At this time last year, the Detroit Lions were entering training camp with Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Damion Ratley and Tom Kennedy as their wide receiver group. By season's end, St. Brown rose up the ranks and became a star while Williams and Cephus went down with injuries. Perriman and Ratley were cut before the season started.
Currently, the Lions have once again reworked the group, and on paper, it is stacked. Maybe too stacked. Right now the Lions still have St. Brown, Raymond, Cephus, and Kennedy but over the past nine months, they’ve added DJ Chark, Jameson Williams, Josh Reynolds, and Trinity Benson to the roster. That just might be too many good receivers.
The Lions are going to have to keep depth on hand in case Williams isn’t ready to play at the start of the season (he is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered in January), as landing on the PUP list is a very likely scenario.
But where does that leave the group? Who stays and who goes? Let’s take a look and try to predict how things might play out, shall we?
Kennedy got a shot to play in 2021, and he made the most of his limited time. He caught six passes for 54 yards, helped out on special teams, and even threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Raymond in the season finale. Kennedy works hard and that’s one of the reasons why he’s been able to stick with the Lions since 2019. That’s ultimately why he’ll probably be able to continue to stick with the team, but more than likely, he’ll be kept on as a member of the practice squad.
Raymond is a hard one to predict because while he did play a major role on this team last season, he wasn’t a superstar. But, when called upon, he stepped up to the plate and swung as hard as he could. I think he hit a nice ground-rule double with 48 catches for 576 yards and four touchdowns. He was also the team's starting punt returner.
Still, where does he fit in since Williams can do what he does a lot better? Raymond is fast and he’s able to do things with that speed, but probably not enough to overcome the talent of the rest of the guys in the room. The Lions more than likely keep Raymond on during Williams’ absence—especially with his special teams talent—but once Williams is healthy, Raymond’s role will shrink.
Seems like an easy cut, right? Wrong. Benson came to Detroit via trade with the Denver Broncos and it still looks like the first big slip-up of general manager Brad Holmes’ run in Detroit. What the Lions wound up getting in 2021 was just 10 receptions for 103 yards. It seemed like there was no way this guy would stick around, but here he is. The Lions obviously see something in him and this spring, with a renewed sense of confidence, he has been making some noise on the practice field. Right now, I’m betting they still feel the same way at the end of camp and end up keeping him on the team.
Cephus is the one guy who just doesn’t seem to fit. He looked decent in 2021 before going down with a season-ending injury. That injury unfortunately made him the forgotten receiver. He had a shot last season because he was thrust into a bigger role, but now he has four guys directly in front of him. Cephus is healthy now and looked good at OTAs, but he still just feels out of place.
In wrestling terms, Cephus feels like a WCW guy in a WWE world. He’s good, but he’s a product of another regime, and the new regime has its guys. Cephus looks like the victim of the team finding better options.
With that in mind, Cephus being on the Lions in 2022 doesn’t feel like something that’s going to happen. That doesn’t mean the Lions necessarily have to cut him. If Cephus continues to bring his good play to training camp, the Lions could parlay him into a trade for a future late-round draft pick. There are going to be teams out there in need of receivers.
At the end of the day, these are just predictions. While Cephus doesn’t seem like he fits now, he might later. The Lions might also decide that the player they wanted in Benson just isn’t who they actually got. Maybe Kennedy jumps everyone? There’s still a lot to be sorted out this fall. Until then, the Lions have a good problem at receiver and that’s a big difference from this time last year.