The Detroit Lions haven’t had lots of luck through the years when it comes to the NFL draft, and that’s especially true when it comes to finding skill position players that become superstars.
Fans can count on one hand the number of players the Lions have had that fit this description, from Barry Sanders to Calvin Johnson. More significant salt has been rubbed in that wound lately, with the team potentially missing out on another elite weapon that could be set to burn them for a while.
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Detroit selected safely within the top-five in the 2020 NFL draft, and nabbed cornerback Jeff Okudah with the pick. Some recent re-drafts have revealed that may not have been a great idea for the team while providing other solutions. Pro Football Focus was merely the latest to offer a fresh perspective on a draft that’s now a few years old.
Writer Ben Linsey put together a new re-draft for that year’s selection meeting and concluded that Detroit should go in a new direction. As he wrote, while Okudah wasn’t a bad pick, Jefferson looks like “one of the NFL’s best” wideouts and a player who would have become an “immediate contributor” for the Lions in his rookie year.
“Writing off Okudah as a “bust” is premature given the injuries he dealt with and the difficult responsibilities he was given out of the gate in Matt Patricia’s defense, but it’s safe to say Detroit would jump at the chance for a do-over,” Linsey wrote as it relates to the decision.
Indeed, Okudah could still be a big piece for the 2022 Lions and into the future as well, but it’s tough to not think of what could have been with Jefferson given his game breaking abilities, speed and overall talent on the field.
For this reason, Linsey has the Lions taking Jefferson and ignoring the defense. It’s a move few fans are likely to have a problem with, even as Okudah’s career remains an intriguing possibility at this point.
Minnesota Also Beat Lions to Randy Moss in 1998
This isn’t the first time a division rival or even the Vikings have beaten the Lions to a player that ended up becoming a superstar at his position on the field. Famously, in 1998, Randy Moss slipped all the way down the board to the Lions and pick 20. Detroit had other wideouts on the roster in Herman Moore and Johnny Morton, however, and ignored the best player available theory when selecting cornerback Terry Fair. Moss would go one pick later to Minnesota, and end up haunting the Lions for over a decade with big catch after big catch. He later made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For fans, it became impossible to not dream of what he could have looked like catching passes in Detroit. Ironically, the Lions would draft wideout Germane Crowell in the second-round of the same draft, which begs the question, why pass on Moss in the first place? Would Barry Sanders have stuck around a few more years to play in an offense with Moss? It’s impossible to say, but it represents another fascinating “what if” in Detroit sports history.
Jefferson’s Stats & Highlights
It’s impossible to see this re-draft and not wonder what the Lions could be if they had Jefferson in the fold. Since coming into the league, the young pass catcher has looked like the NFL’s next elite deep ball wide receiver and a true hit for the Vikings. Since coming into the NFL, Jefferson has put up 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air. His highlight reel is very electric and fun to watch:
In this re-draft, the Lions jump at the chance to nab a player like Jefferson. Considering the struggles of their offense the last few years and the problems they’ve had with Okudah, that might not have been the worst outcome whatsoever.