Detroit Lions Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia – Round 2
The Lions were able to get a steal in the second round because Swift fell out of the first round. Veteran Kerryon Johnson has flashed some ability in the NFL, but he has had significant durability issues and Detroit needed a more steady presence in the backfield. Swift could become the Lions’ starting running back as early as his rookie year, and he could be a very good starter in Motor City.

On top of being fast, Swift (5-11, 216) is a natural runner. He has excellent vision, body lean, runs behind his pads, and is patient. Swift sets up blocks and uses his speed to dart through holes before they close. Defenders really struggle to get a hold of Swift, who has great feet that make him very elusive. He is sudden with his ability to cut and change direction. To go along with a nasty spin move, Swift has a devastating jab step with cuts back to the inside that he routinely uses to make tacklers grab air. His abrupt juke even works on defensive backs. With his change-of-direction skills and quick feet, Swift can create for himself, as he turns bad looks into big runs all on his own and Swift is an asset to bail out his line when blocking assignments are missed. Swift is a devastating running back who can overwhelm defenses.

While Swift is not the biggest of backs, he does have strength to his build and is able to break tackles while picking up yards after contact. He is not overpowering for the NFL, but he will be able to shed tacklers to get additional yards. Swift also finishes runs well, delivering some blows to defenders while falling forward.

Swift is well-suited for the passing-driven NFL because he is a talented receiving back. He runs good routes out of the backfield and has soft hands. All college backs need to be coached up and groomed for blitz protection in the pros, and Swift will have that learning curve as well. However, he has the potential to be a contributing blitz protector in the NFL.

Prior to the 2020 NFL Draft, sources from a handful of teams told me that Swift was worthy of being a top-20 pick, but they knew he may not go that high because of team needs. Some southeast area scouts felt that Swift was a better prospect than Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Josh Jacobs. Thus, I think Swift is a safe bet to be a solid starter for Detroit, and he could surpass that and be a boom pick.

2019: Austin Bryant, DE
2018: Frank Ragnow, C
2017: Jalen Tabor, CB
2016: Taylor Decker, OT
2015: Laken Tomlinson, G
2014: Travis Swanson, C
2013: Darius Slay, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Jonah Jackson, G, Ohio State – Round 3
Detroit needed some interior offensive line help, so it was not surprising that the organization used two picks on the position with Jackson (6-3, 306) and fourth-rounder Logan Stenberg. Of those two, I think Stenberg (6-6, 317) is the better player, as he is a physical run blocker at the point attack who has a real mean streak. I think Stenberg saw better competition in the SEC, and if he can fix his penalty issues, he has the upside to be a good pro starter. Stenberg (6-6, 317) needs to improve his pass protection, so he could use some development.

Jackson could be more consistent entering the NFL, but he lacks force in the ground game and is just average in pass protection. Sources from other teams said they were not high on any of the Ohio State offensive linemen and saw them as more of backup competitors for the NFL. Jackson does not have great size for the NFL, and he had some penalty issues. I think he was a reach in the third round and could have a hard time sticking in the NFL.

2019: Will Harris, S
2018: Tracy Walker, S
2017: Michael Roberts, TE
2016: A’Shawn Robinson, DT
2015: Alex Carter, CB
2014: Eric Ebron, TE
2013: Ezekiel Ansah, DE

Potential Boom Pick

Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State – Round 1
Detroit really made an excellent pair of picks in the first and second round, so I debated whether to put Okudah or D’Andre Swift as the boom pick. I gave the nod to Okudah, but it would not surprise me at all if both are boom picks and go to multiple Pro Bowls during their careers.

I like the situation that Okudah landed in with veteran Desmond Trufant across from him. In the early going, Trufant can match up against No. 1 receivers while Okudah gets acclimated to the NFL. Trufant has been doing that for years, and Okudah faced an easy schedule of receivers in recent years. Thus, he will need to adjust to the speed of the game like any rookie. Trufant could take on the No. 1s in 2020 before Okudah takes on that role in 2021. If the Lions can support Okudah with some pass rush, he could be a shutdown corner for them.

Okudah (6-1, 205) is a well-rounded prospect who does everything well. He is very good at preventing separation because he can vertically stay with speed wideouts and run the routes with receivers. He has the size and physicality to match up with big wideouts with the speed to defend the vertical threats. With his aggressive and physical style of play, Okudah sits on routes and really challenges receivers to run by him.

Okudah is a tough downfield defender, using his length to cover up wide receivers, his speed to run with them, and his burst for recoverability. He can jam receivers and has the ability turn and run with them downfield. Over the past couple of seasons, he did a very good job of slapping passes away, and as a junior, he showed improvement to produce some interceptions. Okudah is a good tackler and willing run defender who does not hesitate to close on a ball-carrier to make a hit in space.

For the NFL, Okudah looks like a future No. 1 cornerback and Pro Bowler. During his career, he could be one of the top corners in the NFL and capable of limiting elite No. 1 receivers. Thus, I see real boom-pick potential for Okudah in Detroit.

2019: T.J. Hockenson, TE
2018: Kerryon Johnson, RB
2017: Jarrad Davis, LB
2016: Graham Glasgow, C
2015: Ameer Abdullah, RB
2014: Kyle Van Noy, LB
2013: Larry Warford, G

Future Depth Player

Julian Okwara, OLB, Notre Dame – Round 3
Okwara could be limited to backup duty in the NFL. While the 6-foot-5, 252-pounder has good height and length, his lack of weight and strength could keep him from being an every-down starter. Okwara did not seem to play up to his potential as a senior, recording only four sacks after getting seven the previous year.

Okwara has some ability to get after the quarterback, but he is not a great run defender, as evidenced by his small tackle total over the past two years (55). Okwara could be a designated pass rusher and rotational depth player to be paired with a tough run defending end who plays in base. While Okwara may not become a starter, he could be a good depth and rotational backup.

2018: Amani Oruwariye, CB
2018: Da’Shawn Hand, DE
2017: Brad Kaaya, QB
2016: Miles Killebrew, S
2015: Quandre Diggs, CB
2014: Larry Webster, DE
2013: Devin Taylor, DE

Walt’s 2020 NFL Draft 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.

2020 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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