A surprise to many, the Detroit Lions chose to avoid adding a single receiver with any of their ten draft picks in the 2016 Draft. They instead added mostly lineman and backup/special teams players with their late-round picks. Fans are happy with the obvious shift in philosophy by new GM Bob Quinn, in comparison to Martin Mayhew and Matt Millen before him.
Quinn earned a good amount of praise for his first three picks, but when he drafted Jimmy Landes, a long-snapper, over Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge in the sixth round, certain fans took exception. After all, they did lose Calvin Johnson, so shouldn’t they have grabbed a receiver or two at some point in the draft?
Only time will tell, but you can’t reach for guys at positions of need, especially that late in the draft. If the Lions thought they could get a guy more productive than Burbridge in undrafted free agency, they made the right call by passing on receivers they had ranked lower than quarterback Jake Rudock or Landes.
It’s not like they didn’t address the position in free agency. Marvin Jones was considered the best receiver on the open market and the Lions snagged him on the first day he was available to sign. Jones isn’t a sure-thing to be a number-one wide receiver for Detroit.
However, he is a productive, young player, who could be the perfect complement for both Golden Tate and tight end Eric Ebron. Quinn then added former Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley, a low-risk signing with potentially high-reward if Kerley clicks with Matthew Stafford.
After the draft, Quinn signed former Denver Broncos receiver Andre Caldwell. Caldwell has never been more than a fourth receiver, but that’s really what the Lions needed out of him. Jones and Tate could each be 1,000 yard-receivers, with Eric Ebron looking to improve on his 500 yard, 5 touchdown season from last year.
Before all these free agent signings, the coaching staff was expecting Corey Fuller and T.J. Jones to step up. Both guys were already on the roster pre-draft, with valuable experience in new coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s offensive system. Fuller and Jones have good size and speed, but have yet to make much of an impact in the NFL.
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The Lions have created great competition at the wide receiver spot, from top to bottom. Tate and Marvin Jones can battle out the number-one spot, while Kerley, Fuller, Jones and Caldwell fight for those final two spots. Sure, you’d love to have a high-upside rookie to throw in that mix, but outside of Caldwell, it’s a relatively young group. Quinn knows you can’t replace Calvin Johnson with one player.