Detroit Lions: Where have all the wide receivers gone?

Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

What once was the strongest position group for the Detroit Lions is now one with major issues both in the slot and depth.

Let’s start with what we know about the Detroit Lions and the wide receiver position. It was a strength heading into 2018. It’s a weakness heading into 2019. Receiver Golden Tate was traded. Receiver Marvin Jones was injured. Receiver Kenny Golladay was blanketed while seemingly alone on the field.

Heading into 2019, a new slot receiver to replace Tate and better depth at the position must be a priority. People are quick to note quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s decline in production last season but rarely look at what happened to his top two targets, not to mention his lack of a go-to tight end.

With Jones and Golladay locked in on the outside, a quick, shifty player is needed for underneath routes. The Lions used to have a guy that seemed destined for this role, receiver Jace Billingsley. Billingsley was promising during the preseason, bounced on and off the roster for the past year before spending September of 2018 with none other than the New England Patriots. He’s currently not on an NFL roster.

So who’s the next shifty receiver for the Detroit Lions? He’ll need to pick up some of the production left by Tate and that was unattainable by Billingsley … and a host of other currently-rostered Lions. Oklahoma receiver Marquise Brown is at the top of the list and would likely command a second-round draft pick if he’s even still available.

Which means the Lions will probably be looking to add this type of player later in the draft. That’s if they wait for the draft to add a receiver. A sneaky option could be a free agent receiver from Kansas City Chiefs, De’Anthony Thomas.

As part of the Chiefs high-flying offense in 2018, Thomas has a good chance of escaping the franchise tag thanks to a defensive playmaker, linebacker Dee Ford. Thomas is a speedster at only 26 years old and would provide a proven option for Stafford in the slot.

You could think of Thomas as a Theo Riddick-type of player, but one that is used to lining up in a traditional wide receiver position. Also, Thomas shouldn’t break the bank as his salary last year was less than $800K. Even if he’s looking to cash in, the cost won’t be astronomical and the Lions can easily afford it.

Next. Lions all-time wide receivers in the ‘Tecmo Bowl’ era. dark

Either player – Brown or Thomas – would be welcomed additions to this Detroit Lions offense. And a receiver capable of getting separation will only increase Stafford’s production. He might even eclipse 4,000 yards again with some upgraded targets running routes. Putting one of these guys in Honolulu Blue would surely help this offense move the ball.