2020 NFL Offseason: Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions (Last Year: 3-12-1)

2020 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Chase Daniel, WR Geronimo Allison, OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, DT Danny Shelton, DT Nick Williams, LB Jamie Collins, LB Reggie Ragland, LB Elijah Lee, CB Desmond Trufant, CB Darryl Roberts, S Duron Harmon, S Jayron Kearse.
Early Draft Picks:
CB Jeff Okudah, RB D'Andre Swift, DE/OLB Julian Okwara, G Jonah Jackson, G Logan Stenberg. Lions Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB J.D. McKissic, TE Logan Thomas, OT Ricky Wagner, G/C Graham Glasgow, DT Mike Daniels, DT Snacks Harrison, DT A'Shawn Robinson, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Tavon Wilson.

2020 Detroit Lions Offense:
The Lions might be the most difficult team to evaluate this offseason because it's unclear how healthy Matthew Stafford is. The long-time Detroit quarterback has a back issue that could either bother him into the fall or go away without a trace prior to the start of the season. General manager Bob Quinn said Stafford is medically cleared, but that doesn't mean that it's still not a problem that could resurface. It's possible that the back will be a non-factor, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if Stafford pulls an Andrew Luck this summer and retires out of the blue.

If the final scenario comes to fruition, it would be a very disappointing end to Stafford's career. Stafford is a very gifted quarterback, but he's never been able to advance past the opening round of the playoffs because of either a lacking supporting cast or a woeful defense. The supporting cast shouldn't be the issue, as he has three viable receivers at his disposal, plus highly athletic tight end T.J. Hockenson, who was chosen in the top 10 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Kenny Golladay has the potential to emerge as one of the better receivers in the NFL, while Marvin Jones will continue to be a solid option. Danny Amendola, meanwhile, was re-signed to a 1-year contract to continue to serve as a dependable slot receiver.

The running game was an issue last year, particularly when Kerryon Johnson was injured. This has been a constant issue for Johnson in his brief tenure in Detroit, as he hasn't been able to stay on the field. The Lions apparently grew frustrated with this because they spent a second-round pick on D'Andre Swift, who was arguably the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft. Swift is an exceptional runner who can also serve as a dynamic receiving threat out of the backfield. Assuming Swift doesn't follow the same injury trajectory as Johnson, Stafford will heavily utilize his new toy early and often this season.

With Swift available to upgrade the backfield, the only concern with the offense - save for Stafford's back - is the front line. The Lions allowed right tackle Ricky Wagner to walk, as the front office was also frustrated with his durability. They replaced him with Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The former Eagle started in place of Jason Peters during the team's Super Bowl run, so the Lions believe he can serve as an upgrade over Wagner. They paid him $50 million over five years, so they're willing to bet that will be the case. Vaitai will bookend left tackle Taylor Decker, who is coming off a strong 2019 campaign.

The Lions acquired two other linemen, spending third- and fourth-round picks on Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg in the 2020 NFL Draft. Detroit will need the two prospects to emerge quickly because incumbent guards Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins aren't good players. The only known strength in the interior is 2018 first-rounder Frank Ragnow.

2020 Detroit Lions Defense:
There are plenty of changes in the trenches on the other side of the ball as well. The Lions let go of all the top defensive linemen from last year, which includes monstrous run stuffer Snacks Harrison and solid veteran Mike Daniels. Things will be worse up front, as the Lions acquired Danny Shelton and Nick Williams to serve as replacements. This is a questionable decision, at best. Shelton is a good player, but Williams is rather mediocre.

There was talk that the Lions would use the No. 3 overall pick on Derrick Brown. It was a close decision, but Detroit opted to use the selection on Jeff Okudah. The Ohio State product is an amazing prospect who figures to be an upgrade over Darius Slay, which is saying a lot. The Lions will have a great tandem of cornerbacks, as they obtained former Falcon Desmond Trufant this offseason. Trufant missed seven games in 2019, but he should be able to rebound in his first season in Detroit.

The Lions would have an amazing secondary if they managed to keep stellar safety Quandre Diggs. Instead, Detroit inexplicably traded him to the Seahawks during the season last year. There is hope at the position, however, as Tracy Walker, a third-round choice from the 2018 NFL Draft, showed lots of promise last year. He'll start next to former Patriot Duron Harmon, who was acquired in a trade this offseason. Harmon is a versatile player who won't have much of a transition into Matt Patricia's system.

Speaking of former Patriots, the Lions acquired Jamie Collins this offseason. Collins struggled in Cleveland, but thrived in Bill Belichick's system last year. He turns 31 in October, but Collins should do well under Patricia. He'll play next to the utterly disappointing Jarrad Davis, a former first-round pick who hasn't even come close to living up to expectations in the pros.

Detroit also has a new linebacker on the edge, using a second-day choice on pass-rusher Julian Okwara. The Lions lost Devon Kennard this offseason, so Okwara could be a decent replacement. Okwara certainly won't get much attention from defenses, thanks to the presence of elite edge rusher Trey Flowers on the other side.

2020 Detroit Lions Schedule and Intangibles:
Matt Prater has been one of the top kickers in the NFL over the past several years. He was 26-of-31 last year, which doesn't sound great until considering that he was 7-of-8 from 50-plus last year.

Punter Sam Martin has been inconsistent in net yardage over the years. He was 11th last season, and he did a good job of pinning opponents inside the 20.

The Lions were one of the better special-teams units last year based on returns.

Detroit has a mixed schedule this year. To begin the season, for example, the team can beat up on the Bears, Cardinals, Jaguars and Falcons, but it also has to battle the Packers, Saints, Colts and Vikings.

2020 Detroit Lions Rookies:
Go here for the Lions Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2020 Detroit Lions Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2020 Detroit Lions Analysis: The Lions have the widest range of outcomes of any NFL team this year. There's a chance Matthew Stafford's back is so bad that he struggles or even retires like Andrew Luck did last summer. Conversely, if Stafford and the rest of the team remains healthy, the Lions have enough talent to win the division and perhaps even prevail in a playoff game.

Projection: 5-11 (3rd in NFC North)

2019 Projection: 5-11. 2019 Actual Result: 3-12-1.
2018 Projection: 8-8. 2018 Actual Result: 6-10.
2017 Projection: 7-9. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 4-12. 2016 Actual Result: 10-6.


NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade

Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Lions are in a difficult position. Their front office and coaching staff needs to do everything in its power to win now, but that conflicts with the health and status of Matthew Stafford. The long-time Detroit quarterback has a bad back and doesn't seem like he'll be available to play much longer. It'll be tough for Detroit to balance immediate success with a long-term answer. What they can do is trade down from No. 3 to accumulate more draft capital.

2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Detroit fans have to be very upset that the front office couldn't move down from No. 3. It may have been difficult for teams to wheel and deal on draft day - there were just four trades in the first round - but the Lions had two months to make a trade happen. Other teams can get a pass for not trading, but not the Lions. They would have easily obtained Jeff Okudah at No. 5 or 6. They should have taken anything, even if it was a fifth-round pick or a box of doughnuts.

It's a shame the Lions didn't trade down because that spoiled what was an impressive class otherwise. Okudah will be a terrific player, while De'Andre Swift was a steal atop Round 2. Julian Okwara and Logan Stenberg were also solid choices. I wasn't a fan of the Jonah Jackson pick, mostly because the Lions unnecessarily traded up for him.

The Lions are better than they were prior to the draft. If Matthew Stafford can remain healthy, Detroit can take the division with the Packers and Vikings in decline. However, this draft would've been so much better had the Lions just been more aggressive in acquiring more assets.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

3. Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State - D- Grade
I like the player. I really do. This D- grade has nothing to do with Jeff Okudah. In fact, Okudah is the reason why this grade isn't an O'Brien. However, this is very close to a failure. The Lions could've obtained Okudah at No. 5 overall. They should have at least obtained something for moving down two spots, even if it was just a fifth-round pick. This is just horrible management by the Lions.

35. D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia - A+ Grade
I love this pick. The Lions needed someone to challenge or take over for Kerryon Johnson, who can't stay healthy. They upgraded Johnson here with a player who easily could've been chosen as high as No. 18 overall. Running backs dropped because the need wasn't there for the most part in the 17-32 range, so the Lions are getting a steal with the best player at his position in the entire class.

67. Julian Okwara, DE/OLB, Notre Dame - B Grade
The Lions play in a division with some pretty pedestrian quarterbacks - Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Jordan Love - but they still needed an edge rusher across from Trey Flowers. Julian Okwara makes sense here as a third-round prospect. This is a decent fit.

75. Jonah Jackson, G, Ohio State - O'BRIEN Grade
I get the need, and I'm glad the Lions have decided to protect Matthew Stafford, but I don't understand why the Lions jumped up 10 spots for Jonah Jackson. That didn't seem necessary at all. I've had Jackson in the sixth and seventh round, depending on the update, so I have to grade this poorly. This would be a C/C- if the Lions didn't trade up, but relinquishing resources unnecesarily is a killer.

120. Logan Stenberg, G, Kentucky - A Grade
Logan Stenberg had some questions about him being able to block speed rushers, but he answered those questions at the Senior Bowl. I thought he may have improved his stock to go as high as the second round, but apparently not. The Lions won't complain, as they're getting a potential starter in the middle of the draft.

166. Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin - D Grade
Speaking of receivers who can't separate, Quintez Cephus is not a player I had mocked in most of my updates. I think I had him undrafted most of April. He was productive at Wisconsin, but he doesn't look like an NFL player to me.

172. Jason Huntley, RB, New Mexico State - D- Grade
Jason Huntley wasn't on my radar as a draftable prospect. He was productive at New Mexico State, but that's not going to translate to the pros. Huntley is too small (5-9, 193).

197. John Penisini, DT, Utah - B Grade
John Penisini is a quality pass rusher who has good technique, so he makes sense here in the sixth round, though I didn't have him drafted. The athleticism isn't good, but Penisini could end up being a fine rotational player.

235. Jashon Cornell, DT, Ohio State - A Grade
It's unclear why more attention wasn't paid to Jashon Cornell, as he may have suffered from not being able to show off at his pro day because of the pandemic. Cornell was a disruptive player last year who was able to generate a pass rush. He's a bit undersized, but he should've been chosen earlier.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.


Season Summary:
THings began so well for the Lions, as they upset both the Chargers and Eagles in the first three weeks. They also played closely to the Chiefs and Packers after that, but things quickly fell apart because of a torrent of injuries.

Offseason Moves:
  • Lions sign WR Geronimo Allison
  • Lions sign LB Reggie Ragland
  • Lions sign OLB Elijah Lee
  • Lions sign WR Geremy Davis
  • Eagles acquire CB Darius Slay from Lions
  • Lions sign CB Desmond Trufant
  • Lions acquire S Duron Harmon from Patriots
  • Lions sign DT Danny Shelton
  • Lions cut DE/OLB Devon Kennard
  • Lions sign DT Nick Williams
  • Lions sign OLB Jamie Collins
  • Lions sign OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Cornerbacks: Darius Slay is a terrific cornerback, but he's the only viable player the Lions have at the position. Two new corners are needed, including one who can play well in the slot. Signed Desmond Trufant

    2. Inside Linebacker: It's about time the Lions finally give up on Jarrad Davis, who is coming off another terrible year. Signed Jamie Collins and Reggie Ragland

    3. Offensive Tackle: The Lions cut Ricky Wagner, so they'll need a replacement. Signed Halapoulivaati Vaitai

    4. Safety: Here's another area of the secondary that must be addressed, especially if Tavon Wilson leaves via free agency. Traded for Duron Harmon

    5. Guard: Graham Glasgow is a key free agent who will need to be retained or replaced this offseason.

    6. Defensive Tackles: Detroit has a bunch of defensive tackles about to enter free agency. Signed Danny Shelton and Nick Williams

    7. Edge Rusher: The Lions could use another dynamic edge rusher to go along with Trey Flowers.

    8. Running Back: Kerryon Johnson hasn't been able to stay healthy, so perhaps the Lions will add a solid complement for him, perhaps on the second day of the 2020 NFL Draft.

    9. Quarterback: With Matthew Stafford constantly injured, the Lions should consider finding a possible successor for Stafford, or at least a very reliable backup. Signed Chase Daniel

    10. Slot Receiver: A replacement for Danny Amendola will be needed if he leaves via free agency. Signed Geronimo Allison

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Desmond Trufant, CB, Falcons. Age: 29.
      Signed with Lions (2 years, $21 million)

      Desmond Trufant has been a solid cornerback for quite some time. He played just nine games last year because of a couple of injuries, but performed well when he was on the field. Trufant turns 30 in September, so a decline is coming in a few years, but he should continue to play very well in the near future.

    2. Jamie Collins, LB, Patriots. Age: 30.
      Signed with Lions

      Jamie Collins was a lost soul in Cleveland, but he thrived once again when being coached by Bill Belichick. He turns 31 in October, so he could begin to regress soon.

    3. Danny Shelton, DT, Patriots. Age: 27.
      Signed with Lions (2 years, $8 million)

      Danny Shelton had always been a quality run stuffer, but he managed to improve in the pass-rushing department this past season.

    4. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, Eagles. Age: 27.
      Signed with Lions (5 years, $50 million)

      Halapoulivaati Vaitai, commonly known as "Big V," has been one of the best backup tackles in the NFL. He has earned the right to compete for a starting job at right tackle somewhere.

    5. Chase Daniel, QB, Bears. Age: 33.
      Signed with Lions (3 years, $13.05 million)

      Chase Daniel has been one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL over the past several seasons.

    6. Jayron Kearse, S, Vikings. Age: 26. -- Signed with Lions (1 year)
    7. Nick Williams, DE/DT, Bears. Age: 30. -- Signed with Lions (2 years, $10 million)
    8. Geronimo Allison, WR, Packers. Age: 26. -- Signed with Lions (1 year)
    9. Reggie Ragland, LB, Chiefs. Age: 26. -- Signed with Lions
    10. Geremy Davis, WR, Chargers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Lions
    11. Elijah Lee (RFA), OLB, 49ers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Lions

    Detroit Lions Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Graham Glasgow, G/C, Lions. Age: 28.
      Signed with Broncos (4 years, $44 million)

      Graham Glasgow improved markedly in 2019, becoming a stout blocker for the Lions' interior offensive line. Glasgow can play both center and guard very well, so he'll be highly sought after on the open market.

    2. Mike Daniels, DE/DT, Lions. Age: 31.
      Mike Daniels was once one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL, but he had an injury-ravaged 2019 campaign after the Packers released him last offseason. He turns 31 this offseason and should continue to decline.

    3. Snacks Harrison, NT, Lions. Age: 31.
      Snacks Harrison has been one of the NFL's top nose tackles over the past several years. His play declined last year, but he was playing through injuries, so he could bounce back next year. He'll turn 32 in November, however, so the regression might be permanent.

    4. Ricky Wagner, OT, Lions. Age: 30.
      Signed with Packers

      Ricky Wagner signed a 5-year, $47 million contract three years ago. His tenure in Detroit began well, but injuries have sapped him of his effectiveness. As a result, he struggled in 2019. There's a chance Wagner can rebound in 2020 - he's only 30 - but he could also continue to regress.

    5. A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Lions. Age: 25.
      Signed with Rams (2 years, $17 million)

      A'Shawn Robinson played well in 2018, but took a step backward this past season. Robinson had been dealing with a knee issue entering the year and ended up missing a handful of games, so his 2019 decline can be attributed to him being banged up.

    6. Devon Kennard, DE/OLB, Lions. Age: 29.
      Signed with Cardinals

      Devon Kennard has logged seven sacks in each of the past two seasons, and he has also held up well against the run. It's puzzling as to why the Lions cut him.

    7. Tavon Wilson, S, Lions. Age: 30.
      Barely anyone played well for the Lions in the second half of the year, but Tavon Wilson was one of the few exceptions. Wilson should continue to be a solid safety, though he'll turn 30 in March.

    8. Danny Amendola, WR, Lions. Age: 34.
      Danny Amendola was a dependable slot receiver, even at the age of 34. Amendola doesn't have much of a future in the NFL, but he should have a solid season or two remaining in the tank.

    9. Kyle Sloter, QB, Lions. Age: 26.
      Kyle Sloter, the Tom Brady of the preseason, has shown enough to deserve a No. 2 job in the NFL. He has a quality arm and possesses upside, so every team should be interested.

    10. Rashaan Melvin, CB, Lions. Age: 30. -- Signed with Jaguars (1 year)
    11. J.D. McKissic, RB, Lions. Age: 27. -- Signed with Redskins
    12. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Lions. Age: 30.
    13. Logan Thomas, TE, Lions. Age: 29. -- Signed with Redskins
    14. Oday Aboushi, G, Lions. Age: 29.
    15. Jason Cabinda (RFA), LB, Lions. Age: 24.
    16. Miles Killebrew, S, Lions. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Lions
    17. Caleb Benenoch, OT, Lions. Age: 26.
    18. Jeff Driskel, QB, Lions. Age: 27. -- Signed with Broncos

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

    NFL Picks - Nov. 25

    2021 NFL Mock Draft - Nov. 25

    2022 NFL Mock Draft - Nov. 15

    NFL Power Rankings - Nov. 14

    Fantasy Football Rankings - Sept. 9

    2020 College Football Recruiting Rankings - April 14

    2020 NBA Mock Draft - Sept. 27



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