Draft Expert Bashes Lions Return in 2020 Draft Class

Julian Okwara

Getty Julian Okwara on the turf while playing Clemson.

The Detroit Lions have finished off their 2020 NFL Draft, and while most folks are thrilled with their returns, there has been at least one very notable detractor.

Analyst Evan Silva at EstablishTheRun.com put together his list of NFC draft grades and when it came to the Lions, the grade was a mere C- on the ledger. As Silva said, while Detroit’s early selections may have been alright, the team’s work as a whole was unimpressive.

Silva said:

“The Lions used the No. 3 pick to solidify their three-cornerback set of Okudah, Desmond Trufant, and Justin Coleman, then spent most of the rest of the draft picking run-game and run-defense contributors. Swift will be an immediate asset in Detroit, but scatback Huntley was overkill in the fifth round, and the Lions prioritized back-to-back offensive guards in rounds three and four. For a team so short on pass rush, Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, TCU DT Ross Blacklock, and Tennessee DE Darrell Taylor would have made more sense than Swift near the top of round two. Okwara is coming off a broken leg. Cephus ran in the 4.7s at the Combine, then 4.6s at his Pro Day. Jackson and Stenberg both tested as well below-par athletes before the draft. Beyond Okudah, the Lions failed to improve their roster at positions that move the NFL needle despite having four picks in the top 75 and nine overall.”

Obviously, nearly every pick the Lions made wasn’t good enough in Silva’s eyes in spite of seemingly making sense for plenty of other analysts. None of the positions were a reach minus perhaps Huntley, but the team looks at him as a big play machine potentially who can play other roles than running back.

Players will get the chance to determine what happens to this class and their own futures with the work they put in, so this isn’t the kiss of death, but merely one other opinion following the draft.

Experts Credit Lions With Multiple Draft Steals

While analysts might not be able to agree on how the class should be graded, Detroit, however, might have been able to steal multiple players along the way as they set out to craft their roster in the draft. Pro Football Focus took a look at naming the biggest steals in the entire draft, and the site credited the Lions with finding a pair this year, more than any other team in the NFL at this point.

The first steal they identified was Julian Okwara, an edge rusher that PFF was extremely high on as the No. 28 overall player on their board Detroit got at pick 63. Here’s what Anthony Treash wrote:

“Although he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 11 this past year, there’s no reason Okwara should have been available in the third round. With his explosiveness off the line, overall athleticism and long arms, Okwara was a first-round talent in this draft. Prior to getting hurt, Okwara was having one of the top seasons in college football at his position by owning an elite 90.4 pass-rush grade.”

From there, the Lions didn’t have to wait long to find their next steal. They traded up to get him in offensive guard Jonah Jackson, a player credited as one of the best pass defending guards in the draft and PFF’s 40th rated player. The Lions scored him with pick 75.

“No one in this draft class has better pass sets than Jonah Jackson. He gets on defensive linemen rapidly and can play anywhere along the interior. While playing for Rutgers and Ohio State the past few years, Jackson logged snaps at every interior position and performed incredibly well in pass protection, recording a pass-blocking grade on true pass sets above the 90th percentile. He’s the best pass-protecting interior lineman in this class.”

Obviously, the Lions hope these players, along with the others they selected, help infuse some much needed talent on their team. If they end up getting better in the years ahead as a result of these players, it will only merely prove the point they were perhaps a bit underrated.

Lions 2020 Draft Class

The Lions had a busy weekend, picking up cornerback Jeff Okudah, running back D’Andre Swift, guard Jonah Jackson, edge rusher Julian Okwara, guard Logan Stenberg, wideout Quintez Cephus, running back Jason Huntley, defensive tackle John Penisini and defensive lineman Jashon Cornell. As a whole, the draft class was solid in plenty of ways. Detroit addressed some of their biggest needs including a new cornerback as well as toughness on the offensive and defensive lines. They also added a potentially elite runner in Swift.

Many have graded the draft highly as a result, and it looks as if the Lions may have even found a few steals along the way to help them out as well. That might be true even if folks don’t agree with the early return.

READ NEXT: Grading Lions 2020 NFL Draft

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