Grading the Lions Rookie Class After the 2019 NFL Season

T.J. Hockenson

Getty T.J. Hockenson drafted by the Lions.

The Detroit Lions have finished off their 2019 season and are pushing into the 2020 year ready to take the next steps toward becoming a serious contender.

Quite possibly the only way they are going to do that is by getting some big contributions out of their young players moving forward for 2020 and beyond. With this in mind, how did their 2019 class show in terms of grades for their work?

Here’s a look at grading the rookies that have remained with the team for their work during the 2019 season.

T.J. Hockenson, TE


Hockenson had an up and down season, looking like he was going to be the next big thing early on given his catching and blocking, but also dropping a few passes and being inconsistent enough to appear as if he would take more time to pick up the league. Transitioning to the next level can be tough, and Hockenson’s up and down first year wasn’t a shock to many who’ve watched football for a long time. Injury struck near the middle of the season and killed any chance at a strong finish for the Iowa product. There’s enough to like here for the future, but enough uncertainty after an inconsistent first year in order to give this a middle of the road grade for the career start.

Jahlani Tavai, LB


Tavai might have been the team’s rookie of the year for his solid season at linebacker, and while his season ended in injury like most players in Detroit, there was a ton to like. Tavai showed his versatility in grabbing an interception, forcing a fumble and generating a few sacks. It became easy to see why the Lions liked this steady presence from Hawaii as their second round selection. Tavai will be an important player for the future of the defense at linebacker, and someone the Lions should look to build around at that position.

Will Harris, S


Harris, like many of Detroit’s other picks, didn’t get much run until the end of the season, but when he did, he came on strong, playing well in the season finale against the Green Bay Packers. Obviously, the Lions like Harris, because they traded fellow safety Quandre Diggs. He will be a key player for the future along with Tracy Walker. So far, in the brief view Lions fans have seen, Harris is a good instinctual player who can be in the right place at the right time and pack a punch in the middle of the field. He will be someone to watch for major development in 2020 who should have a big role.

Austin Bryant, DE


Unfortunately for Bryant, the Lions didn’t see nearly enough of him early on in his career. Injuries to start the season hurt him early on. Then, Bryant was knocked out with a separate injury just after recovering. It was bad luck for a guy who looked like he could play a role for a needy pass rush. Without seeing what Bryant can do, there’s simply no way to grade him at all for 2019. The hope is he can get healed and come to camp ready to have an impact at a very needy spot on the team’s defense.

Amani Oruwariye, CB


Oruwariye didn’t get much run until the end of the season, but when he slid into the lineup, it became clear he was a talented player who has a lot of upside. Oruwariye grabbed 2 interceptions on the season in limited run, and relative to where he was picked, this production was excellent. He came a long way from training camp to the end of the season. The hope is Oruwariye can take this confidence and become an elite depth piece for Detroit to rely on in 2020.

Isaac Nauta, TE


Nauta was a late round depth flier at tight end and spent most of the season on the practice squad until injuries struck. He got into the mix late, but never really made a complete enough impact to generate a letter grade for his efforts. The Lions like Nauta and hope he can be a depth piece on the roster moving forward. Nauta was a bit overshadowed by the likes of Logan Thomas, but will have a chance thanks to age to compete for a role in 2020 on the offense. That’s about all a late round pick can ask for.

READ NEXT: Lions Position Grades After 2019 Season

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