The Detroit Lions 2020 rookie class has depth in some key spots and could theoretically be the class which turns the tide for the team in terms of getting them to become a winner.
Detroit’s class is loaded on both offense and defense, and when they get down to it, the players should have a great chance of coming into the mix and doing some serious damage in order to help the team win on the field.
When next season gets going, what can Detroit’s rookie class be expected to do on the field and what type of role will they play? Here’s a look at making some predictions about what will happen and the kind of stats the group will put up for their new team.
Jeff Okudah, CB
2020 prediction: 75 tackles, 3 interceptions, 10 passes defended
The Lions expect Okudah to start from the first day he sets foot on the field, and that’s a reasonable expectation given where he was picked and the talent he brings to the mix. Most figure Okudah to start opposite Desmond Trufant, and if he does, he will be thrown into the fire immediately. It’s probably not wise to bet on huge numbers right out of the gate, but Okudah can certainly bring it in terms of tackles while picking off a few passes. If he keeps his head above water at a tough position to master, it will be a successful season. Should Okudah do it while putting up these stats, it would be a huge win for the Lions and their defense, which was needy on the back end.
D’Andre Swift, RB
2020 prediction: 650 yards rushing, 350 yards receiving, 5 total touchdowns
Swift comes into the mix looking to chip in at running back and at this point, nobody knows what type of role he will play for the team’s offense. The bet is he is able to form a solid tandem with Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough right off the bat. Who will get the majority of the touches? The safe call is to assume Johnson will get the majority early on, but Swift can certainly take the mantle from him and earn the majority of carries if he runs well. The Lions ground game as a whole will be better with Swift, and that’s the important thing to remember no matter the stats he puts up.
Julian Okwara, Edge
40 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Okwara has a ways to go before he can officially claim that he is completely healthy off his leg injury which claimed time in 2019. Still, there is enough of a need on the edge in Detroit that it’s probably wise to expect the Lions throw him into the fire sooner rather than later. Okwara can be a guy who replicates what Devon Kennard was able to do the last few years, and that’s the type of impact we’re projecting from him in the first year of his career. It won’t be enough to get him into rookie of the year discussions, but will be no less solid for the overall health of the defense up front.
Jonah Jackson, G
14 games played, 10 starts
The Lions traded up to draft Jackson so it’s fair to think they want him to be a major puzzle piece moving forward. Detroit likes to use a rotation at guard, so it’s tough to say how things will balance out, but it’s fair to assume that as he gets experience, the Lions could prefer to roll with him as a starter down the stretch. Jackson is a key player to watch so it’s easy to say he will have a big role with the team’s offensive line moving forward.
Logan Stenberg, G
13 games played, 8 starts
Stenberg is the better run blocker of the pair, so the Lions will get him into the mix as well and could look to start him opposite Jackson up front. In a similar rotation, it’s hard to project what Detroit will do with Stenberg, but it’s fair to say that the Lions will get him into the mix as much as Jackson in order to help jump start his career.
Quintez Cephus, WR
17 receptions, 350 yards, 3 touchdowns
Cephus is a crafty route runner and a wideout that might have some of the best hands of his class. For those reasons he will fit right in with Detroit’s group and give the team some major depth. There’s a lot of targets to be passed around, but Cephus should be able to work himself into the mix fairly early with some targets. If he catches the ball, he could quickly earn the trust of Matthew Stafford moving forward, which could be a huge bonus for Cephus and the team.
Jason Huntley, RB
150 rushing yards, 230 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns; 740 total return yards on special teams
Huntley is quite possibly the biggest wild card in the entire class given the explosive nature of his abilities. What type of role he has on the offense is open to interpretation, but he’s explosive enough to think there could be a role there as the season evolves. It’s not wise to project huge totals there, but on special teams, Huntley could become the team’s kick returner and figure in on punt returns too. That’s where he will make his biggest mark in an eye opening rookie year.
John Penisini, DT
10 tackles, 1 sack
Even though Penisini has claimed he is the most overlooked player in the entire draft, the odds are stacked against him as it relates to making a huge impact on the 2020 Lions. Danny Shelton figures to start in the middle of the line, and Penisini would be a backup option for him. The tackle is more of a run stuffer anyway, so in the event he does make the team, it’s more wise to watch for his tackle numbers instead of expecting him to push the pocket
Jashon Cornell, DL
13 tackles, 1.5 sacks
Cornell has an uphill battle of making the team as any late round draft pick, but he could get on the roster given the lack of depth up front and the need for younger bodies to rush the passer. If he does, don’t expect a huge season, but Cornell could play a solid depth role for the team.