For an NFL general manager to be successful, they really only need to hit on their Day 1 and Day 2 picks. Sure, if the team can land a couple of diamonds in the rough late in Day 3, it makes their talent evaluators look like the best in the business, but the overall success rate of sixth and seventh rounders is so low, that everyone is forgiven if those players don’t last long—or even to the regular season. Just use your best draft capital to the fullest, and you’ll stick around.
But we, as fans, love the underdog story. We obsess over these late-round guys, hoping to find that bit of information that all other 31 teams missed and will ultimately regret not finding. Scoring a starter in Day 3 of the draft is rare, but it puts your team in an excellent place if you can pull it off.
This year, the Lions had four Day 3 picks, but for this discussion, let’s just talk about the two picks in the final two rounds: sixth-round pick John Penisini and seventh-round pick Jashon Cornell.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which sixth/seventh-round pick is most likely to make the final 53-man roster?
My answer: It has to be defensive tackle John Penisini. While undersized for a pure nose tackle, Penisini was a monster against the run at Utah. Opposing offensive linemen were completely incapable of controlling Penisini, who often had to draw the attention of two linemen to get him off his spot.
Combine that with an insane work ethic, and a Lions roster that is quite weak on the interior defensive line, and the path is there for Penisini to lock up a roster spot. Though I wouldn’t expect him to be part of the defensive line rotation at the beginning of the year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him getting some snaps late in 2020.
As for Jashon Cornell, he feels like a long-term project to me. Detroit isn’t particularly strong on the edges, either, and Cornell can play both in interior and exterior roles—much like Da’Shawn Hand—but Cornell was only truly efficient at the college level for one season. 2019 was extremely promising for him, but to expect that to immediately translate to the next level is a step of optimism a bit too far for me. Expect him to hit the practice squad his rookie season.