Detroit Lions: Late-round sleeper who could start by 2021

Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin Badgers (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)
Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin Badgers (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions used a fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft to take advantage of one of the deepest wide receiver classes in recent memory.

The 2020 NFL Draft class was believed to be stacked with wide receivers. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper was amazed by the depth of position, even noting that there would be some really good players who would fall to the fifth round. The Detroit Lions actually ended up drafting one of those fifth-round receivers.

The Lions made Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus the 166th overall selection in this year’s draft. Cephus was the lone wideout taken by the Motor City in what could be viewed someday as a historic draft for his position.

The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Cephus has a lot to prove before helping to make his draft class one of the best in NFL history. Despite posting a solid stat-line for the Badgers last year, racking up 59 receptions for 901 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games, his draft stock tumbled after Cephus posted the worst 40-yard dash time of any receiver who participated in the NFL Scouting Combine at a pedestrian 4.73 seconds.

One of the rare NFL prospects who was able to participate at a pro day, Cephus recorded a more respectable 4.56-second 40-yard dash in March. But the damage had been done, with’s Lance Zierlein projecting him to fall all the way to the sixth round.

The biggest praise for Cephus before the draft came from a future teammate. The Lions’ first-round pick in April, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah said the Nebraska wide receiver was his toughest cover in 2019. And Okudah’s Buckeye teammate, Damon Arnette, agreed. Cephus recorded a combined 10 receptions for 179 yards facing Ohio State twice last year.

Here’s what Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network wrote about Cephus, believing he’d be a more highly-regarded prospect if he’d play elsewhere in college.

"“Quintez Cephus is one of the more undervalued receivers in the class of 2020. Cephus can win from the outside, he can win from the slot and if he played in about 100 other offenses in college football he’d have had drastically better production … Potential starter.”"

Outside of the questions about his speed, Cephus seems to check all the boxes for what NFL teams are looking for in a potential starting wide receiver. He’s got a prototypical NFL build for his position, good hands, and a knack for coming away with the ball despite tight coverage.

Although his film shows a receiver who is fast enough to make plays, Cephus will have to prove he can gain separation from stingy NFL defenders. But there’s certainly potential there and should be plenty of opportunity in the Motor City as well.

Clearly, Kenny Golladay is the now and future number one receiver option in Detroit even though he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal with the Lions. Fellow starters in Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola also enter this season without a contract beyond 2020.

Next. The Lions best draft picks by round since 2009. dark

If Quintez Cephus can prove he’s more than his draft stock as a rookie, it’s easy to imagine him ascending to a starting role in 2021. But that journey will have to start this summer, where Cephus will get his first chance to prove his value a fifth-round wide receiver coming out of a highly-touted draft class.