The draft dust is pretty settled at this point. We’re two weeks past now and it’s that time of year where discussing the ramifications of the draft is the topic. We already discussed the five Lions who benefited from the draft last week, now it’s time to discuss the five Detroit Lions who should be concerned after the draft. Let’s jump right into it.
I like Cephus and I think that he showed some flashes of him being a decent receiver during the 2021 season, but I just can’t see a path to him being on the Lions in 2022. He did show those flashes last season, but unfortunately the sample size was very small due to him playing just five games and missing the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.
A lot has happened since then. First the Lions signed Josh Reynolds. Then Amon-Ra St. Brown became a star. This offseason the Lions made big moves by signing DJ Chark and trading up to get Alabama’s Jameson Williams in the draft.
Where does Cephus fit in? If the Lions carry six receivers, I guess you can make a case for him to stay, but if they only keep five and it comes down to Cephus versus Kalif Raymond, special teams is going to carry a lot of weight, and that’s advantage: Raymond by a mile.
Anzalone is in no danger of missing out on making this team in 2022. This is more of a long-term concern for him. While Anzalone is only 27 and has the trust of the coaching staff, the Lions have a future set at linebacker in Derrick Barnes and Malcolm Rodriguez. It’s only a matter of time before those guys push him out of the way. That could start as early as 2022. Barnes really showed something at times in 2021, and there’s a strong chance he could play his way into Anzalone’s job at camp this summer. There’s also the concern that Jarrad Davis is back, and if there’s any coaching staff that could unlock the potential of the former first-round pick, I believe it’s this coaching staff. Don’t sleep on free agent addition Chris Board, either.
Harris is an interesting case. He’s really struggled at safety, and the Lions have been searching if he provides extra value at cornerback. They signed DeShon Elliott in free agency and picked Kerby Joseph in the draft. With Tracy Walker and CJ Moore already on staff at safety, Harris is kind of the odd man out. He had some success at corner in 2021, but the Lions currently have Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, AJ Parker, Jerry Jacobs, Mike Hughes, Ifaetu Melifonwu and now Chase Lucas at corner. Where does Will Harris go?
There’s been talk of making him a hybrid of corner and safety, but he’s going to have to prove at camp that he’s good enough in that role to show that the Lions need to keep him despite being stocked with players in the secondary. History tells us that Harris may struggle to do that.
Admittedly, this is an out-of-the-box take. Griffin was an odd signing. I get that there’s some connection there between Dan Campbell and Griffin, and I also get that the Lions coaching staff is good at mining out good performances out of players who have been otherwise forgotten elsewhere, but what can Griffin do that Brock Wright can’t ?
He’s been limited as a blocker at the NFL level, and he’s shown even less as a receiver. With rookie fifth-round pick James Mitchell coming on with the ability to do just about everything under the sun and Wright showing some talent in 2021, I just don’t see how Griffin sticks around. I’m prepared to be wrong about this one.
I know it’s sad. I like Okwara a lot. Here’s the issue. He’s going to be 27 next month and is coming off an Achilles injury. He had a great 2020 season, but other than that, Okwara has struggled to catch on elsewhere. I want him to stay in Detroit and I hope he does, but the tea leaves really show that this might not be the end result.
The Lions just went crazy on pass rushers in the draft. They picked Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Paschal and James Houston. They also re-signed Charles Harris after a big year and have Michael Brockers and Levi Onwuzurike on the roster too. The latter is expected to have a bigger role after Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash raved about him being in great shape last week. There’s also Romeo’s younger brother Julian. he’s been coming along as well.
The final problem for Okwara is that he costs a lot of money. Okwara has a $14.5 million dollar cap hit in 2022 and another one of the same amount in 2023. The Lions are definitely tied to Okwara in 2022 because he would cost more in cap space off the team than on it. But Detroit could clear $7.5 million in space next year if they don’t view Okwara as an asset anymore—and with some up-and-coming edge defenders on the squad, that could very well be the case.