Drafting developmental players who may not immediately contribute as rookies, but will find the field in future years is a solid strategy. It’s not ideal to use a fourth-round pick on those players, especially when the team drafted a starter at the same position just 46 picks earlier.
This is the fifth installment in a series of articles at Pride of Detroit where we will examine the snap counts for the Detroit Lions rookies during the 2020 season. You can read the previous articles in this series here: Jeff Okudah, D’Andre Swift, Julian Okwara, and Jonah Jackson.
Logan Stenberg, IOL: Round 4, Pick 121
When former general manager Bob Quinn drafted Stenberg, his destroy everyone demeanor was a perfect fit for the Lions’ coaching staff, and he was expected to compete with Jackson, Oday Aboushi, and Kenny Wiggins in training camp for an open starting spot at right guard.
It didn’t take long before it was clear Jackson was headed towards a starting position and Stenberg had a lot of technical issues to clean up in his game.
Stenberg, a four-year starter at left guard in college, had never played center in his career. But with Stenberg clearly behind Aboushi and Wiggins, and reserve center Beau Benzschawel injured, the Lions opted to get the rookie reps snapping the ball with the second team. It didn't go well.
Honestly, it wasn't that surprising, as there aren’t many 6-foot-6 centers in the NFL, and those who do find success are elite athletes (Ex. Frank Ragnow is 6-foot-5, and carries a 9.93 RAS). Stenberg’s RAS of 6.12 is slightly above average, but he’s a waist bender, not a knee bender, which makes the transition of snapping and getting into his stance very challenging.
When Benzschawel returned to practice, Stenberg was relegated to the third team, but when cutdowns came Stenberg survived, while Wiggins and Benzschawel landed on the practice squad. This speaks to the organization's long-term plans for Stenberg and not wanting to expose him to being poached by another team.
Stenberg’s 2020 snap counts
In the chart below, you can see the snap counts from Stenberg’s entire rookie season. They are broken down by offensive snaps, percentage of offensive snaps, special teams snaps, and percentage of special teams snaps.
Despite staying on the active roster all season, the Lions’ appeared to have no plans to play Stenberg on offense, often promoting practice squad players—i.e. Wiggins, Marcus Martin, and Evan Brown—to play ahead of him.
Stenberg did find the field on special teams late in the season, but the fact that he was unable to crack the roster, even when the season was obviously lost, is a bit concerning.
Stenberg is one of the biggest unknowns on the Lions' current roster. The talent is there for him to crack the 53-man roster once again, but we haven’t seen him take the field in a contact-based offensive setting since last training camp.
While we don’t truly know what to expect from Stenberg for the fall, we do know that he was able to practice all last season with the active roster and likely gained valuable experience. Offensive linemen can make significant jumps in development from their rookie to second seasons, so it’s entirely possible he is ready to compete for a reserve position—ala Matt Nelson, who saw this same developmental pattern last season.
Stenberg was also at OTAs and minicamp, but with no pads or contact, it’s difficult to get a feel for his development beyond just basic movements. From what we did see, he was no longer taking reps at center and instead focusing on getting snaps at both left and right guard—something much more suited to his skill set.
On the interior, Jackson, Ragnow, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai appear to be locked in as starters, but the backup positions are wide open. Brown and UDFA rookie Drake Jackson (who, like Stenberg, was a four-year starter at Kentucky) will battle to back up Ragnow at center, but Stenberg only has UDFA rookie Tommy Kraemer and UDFA Evan Heim challenging him for the top reserve spot at guard. While the competition at guard seems light, it’s possible the Lions also lean on their reserve tackles—Tyrell Crosby and Nelson—to compete inside.
The opportunity is there for Stenberg to make his mark and earn a spot on the 53-man roster, but we won’t truly see how far he has developed until training camp.