The Detroit Lions have one of the youngest roster in the NFL, and that’s obviously by design. General manager Brad Holmes has had a long-term focus for this team since he stepped in the building about 15 months ago. Not only has the team shedded itself from bulky contract of older players, but they’ve focused on the draft and acquiring young players with high upside in free agency.
But the team is also focusing on developing leftover players from the previous regime. For all the faults that Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia had, there are at least a few players they drafted that have been worth keeping around. Case in point: the 2020 draft class.
We often talk about the huge jump between Year 1 and Year 2 in the NFL. In fact, head coach Dan Campbell noted it a couple weeks ago in his talk with the media.
“You don’t make any greater jumps than you do from (year) one to two,” Campbell said. “That is the greatest jump that most guys make.”
But that is not a universal truth in the NFL. No player is guaranteed to make that jump, and some players never make that jump at all. Some players’ first few years are derailed by injury, while others may take a little more seasoning than just one extra offseason.
So let’s look back at the 2020 draft class, and the eight of nine selections that are still on the roster, and see who could be in for a Year 3 jump.
Today’s question of the Day is:
Which 2020 Detroit Lions draft pick is due for a Year 3 jump.
My answer: Here’s a look at the players who remain on the roster from that draft class:
- Jeff Okudah
- D’Andre Swift
- Julian Okwara
- Jonah Jackson
- Logan Stenberg
- Quintez Cephus
- John Penisini
- Jashon Cornell
Obviously, the first name is the one that jumps out the most. Okudah appeared ready to break out last year after he connected with his new coaching staff and received a ton of hype from coaches and teammates. The Achilles injury ended that pursuit just a single game into the season.
He’s certainly a prime candidate to break out in Year 3, but it’s hard to have much confidence in him due to the severity of his injury. Based on his social media posts, it seems like his rehabilitation is going well, and being ready for the start of training camp appears to be on the table. But it’s hard to know just how much of his athleticism is still there before seeing him out on the field in game-speed situations.
Swift would be an interesting answer to the question. After tallying more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage last year, it’d be hard to call anything he does in 2022 a true “breakout” season. That is, unless he put up numbers that would put him in the Pro Bowl or All Pro conversation. Injuries have shortened his first two seasons in the NFL, so if he could simply stay healthy for a full 17-game season, we should expect a significant bump in production. But could he break into the top-five running back discussion? He certainly has the offensive line to thrive, and entering the second year of a new offensive system could help, too.
Julian Okwara is still certainly waiting to hit his peak, and he’s dealt with a few injuries that have slowed his development. However, I wonder if he’ll even have the opportunities to have a breakout season—especially if the Lions draft an edge defender early this year.
Jonah Jackson was a Pro Bowler last year, so while I expect some more improvement, I don’t think a “breakout” season is on the table. Logan Stenberg may not make it to the 53-man roster. John Penisini and Jashon Cornell are also on the roster bubble.
That leaves Quintez Cephus. He, too, will have to fight for opportunities in an improved wide receiver room. However, he did show flashes in 2021 of being a potential weapon. Had he not suffered a broken collarbone in Week 5, last year could have been his breakout season. But will he see the field enough to showcase his value now that DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds are in town? And if Detroit drafts a wide receiver early, Cephus may be on the roster bubble heading into training camp.
Overall, I think the answer has to be Jeff Okudah. He appears to be on the way to “full” health by training camp. He’ll have the opportunity to play on the field. And with his unmatched work ethic, you know the guy is going to put everything he has into his comeback.