Detroit Lions rookie roles: Seventh-round pick Jashon Cornell

Jashon Cornell, Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jashon Cornell, Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

What will be Jashon Cornell’s role with the Detroit Lions during his rookie season?

In my first attempt at such an obstacle as a sportswriter, I’ll be doing a series called ‘Rookie Roles’. Where I go through all the Detroit Lions draft picks and shed light on what I think their role is on this team. If I see them having a role at all.

We’ll start with the last pick and work our way to the third overall pick. And with their final selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Lions selected their third Ohio State player in defensive tackle Jashon Cornell. Cornell came into Ohio State very highly recruited as Minnesota’s #1 ranked high player for the class of 2015 and 33rd overall.

As a Buckeye, Cornell played a reserve role until he was kicked inside in his senior season where he was much more productive. Going from just two tackles for loss and one sack in nine games in 2018 as primarily a defensive end, to 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in 2019 when primarily playing inside.

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With the Lions playing a lot of three-man fronts, they need two different types of defensive tackles. A nose tackles to line up opposite the center and as far out as the 3-technique, and a primarily 3-5 technique defensive tackle who is occasionally asked to play as a big defensive end as far as out as 9-technique (outside the tight end).

Jashon Cornell will face some stiff competition to make the Detroit Lions’ roster

Nose tackles need to be an extra-large and at 6-foot-3, 285-pound Cornell would be a small for that position. Leaving him in the DT category. So who’s his competition in that role?

For the most part, Da’Shawn Hand, Nick Williams, Kevin Strong, and Frank Herron. That’s all the defensive interior guys besides Danny Shelton, John Atkins, John Penisini, and Olive Sagapolu who are primarily nose tackles. Hand and Williams are shoo-ins, while Strong and Herron aren’t strong options.

I would expect the Lions to keep either one or two behind Hand and Williams for the 53-man roster. With a Strong and Cornell competition … though there might be room for both with a strong training camp.

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I’m not making any predictions on Jashon Cornell’s final roster chances yet, but If it’s close competition and they’re healthy at the position, the Detroit Lions would probably go with the rookie with developmental upside in Cornell.