We don’t know when the Detroit Lions will play in 2020, but we do know who they will be facing and where. Here is an overview of the calendar for this season.
Detroit Free Press sports reporter Dave Birkett discusses the Lions’ best hopes and needs in the 2020 NFL draft. This is the fourth in an eight-game series. Then: wide receptors / narrow ends.
On the list of Lions: Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Tra Carson, Wes Hills, Nick Bawden.
[ NFL draft preview: Offensive line ]
[ NFL draft preview: Specialists ]
Needs of Lions: The Lions have not finished in the top half of the NFL rushing since 1998, Barry Sanders’ last season in Detroit, and that must change if they are to reach their potential this fall.
Kerryon Johnson was primarily productive during his first two seasons in the NFL. He has an average of 4.5 yards per carry and has shown good hands in the passing game. But he also missed 14 games with two knee injuries and therefore cannot be counted on as a feature film.
Scarbrough played well in a late season cameo, but is a bit limited as a runner. Together, he and Johnson and Ty Johnson of second year could form the core of a functional racing game, but the Lions need more.
After investing a second-round pick in Kerryon Johnson two years ago, general manager Bob Quinn may consider adding another relatively high pick next week, especially if the Lions get an extra pick on Day 2 in a trade on the decline.
If they rewrite potential prospects to fill in other gaps earlier, there are enough veterans on free agency service so they don’t have to force a choice late. Devonta Freeman, Lamar Miller and Frank Gore are all on the market, although they are nothing more than a stopping point at this point in their careers.
Top 3 RB prospects: 1. From Andre Swift, Georgia; 2. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin; 3. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State.
Other players with Michigan ties: LeVante Bellamy, western Michigan.
Perspective of day 3 which could interest the Lions: Michael Warren, Cincinnati.
Draw plate: There are no Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott-style prospects available in this year’s draft, but the class is deep enough that teams can find starters at the position well before Day 2.
Swift is a likely pick in the first round and a three-time talent that should thrive in an indoor area pattern. He is the latest in a long line of talented Georgia backs such as Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Terrell Davis and Herschel Walker.
Taylor and Dobbins played in the Big Ten and should be among the top 50 picks. Taylor ran a flamboyant 4.39-by-40-yard dash with a combine and rushed for more than 6000 career yards. Otherwise for ball safety issues, he would be on par with Swift as a prospect.
Dobbins, after a 2,000-yard season, is one of the most explosive backs in the draft.
Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins is faced by Michigan linebackers Devin Bush (10) and Devin Gil (36) in the third quarter on November 24, 2018. (Photo: Marvin Fong, the Cleveland Plain dealer)
Beyond these three, players such as Clyde Edwards-Helaire of LSU, Cam Akers of Florida State and Zack Moss of the Utah project as pick of day 2 and who should play at least in the part of a backfield rotation in the NFL.
Edwards-Helaire could be the best receiver in the repechage, while Moss is a physical runner whose injury history could be of concern to the teams.
The nature of the ball carrier position is such that teams will find many contributors on day 3 of the repechage. Bellamy should go somewhere in innings 4 to 7, but he also has a long history of injuries. Other sleepers are sure to come off the board at some point are Lamical Perine from Florida, Antonio Gibson from Memphis and Josh Kelley from UCLA.
Recent selection of Lions at RB:
2019: Ty Johnson (6th round).
2018: Kerryon Johnson (2nd round), Nick Bawden (7th round).
2016: Dwayne Washington (7th round).