Lions in lovely spot with 2020 NFL Draft a 'beauty contest' for receivers

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — The Detroit Lions could really stand to add another wide receiver this offseason. 

Yes, they just re-signed veteran Danny Amendola, ensuring the team's top three options will be back in 2020. And Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are a rock-solid outside tandem. But here's the thing, all three are working on contracts set to expire at the end of the 2020 season. 

Brandon Aiyuk

So yeah, expect the Lions to be in the market for a long-term option this offseason. 

Here's the good news. If there's one position being universally highlighted for its depth in the upcoming draft class, it's, you guessed it, wide receiver. Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians, often colorful with his wording, might have said it best. 

"Oh, my God," Arians said at the NFL scouting combine on Tuesday. "There's probably 40. You're going to find every shape, size. It's a beauty contest. Whatever you like —  tall, fast, short, fast, they're all here."

Arians' comments echo those of NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who said he had first-three-round grades on 27 receivers. That's pretty impressive. Since the draft went to the seven-round format in 1994, the most receivers selected was 37 in 2003. All signs point to that mark being topped this year. 

Now it's just a matter of figuring out the type of receiver the Lions are looking for to flesh out its corps. 

Likely the only options off the table for Detroit are Alabama's Jerry Juedy and Henry Ruggs, as well as Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb. That's the cream of this year's crop. All three figure to be off the board in the first 15 picks and aren't likely options for the Lions at No. 3, given more pressing needs for the franchise. 

But every other prospect is arguably in play, especially if you consider the possibility of the Lions trading down from No. 3 and either picking up a late first-rounder or the ammunition to move back into the bottom of that round. That's the range where Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk, Colorado's Laviska Shenault and Clemson's Tee Higgins figure to be selected.

Those are three wildly different options in their own right. Aiyuk, a breakout star last season, is versatile and dynamic after the catch. He has experience out wide, in the slot and as a return man. Shenault is a freakish athlete, thickly built option who presents a nightmare matchup out of the slot. And Higgins, at 6-foot-4, has the long frame and basketball background to win contested matchups on the outside.

As he puts it, in a jump ball situation, he's coming down with it 80 percent of the time.  

Donovan Peoples-Jones

On the second day of the draft, the Lions again have a wealth of choices, including a couple of local products in KJ Hamler and Donovan Peoples-Jones. 

Peoples-Jones, a Detroit native who spent the past three years at the University of Michigan, didn't hide his excitement about the opportunity to play for the Lions. 

"The Lions, growing up there, going to Michigan, maybe if I went to Detroit, that would mean everything," Peoples-Jones said. "I love the Lions, I love everything about the Lions."

Hamler, who grew up in Pontiac and used to play an occasional youth football game at the Silverdome, opted to leave the state to attend Penn State, citing the need to avoid the potential pitfalls of being too close to home. 

"I chose a different route," Hamler said. "I think I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I was committed to Michigan State for two years, but I knew it was 35 minutes away from my back yard and I just didn't want to go home and get in any trouble in Pontiac."

But home has never been far from his heart. 

"Pontiac means everything to me," Hamler said. "I put on for my city. I love my city, regardless."

At Penn State, Hamler developed into one of the country's premier playmakers with an elite combination of speed and quickness. Comparing his game to three-time Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson because of their similar size and skill set, Hamler primarily played in the slot for the Nittany Lions, but believes he could be successful as an outside option, if given the chance. 

And even if the Lions wait until Day 3, there figures to be a number of enticing options. Inevitably, because of the depth of the class, there will be some value picks on the board in those later rounds.

That group could include Florida's Van Jefferson, a polished route runner and son of former Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson; small school big man Antonio Gandy-Golden of Liberty, who has some similarities to Golladay; or Ohio State's K.J. Hill, who showcased his precision route running and elite hands working out of the slot at the Senior Bowl. 

There is certainly no shortage of choices. Now we wait and see what type of receiver the Lions will target come April.