On Friday, the Detroit Lions lost wide receiver DJ Chark to the Carolina Panthers. With the Lions freeing up so much cap space, it was thought that maybe they would use some of that money to bring back Chark on another cheap, short-term deal. Instead, they may have opened themselves up for another need that they need to address this offseason.
With Chark gone, that leaves the Lions with a lot of receivers that can play the slot or the “Z” receiver role—typically on the same side of the field as the tight end and off the line of scrimmage—but not as many that can fill the void as an “X” receiver—on the opposite side of the field and on the line of scrimmage.
In 2022, with Chark sidelined, the Lions turned to Quintez Cephus in that “X” role before he suffered a season-ending injury against the Seahawks. After that, they turned to Josh Reynolds, who may be considered more of a “Z” receiver, and the offense struggled to find their footing for a while.
Now that Jameson Williams is healthy, he should get plenty more playing time with the absence of DJ Chark. But Williams is at his best when given some room to work with, where he can use his speed and quickness to get open early in the play. So while I think he can fill the “X” receiver role in a pinch, he is much better suited lining up in the slot or as a “Z”.
Luckily for the Lions, they have a variety of ways in which they can replace Chark. One of those options I already mentioned briefly, which is basically using what you already have on the current roster with Jameson Williams and Josh Reynolds. It’s likely that Reynolds would get the nod over Williams in Chark’s old role, with Williams and Kalif Raymond battling it out on the other side.
Another option is finding out who’s left in free agency now that the wide receiver market is starting to thin out. A Marvin Jones Jr. reunion could be worth considering, and it would fit what the Lions are looking for.
Or they could use the resources and extra money at their disposal to trade for an established receiver like Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins.
If not those options, then there are a decent amount of prospects to choose from in the upcoming NFL Draft. Here are some of the players that would fit the “X” receiver role that the Lions have a need for:
- Quentin Johnston (TCU) — Top-20 pick — Met with Lions at the NFL Combine
- Cedric Tillman (Tennessee) — Second-third round
- Rashee Rice — Second-third round
- A.T. Perry (Wake Forest) — Third-fourth round
- Xavier Hutchinson (Iowa State) — Day 3 — reportedly met with at pro day
- Andrei Iosivas (Princeton) — Day 3
- Bryce Ford-Wheaton (West Virginia) — Day 3
- Puka Nacua (BYU) — Day 3
- Antoine Green (North Carolina) — UDFA — Met with Lions at the NFL Combine
Today’s Question of the Day is...
How should the Lions replace DJ Chark now that he’s gone?
My answer: I really like the idea of bringing back Marvin Jones Jr. on a one- or two-year deal and then possibly drafting someone like Cedric Tillman on Day 2 or taking a developmental receiver on Day 3. Jones would be a solid fit in Detroit and you should be able to get him at a pretty cheap price. If he still has a lot left to give, then that’s great, and if not, then you have a fallback option with a rookie waiting in the wings for an opportunity.