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Bob Quinn Successfully Navigated the 2020 NFL Draft

Detroit Lions General Manager Bob Quinn has given his pessimistic fan base a reason to start believing that better days are just beyond the horizon.

For the first time in five years, beleaguered Detroit Lions General Manager Bob Quinn has given his pessimistic fan base a reason to start believing that better days are just beyond the horizon. Following three days of decision-making and manoeuvring during the 2020 NFL Draft, it seems the traditionally dormant franchise is poised to move forward with an actual identity for the first time in many moons.

That identity is one shaped with the idea of supporting, and building support around longtime Lions signal-caller Matthew Stafford. During the league’s first-ever virtual draft, Quinn seemed comfortable in navigating the deep talent pool this calendar year had to offer.

Bob Quinn Successfully Navigated the 2020 NFL Draft

Bob Quinn kicked off the three-day event with a few shrewd moves, and then followed them up with a few head-scratching turns before finding his compass and getting back on track to emerge without permanently losing his way.

Day 1: Defense Sets The Tone

After months of speculation that the Lions were actively searching for a trade partner to move down the draft board from the third overall selection, Quinn made a tone-setting decision. He anchored Detroit’s backfield by selecting impact player and highly-touted Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah. The former collegiate All-American defender is capable of transitioning between any type of coverage or scheme, and his lockdown skill set will be on full display for many seasons to come. 

Okudah is just the fourth cornerback to be selected among the top five picks in the draft over the course of the last decade. He is a true competitor that has been blessed with great size, length, and acceleration. Realizing that physical gifts can only take one so far, the rookie is already making it known that he is ready to soak up any bit of knowledge he can get his hands on.

Day 2: High-Level Value Shopping

Not only does a revamped defense support an aging quarterback, but an improved run game does too. Quinn had that in mind when taking Georgia Running Back D’andre Swift with Detroit’s second-round selection. Swift is a big play waiting to happen and is so elusive that at times one might think he is Barry Sanders re-incarnated. As a receiver out of the backfield, he’s a dangerous weapon that Stafford will learn to lean on. Ten years ago before rushers became devalued, he would have likely been a top-15 pick. Kerryon Johnson will be immediately pushed by this impact rookie.

In the third round, Quinn made two selections that have the potential to provide massive upside. The first selection of the round was Notre Dame Edge defender Julian Okwara, whose brother Romeo Okwara is already on the Lions roster. The two-year Nigerian starter would have likely been a first-round pick this season if he hadn’t broken his leg against Duke in week nine. 

Later in the third, Quinn made a bold move by trading up to take the Indianapolis Colts 75th selection and draft Ohio State Guard Jonah Jackson. The graduate-transfer is an excellent run blocker, continuing the theme of building depth in the trenches to alleviate stress from Stafford, while also providing the team with a player that is hungry to compete. Last season, Jackson could have gone pro but instead made the move to Columbus with the idea of matching wits with the best college football had to offer. Some experts had him being selected in the late first, or early second round.

Day 3: Question Marks on Bob Quinn and Lions Needs

Was it mentioned that Quinn is intent on building depth in the trenches? In the fourth round, he drafted guard Logan Stenberg from Kentucky, another lineman who is battle-tested against some of the best in the country inside the extremely-talented SEC. Stenberg is not ultra-athletic but has the size and toughness you want protecting your quarterback.

After an impressive, and clearly defined start to the draft. Quinn momentarily lost his way during the fifth round when drafting Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus and New Mexico State running back Jason Huntley. With better backs and receivers still available, it was a shock that the general manager made moves to acquire a slow-footed receiver with plenty of baggage, and a rusher whose skillset is reminiscent of 2019 rookie Ty Johnson.

Quinn was able to get back on the right track during the last two rounds when drafting a pair of defensive tackles in John Penisini (Utah) and Jashon Cornell (Ohio State). Both come from highly-touted programs and will certainly be considered as “project” players; yet, they have enough skill to build depth and push starters Nick Williams and Danny Shelton.

Grade: B

Bob Quinn managed to emerge from the draft a winner, with some believing the Lions general manager is actually starting to figure things out after conducting his best draft in five seasons at the helm. For the first time in what feels like an eternity, the team has acquired a handful of players that project an identity themed with talent that will support Stafford. In years past, Quinn has selected players who work out well, and that have been well-liked during the interview process. This season, with the restrictions put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, he relied heavily on game film instead of “falling in love” with certain players. Maybe, just maybe, Quinn has a keen eye for talent and should stick to the strategy in the future because the Lions now look to be a competitive team in the NFC North Division

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