Lions 2020 draft preview: Deep WR class offers chance to brighten uncertain future at position
Allen Park — Over the next several days, leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions’ roster and evaluating how the team might address each unit. Today: Wide receiver.
► Current roster: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Geronimo Allison, Marvin Hall, Travis Fulgham, Chris Lacy, Jon Duhart, Victor Bolden, Tom Kennedy
► Short-term need: Two out of 10
► Long-term need: Ten out of 10
► Top prospects: Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, Tee Higgins, Justin Jefferson
► Mid-round options: Michael Pittman, K.J. Hamler, Van Jefferson
► Late-round fits: K.J. Hill, James Proche, Kristian Wilkerson
► Analysis: Here's a list of receivers the Lions have under contract beyond the upcoming season: ____________
You read that correctly. None. Zip, zero, nada.
After re-signing Amendola this offseason, the Lions return their talented and productive starting trio from a year ago. Reunited with Jones and Golladay, supplemented by Hall and Allison, a free-agent addition, the team's corps look pretty good heading into the 2020 campaign.
But with arguably the deepest receiver class in the history of the NFL Draft, the Lions can't ignore addressing the team's long-term lack of stability at the position.
With so many more-pressing needs, the Lions aren't in position to target a receiver with their first-round pick. That means they're going to miss out of Jeudy, Ruggs and Lamb. And odds are a few more are coming off the board on the draft's first night.
But starting on Day 2, depending how the board falls, the Lions should have multiple opportunities to get a good value at wideout. For example, if either Justin Jefferson or Baylor's Denzel Mims — both highly productive players with elite athleticism — were to be available when the Lions are on the clock in Round 2, you'd have a difficult time arguing against either selection.
In Round 3, where the Lions currently have two picks, USC's Pittman or Penn State's Hamler are both intriguing options, even if they couldn't have more different body types.
Pittman, at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds is a solid route runner who doesn't let many passes hit the ground. He doesn't have much experience in the slot, and isn't much of a deep threat, but he'll keep the chains moving while presenting matchup problems in the red zone.
Physically, Hamler is the opposite of Pittman, standing 5-foot-8 and weighing 178 pounds at the combine. The Penn State standout from Pontiac typically lines up in the slot and beats defenders with quickness off the line and elusiveness with the ball in his hands, although drops have been something of an issue.
There's also a possibility Arizona State standout Brandon Aiyuk, after undergoing core muscle surgery this week, slides. He could be another value choice on Day 2.
And what's nice about this class is even if the Lions wait until Day 3, they'll still be able to find a bargain. Van Jefferson, son of Detroit's former receiver coach Shawn Jefferson, is a route-running technician who can play inside and outside.
Hill and Proche possess prototypical slot skill sets, while Wilkerson (Southeast Missouri State) is the type of big-bodied, small-school standout who gets lost in the shuffle in a class like this. He would certainly be worthy of being a late-round lottery ticket for many teams.
Regardless of when they address the need, it's a near certainty the Lions draft a receiver this month. And if the team also can work out a contract extension with Golladay later this offseason, concerns about the future outlook at the position will quickly dissipate.