FanPost

Upgrading skill positions this offseason (and the Amon St. Brown problem)

In my previous fan, I shared my dream scenario for strengthening the lines. On the defensive side of the ball, I think the Lions also need to address CB (duh!) and on offense, WR – going for a CB in both free agency and the draft and WR with a Day Two draft pick.

Let me explain WR first. Many think it is not a high priority for the Lions. I can give you one good reason why it should be a priority: Ndamukong Suh.

Huh? What does a long-departed DT have to do with WR in 2024? Recall that former GM Martin Mayhew was so sure he could sign Suh to a second contract that he passed up drafting Aaron Donald. I think the situation with Amon-Ra St. Brown is similar. St. Brown is a great receiver, and I hope he will be a Lion for a long, long time. As great as he is, he is also immensely proud. He is constantly ticked off that other WRs were drafted or invited to the Pro Bowl ahead of him. I just have this feeling that his pride will drive him to seek to be the highest-paid WR in the NFL so that he can prove to the world how great he is. Will Holmes grant him his wish? Who knows? What I am saying is that the Lions can’t count on St. Brown for 2025, so it might be time to draft another top WR this spring. Then, if St. Brown moves on (or if, God forbid, he gets injured in 2024) the WR cupboard won’t be as bare, as the DT cupboard became when Suh left for greener pastures.

I don’t think any of this year’s WR FAs are worth shelling out mega-bucks for. There is much better value in a deep WR class in the draft. Since I have already said the Lions should use their first and second-round picks on linemen, that means they should look to Round 3 for a WR. There are four that I would draft with pick # 73: Michigan’s Roman Wilson, Florida State’s Johnny Wilson, Florida’s Ricky Pearsall, and Western Kentucky’s Malachi Corley. I lean toward Corley, who plays like Deebo Samuel with his superior YAC skills. But Pearsall is great at getting open and at making acrobatic catches (similar to Roman W), and the Lions might benefit greatly from having a 6’7" athletic freak like Johnny Wilson as a red-zone threat and dominant jump ball receiver. Any one of these four at pick #73 would be an excellent addition at WR.

As for CB, I’m sure Lions fans are enticed by dreams of signing the Chiefs’ L’Jarius Sneed or the Bears’ Jaylon Johnson, but I don’t see any way their teams will let them walk. A more realistic but still ambitious target in FA would be the Browns’ Kendall Fuller, a still-fast CB (4.32 40 when he came into the league) with an impressive 83.1 PFF score last season.

Moving on to the draft, there are three CBs that I would take at #29 if they are still on the board – Alabama’s Terrion Arnold, Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, or Iowa’s Cooper DeJean – but I think there is only a minuscule chance any of them will be available at 29, which made it easy for me to settle on a lineman being the Lions first-round pick. (I wonder if Holmes, who can be very aggressive, will trade up in this draft.)

I don’t get all the hype about Missouri CB Ennis Rakestraw Jr. A stat I like to refer to is the QBR – the rating of opposing QBs when they target a certain DB (lower score is better). Arnold’s was 58.6, Mitchell’s 44.3, and DeJean’s 45.2. Rakestraw’s was 90.6. He only had 1 INT in his college career. There are concerns that he is too grabby, that he is weak in the red zone, and that he has a hard time tackling shifty running backs. I thought I saw a comment online that he gives up too many big plays (just what our Lions need, right?) but I haven’t been able to track down the source, sorry. Bottom line: whatever his positive attributes, he doesn’t have the profile of a first-rounder (IMHO).

And since I’ve assigned the first two picks to the lines anyhow, and pick #73 to a WR, the question becomes: What CB might be available at #92? I would look for Oregon’s 6’3" Khyree Jackson. In 2023, Jackson had 2 sacks, 3 INTs, 7 PDs, an 80.5 PFF score, a QB rating when targeted of only 44.2, and was the 6th-highest graded CB tackler by nfldraftbuzz.com.

There is a good chance that Jackson will be off the board by #92, so Plan B: Tennessee CB (from Ypsilanti) Kamal Hadden. Before a shoulder injury ended his season, Hadden (6’1", 197) had 3 INTs, 7 PDs, and 85.7 PFF score, and absolutely awesome QBR when targeted of only 31.7.

In addition to signing a starting CB in FA and using a Day Two pick on another CB, I could also see Holmes’ network of scouts identifying a CB gem on Day 3. Two possibilities: In the 6th round, Pittsburgh’s MJ Devonshire (5’11", 190, 8 career INTs and 22 PDs); n the 7th round: Texas Tech’s Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (5’11", 195, 10 career INTs, 22 PDs). Taylor-Demerson has an intriguing (to me) life story: He looks up to his grandfather, who is a pastor, and considers himself an evangelist for the sport of football.

What do you think? Am I onto something with St. Brown? Can the Lions afford to wait until the third round to draft a CB? Do you like any of the players I named?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.