The Detroit Lions finished their virtual 2020 NFL Draft over the weekend, with a major focus on one fundamental part of the game.
The general consensus is that Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn just nailed the 2020 NFL Draft. While I agree, for the most part, I also thought there was a clear objective.
If there’s one thing the Lions haven’t had in a long, long time … it’s a good running game. It’s so bad that even when you bring this up fans want to point to the great memories of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in 2013 as the outlier. The year Detroit was 17th in total rushing yards and 22nd in yards per attempt.
I think Quinn went into this draft determined to do the most he could to fix the run game, on the both sides of the ball.
In a 2019 season where the Lions went 3-12-1, they held a lead in 14 of 16 games and multiple fourth-quarter leads. That should tell you the Lions couldn’t close out games. To close out games you need to be able to run the ball, and you need to be able to stop the run if you give up the lead in the fourth quarter.
According to MLive.com, in the 2019 end of the season press-conference, Bob Quinn had this bottom line to the season:
"“… I’m going to say this word a lot, is we didn’t finish. I know Matt [Patricia] has said it a couple times, I’m going to say it over and over again this whole offseason because when I look at everything — and we’re just in the beginning stages of evaluating the whole season as a whole — it just was a season we didn’t finish.”"
If you look at the Lions draft picks, I think it’s pretty clear he still believes that and went all-in to fix it the best easiest way possible, the run game.
- (03) CB, Jeff Okudah
- (35) RB, D’Andre Swift
- (67) EDGE, Julian Okwara
- (75) OG, Jonah Jackson
- (121) OG, Logan Stenberg
- (166) WR, Quintez Cephus
- (172) RB, Jason Huntley
- (197) DT, John Penisini
- (235) DT, Jashon Cornell
You could argue first-round pick Jeff Okudah is a run-plus pick as well. Though stopping the run isn’t what he’s known for, he’s a great tackler and very solid against it. I just don’t think that was why the Lions drafted him.
In all fairness, I could have said the whole draft if it wasn’t for pass-rushing specialist and seventh-round pick Jashon Cornell. As a defensive tackle Cornell weighed a lean 285 pounds at the combine and doesn’t bring much at all the run defense. If made the team I would imagine situational passing downs only.
Whereas every single pick from round two though six, I believe Quinn made with the running game in mind.
(35) D’Andre Swift, RB: A lot of people’s #1 running back in the draft.
(67) Julian Okwara, EDGE: Though Okwara’s best attribute is being a great pass-rush off the edge, he’s still a good run defender. He’s good at containing the run and great at getting through traffic showing off his athleticism in pursuit to the runner.
(75) Jonah Jackson, OG: This actually isn’t a given … some offensive linemen are better pass-blockers and a liability in the run game. Luckily that isn’t the case here.
(121) Jonah Stenberg, OG: Remember what I said about some offensive linemen being better pass-blockers … Stenberg is the opposite of that.
(166) Quintez Cephus, WR: Thought you had me on the wide receiver didn’t you? Cephus is a wide-out but he’s a big, slow, possession receiver that’s a great blocker on the outside. Something I think Quinn thought may be helpful with Swift in town. Cephus would be a big plus in the run game.
(172) Jason Huntley, RB: Huntley is technically a running back, and of course he’ll run the ball. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play more slot. Still a running back though, win.
(197) John Penisini, DT: Like offensive linemen, some defensive linemen are pass-rushers, some run-defender, some both. Penisini is a big nose tackle who specializes in run defense.
It’s clear what Bob Quinn thinks this Detroit Lions team needs to be competitive in this league. And I can’t say I disagree with him on this one.