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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Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions
Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Jamal Agnew

The Lions spent a major portion of this offseason’s free agency period feverishly bolstering their special teams unit. They hired new coordinator Brayden Coombs and added a host of experienced standout players in the third phase. So why would Agnew, their most dangerous returner and a pivotal member of that group, be in any danger of losing snaps?

Agnew has had some electrifying moments in his three years in Detroit, housing three punt returns as well as a kick return over that time. His field-flipping ability in that area is unmistakable. His minimal development on defense though has hurt his overall value and could force the Lions to make some tough roster construction decisions when the regular season approaches.

Nominally a cornerback, Agnew is limited to slot duties on defense due to his 5-foot-10, sub-200 pound frame. That spot is currently manned by high-priced veteran Justin Coleman and Agnew just has not shown enough promise elsewhere on defense to gain the coaching staff’s trust outside of special teams. He has totaled just 207 defensive snaps over his three NFL seasons.

He could be in line for a training camp return duties battle with a number of players, including rookie fifth-round draft pick, running back Jason Huntley. The New Mexico State alum is best-known as a dynamic returner as well but offers some potential on offense, primarily as a receiver out of the backfield. The Lions like to round out their running back group with players who can contribute on special teams, and Huntley checks that box.

Count on Agnew putting up a fight with whoever challenges him whenever the in-person offseason program commences. It’s also possible that both he and Huntley stick on the 55-man roster, should the Lions want to employ a committee approach in the return game.

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Agnew, though, may need to rekindle some of his occasional gadgety burst on offense or make strides on defense to give himself a better chance of sticking on the roster. The latter could be difficult, given the complete restructuring of the Lions’ cornerback unit this offseason. There may be another uphill climb in store for Agnew, but such is life in the NFL for a former late-round draft pick.