in his career as well, only suffering an injury in 2018. Reeves-Maybin has been able to stick around in the league and contribute — and will likely complete his contract with the team this year and find a second contract somewhere in 2021. A good outcome for a fourth-round pick.
Games played: 39 for Lions (39 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, likely to make 2020 roster
12. Nick Bawden
2018 seventh-round pick, 237th overall — San Diego State — Fullback
Detroit chose to boost their power run game with their final pick of the 2018 draft. They selected fullback Nick Bawden, who served as lead blocker for Rashaad Penny’s impressive 2017 season that earned the running back a first-round selection. The Lions were hoping Bawden pair with Johnson to produce similar results.
The fullback’s career unfortunately did not get off to a great start. He missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury suffered in minicamp. He came back in 2019, though, and featured regularly on offense and special teams.
Bawden has managed to carve out a specific role for himself on the team—even if it is not one of the flashier ones. He is a decent fullback and can certainly stick around for Detroit assuming he stays healthy. It is rare that a seventh-round pick actually plays an important role for his team.
Games played: 10 for Lions (10 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, likely to make 2020 roster
11. Amani Oruwariye
2019 fifth-round pick, 146th overall — Penn State — Cornerback
Detroit got a steal in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye was expected to go on Day 2, some even had him being selected in the first round. Instead, he slipped all the way to the fifth, where the Lions selected him hoping he could quell their longstanding issues at the position.
As a fifth-round pick, not much could be expected from Oruwariye in his rookie year. He was eventually called into action late in the year due to injuries, and he managed to shine. The corner notched two interceptions last season, despite playing only nine games and starting in two. He was the team’s second best corner last season despite limited action.
The corner is unlikely to start at outside corner this year as the team added both Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah this offseason, but he could get some play at nickel. Justin Coleman was disappointing last year, and Oruwariye certainly has the build and ability to play inside. He will compete for a starting role, and even is he does not win it, he can serve as great depth this year.
Games played: 9 for Lions (9 in NFL)
Currently: With Lions, likely to make 2020 roster, will compete for starting role