Detroit Lions: 3 players most impacted by 2020 draft class

Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books, here are three current Detroit Lions whose role may be most impacted by the incoming rookie class.

Has it really already been a week? The NFL’s first-ever “virtual draft”, seemingly went off without a hitch last weekend, and the Detroit Lions have added nine new players to the roster. This, in hopes of putting a dreadful three-win 2019 season in the rearview mirror.

Of course, not all of these additions will make an impact with the Lions, some may never even see an NFL field. The Lions are hoping that they get at least a few immediate difference-makers out of the group, or general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia could fall short in their efforts to crawl out of the NFC North cellar in 2020.

Change and roster turnover are inevitable every NFL offseason, with talented rookies often reducing the roles of select veterans or even rendering some of them expendable on a regular basis. The Lions will be no exception this offseason, and here are three current members of the team who could be most impacted by the young newcomers.

Kerryon Johnson

Relax, the third year running back isn’t going anywhere in 2020. He will be an important member of the Lions’ offense this upcoming season, but his role will undoubtedly be altered or reduced due to the drafting of Georgia running back D’Andre Swift.

Johnson is a talented and versatile offensive player, yet staying healthy has been a major concern for him in his first two years in the NFL. He has missed exactly half (16) of his games in seasons one and two with knee injuries. The Lions want to run the ball effectively with a deep stable of tailbacks, yet Johnson can’t help them do that when he’s unavailable.

On paper, (don’t you love that phrase?), Swift and Johnson would appear to be a formidable duo at the top of the backfield rotation, capable of coexisting. Both are elusive, explosive in space and provide nice options in the passing game. But who’s the starter?

The Lions are typically not in the habit of handing rookies starting positions right out of the gate, but Swift could be an exception. While some would debate the value of drafting a running back as early as the Lions did last weekend (35th overall), some of the current best running backs in the NFL stepped in as Day 1 starters and made immediate impacts as rookies. The Lions would love it if Swift could follow suit.

Where that would leave Johnson remains to be seen. Ideally, the Lions would have both available simultaneously. However, if Johnson’s health problems persist, and Swift gets off to a quick start, Johnson could find his regular share of backfield snaps and carries harder and harder to come by. We’ll see.