The Detroit Lions addressed pressing needs on offense and defense, took a running back too talented to pass up and bolstered one of their strongest position groups.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he hopes his fifth NFL draft with the franchise proves to be his best.
“We have playmakers on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” Quinn said. “The draft is an inexact science. I wish I batted 1.000 — our record would be a lot better.”
The Lions are 27-36-1 in four years under Quinn. who is under pressure to win. So is coach Matt Patricia going into his third season.
Detroit began the three-day draft by taking Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah third overall, a pick the defensively challenged team was expected to make Thursday night. The team ranked last against the pass last season and traded Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay.
The Lions made a slightly surprising selection early in the second round, taking D’Andre Swift. The Georgia running back and All-Southeastern Conference player may be worth the No. 35 pick overall, but with Kerryon Johnson on the roster it was not a choice the team was projected to make Friday night.
After ranking No. 31 on defense last season, Detroit signed three veterans to join linebackers Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones. It also added third-round pick Julian Okwara of Notre Dame to the group and made him teammates with his brother Romeo, who plays defensive end in the Motor City.
Quinn and Patricia showed their commitment to the running game by taking offensive guards with consecutive picks in the middle of the seven-round draft, and the Lions also drafted two running backs.
“We want to improve the running game for sure,” Quinn said. “That would help our team on multiple levels.”
Detroit took Ohio State guard Jonah Jackson, an All-Big Ten player, in the third round with a pick acquired from Philadelphia as part of the Slay trade.
“Of the Senior Bowl guys, he’s the one guy we fell in love with,” said Quinn, whose coaching staff led one of the teams at the showcase for NFL prospects.
The Lions selected Kentucky guard Logan Stenberg after trading down in the fourth round as part of a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday.
The rookie guards will be part of a competition to start in place of Graham Glasgow, who left to sign as a free agent with Denver.
“I’ll tell you what my best asset is: I’m a nasty player,” said Stenberg, an All-SEC lineman.
Perhaps looking ahead to 2021, the Lions took speedy Wisconsin receiver Quintez Cephus in the fifth round. Veteran receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are entering the last season of their contracts. Cephus was selected with the second pick Detroit received from the Eagles for Slay.
CATCHING A FLYER
The Lions took New Mexico State running back Jason Huntley in the fifth, likely envisioning him as an option as a kickoff returner and elsewhere on special teams. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds at his pro day.
Utah defensive tackle John Penisini, a sixth-round pick, will have an opportunity to earn a spot on the team behind newly signed veterans Danny Shelton and Nick Williams.
Penisini acknowledged he was stunned to be selected midway through the sixth round.
Detroit closed its draft with a third player from Ohio State, defensive tackle Jashon Cornell, in the seventh round.
Coming off a three-win season and with a mandate of sorts from ownership to contend for the playoffs, Quinn and Patricia will have more job security if Okudah proves to be worth being the third cornerback taken No. 3 overall since 1967.
Okudah joins Bruce Pickens (1991) and Shawn Springs (1997) as the highest-drafted players at the position in the common draft era.
If other rookies contribute to help Detroit win in the highly competitive NFC North, it will also help the Lions’ embattled leaders.
Ultimately, though, Matthew Stafford’s health will be pivotal after it became clear how important he is to the team. The veteran quarterback missed the last eight games of 2019 with a back injury, leading to the Lions losing nine straight in their worst season in a decade.