Detroit Lions: 2020 Draft Grades

This article was co-written by Armaan Sodhi and Michael Vanko. There will be two different grades for each pick, one from each author.

The Detroit Lions entered the draft with the 3rd overall pick this year after. After another losing season, the Lions came into the draft looking for impact players to change the tide in Detroit. The Lions finished 3-12-1 in 2019 which was even worse than 2018, in Matt Patricia’s inaugural year. Detroit entered the draft with holes to fill, the biggest being in the secondary after Darius Slay was traded to Philadelphia. Let’s take a look at how they went about tackling the draft: 

Round 1, Pick 3: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Former Detroit Lion T.J. Lang: Jeff Okudah can make a 'huge impact'

Armaan’s Grade: A

After losing their number one corner and one of the better corners in the NFL, Darius Slay, in free agency, the Lions needed a corner. Desmond Trufant has fallen off in the past couple of seasons and he was their current number one corner, and the Lions were in prime position to select the number one corner in the draft, Jeff Okudah. Okudah exceeds in man coverage and has excellent footwork. He is athletic, long, and a playmaker on the field.

Michael’s Grade: A-

Head coach Matt Patricia loves playing man coverage. With that being said, Patricia is big on matching up receivers and corners to battle it out throughout the game. With Darius Slay gone, the secondary looks weak and in order to match up with top receivers in the league, you need a top corner. The Lions hope that Okudah can be their No.1 corner. What makes sense about this pick is the scheme that the Lions run.

They run multiple safeties to help in coverage and the corner plays in the low hip pocket of their assignment. Okudah is familiar with that philosophy because that’s where he stood out back at Ohio State. Okudah is going to be filling the empty hole that was left by Slay and the Lions hope he will make an impact immediately. It’s a solid pickup because Okudah was the top corner in the draft, but it might’ve been too early for a cornerback at third overall.

Round 2, Pick 35: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

D'Andre Swift's dad steals the show after Lions select running ...

Armaan’s Grade: C+

Running back was somewhat of a need for this team, but there were better backs on the board and better talent as well. They could have drafted a defensive player in AJ Espenesa or running backs JK Dobbins or Jonathan Taylor. Swift is productive, runs hard, and is a great pass catcher as well, but struggles with ball security and has battled some injuries in college. With the offensive line in Detroit being very weak, it will be tough to count on Swift to stay healthy or to be as productive as he was in college

Michael’s Grade: A-

This was an interesting, yet good pick for the Lions. They have been looking for a Hall of Famer running back since Barry Sanders. Swift is a good runner and will be used in zone-running type situations. He also has the agility to make plays and get through small lanes to get more than a couple of yards. The agility can also be huge for the Lions in the passing game too.

Detroit has become reliant on the vertical passing game, so quick feet from Swift gives the ability to run more slant routes and plays of that nature. The offense needs to get back to a balanced playstyle rather than relying heavily on vertical passes. What’s interesting about this pick is that they already have Kerryon Johnson. It’s a sneaky pick for the Lions because they can turn Swift into a solid pass-catching running back, like Alvin Kamara. 

Round 3, Pick 67: Julian Okwara, LB, Notre Dame

2020 NFL Draft: Notre Dame EDGE Julian Okwara scouting report

Armaan’s Grade: A-

The Lions finally took an edge rusher in the draft and this is a steal as well. Okwara is a great pass rusher but does struggle in the run game. However, he is athletic, versatile, and has great burst off the line of scrimmage while having the ability to drop off into coverage as well. He just needs to fix his run defense and he can be a great player for Detroit.

Michael’s Grade: B+

I gave this a B+ for one reason and one reason only: his injury. Will Julian Okwara come back healthy after his fractured left fibula. If he does come back healthy, then this pick is a steal for the Lions. If he doesn’t come back 100% then he’s good depth to work with. The pick also reunites the two brothers as Romeo Okwara is already on the Lions roster.

Romeo plays the same position, giving the locker room some more chemistry. In his career, Okwara recorded 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, as well as 2 interceptions. It’s a good pairing between the two brothers to add more depth to the front line of the defense. If Okwara comes back healthy from his injury, the defensive line has added a solid player to work with. 

Round 3, Pick 75: Jonah Jackson, OL, Ohio State

New Detroit Lions OL Jonah Jackson an underdog: He played at Rutgers

Armaan’s Grade: B

The Lions needed a guard after the loss of Graham Glasgow and to protect their new investment in D’Andre Swift. Jackson is quick and has great footwork as well as the versatility to play either left or right guard and to get into the second level in the run game. However, he has inconsistent hands and this pick was a bit of a reach.

Michael’s Grade: B+

This pick makes sense a lot. You need to be able to keep your franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford upright and healthy, so the Lions needed to come out of the draft with at least a lineman with the potential to start. Jackson will reunite with Okudah on the Lions which adds a little more chemistry to the locker room. At Rutgers, Jackson played some center so he is a versatile player that can be moved around on the line. I think Jackson has the skill and abilities to be a starter come week one, if not then he is a solid depth player. 

Round 4, Pick 121: Logan Stenberg, OL, Kentucky

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Armaan’s Grade: C

The Lions continue to build up their offensive line adding a depth pick in Sternberg. He is a great pass blocker and has great fundamentals and footwork in protection. However, he does lack the upper body strength to seal blocks and can work on his hands in protection as well. Overall, he is a solid backup who can hold his own if needed.

Michael’s Grade: C

The Lions traded out and moved back to the 121st pick of the draft and they went guard here as well. With back to back picks being on the offensive line, the Lions might be moving on from their guards right now in Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins/Oday Aboushi. Stenberg was a left guard back at Kentucky which is currently played by Joe Wahl. Detroit could be heading in a new direction with young, fresh players to protect Stafford. I think it’s a smart move, but keeping some of the veterans around could help develop the young players into solid starters or depth players. 

Round 5, Pick 166: Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin

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Armaan’s Grade: B

Cephus fell due to some off the field issues at Wisconsin, but this adds yet another weapon for Matthew Stafford. He is a bigger receiver at 205 pounds, but is still quick and makes some impressive tough catches. He is a great run blocker and fights to gain space with his hands to catch the ball. However, he lacks separation to beat defenders, but this is still a solid pick.

Michael’s Grade: B-

It’s another weapon for Matt Stafford to work with in Quintez Cephus. This was one of the deepest wide receiver classes in some time, but Cephus was a little shocking. Cephus ran a 4.73 40yd dash at the combine which is slow for a receiver. There were other options on the table other than Cephus that on paper seemed like the better options (K.J. Hill and Donovan People-Jones).

For Cephus, he has the opportunity to grow and develop into a good depth receiver this year with little to no pressure on him. It’s a good situation for him because he gets to learn from some good receivers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.

Round 5, Pick 172: Jason Huntley, RB, NM State

Detroit Lions get a B for drafting New Mexico State's Jason Huntley

Armaan’s Grade: D+

This move makes no sense for the Lions. They already took Swift in the earlier rounds, and have a stacked running back core with Swift, Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarborough, and Ty Johnson. I don’t know where Huntley would fit here, so they should’ve gone with a high-upside player at another position. However, Huntley is fast, hard to tackle in the open field, and efficient with the ball in his hands and could be a solid kick returner for the Lions.

Michael’s Grade: D+

This pick was a little head-scratching for me considering they took D’Andre Swift in the second round. The defense seems to have more holes than the offense, so taking another running back was a confusing move. The Lions could have taken another player in the secondary or the front line because those areas need help more than the backfield.

Detroit also has 3 backs on the roster right now (Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, and Kerryon Johnson), so 5 running backs doesn’t make sense. Clearly, cuts are needed, so the offseason is going to be an interesting one for the Lions. 

Round 6, Pick 197: John Penisni, DL, Utah

John Penisini - Football - University of Utah Athletics

Armaan’s Grade: B

The Lions needed to fortify the trenches on the defensive side. Penisni has good size and strength to be a menace in the run game. He has very underrated footwork as well but sometimes can lose balance. He has a chance to compete for the starting job but he will most likely be a backup or rotational player.

Michael’s Grade: A-

The defensive line was one of the biggest needs for the team because Damon “Snacks” Harrison is a free agent, so I think waiting until the 6th round was too late. Unless they can find a solid lineman in free agency, I think they waited too long to address the issue. In his career, Peninsini has totaled 5 sacks.

Not a lot of production from him, so he is a player who is going to need to develop to be a good depth player on the roster. The tackle position is weak for the Lions, so Penisini will see a good amount of reps throughout the season. He has the potential to be a good backup for tackle Danny Shelton and a good rotational player to keep the lineman fresh throughout the game. 

Round 7, Pick 235: Jashon Cornell, DL, Ohio State

For good measure, Lions take one more Buckeye in DT Jashon Cornell

Armaan’s Grade: C+

Another addition to the defensive line by the Lions. Cornell has great athleticism and speed for a defensive lineman, but like Penisni, he can lose his balance at some points.

Michael’s Grade: C

The began the draft taking an Ohio State player and ended the draft with an Ohio State player. Cornell isn’t going to be an impact player right out of the gate for the Lions as development is going to be needed. He is better at playing the run where he recorded 13.5 tackles for loss in his career. Against the pass, Cornell in his career has sacked the QB seven times. He has a big frame and can move from an end position to inside to play tackle. It’s another project player for the Lions to cap off the draft. Detroit hopes that Cornell can develop to be a solid depth lineman for them in the future.

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