10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Which position did Lions improve the most through the draft?

From time to time this offseason Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: Let's start with last year's first-round draft pick, tight end T.J. Hockenson. We all saw his big-play potential with the six-catch, 131-yard, one-touchdown performance in his debut last year in Arizona. It was an up and down year the rest of the way for Hockenson, but that's just kind of how it goes with rookies at that position. Hockenson finished with 32 receptions for 367 yards and a couple scores in 12 games before an ankle injury ended his season prematurely.

The last tight end drafted as high as Hockenson was Vernon Davis in 2006 (No. 6 overall). Davis caught 20 passes for 265 yards and three scores in 10 games as a rookie. He's played 14 years with a couple Pro Bowls since then.

Hockenson is expected to play a much bigger role in the Lions' offense in year two.

Two others that come to mind would be third-year safety Tracy Walker, who I think can be special playing next to a veteran like Duron Harmon, and second-year linebacker Jahlani Tavai, who is also expected to have a bigger role in his second season.

20man: Running back.

I think the addition of D’Andre Swift with his speed, quickness and one-cut running style is a natural fit in this offense. He gives the Lions another playmaker in the group and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell options in the backfield alongside Kerryon Johnson, who hasn't been able to stay totally healthy his first two seasons.

Taking Jason Huntley in the fifth round gives Detroit another speed option in their backfield. Huntley was the only back in this draft class with 1,000 receiving yards in his college career. He's a third-down option with more speed than J.D. McKissic, who played that role last year in this offense.

Detroit is deeper and more talented at running back coming out of this draft.

20man: Don't be surprised if we see a Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins/rookie rotation combo to begin the season at guard. Graham Glasgow made the jump from third-round pick to rookie starter a few years ago, but it sometimes takes a little time for these young guys to adjust to the strength and quickness at this level with the interior defenders. If there's no spring or summer on-field offseason training activities, that also complicates things.

That being said, I'd expect both rookies to compete for starting roles. Stenberg was exclusively a left guard at Kentucky. Not saying he can't make the switch over to the right side, but he probably gets a look on the left side first. Jackson played both guard spots and some center in college. He's probably the more versatile of the two.

20man: This is in reference to a rule change proposal to increase roster sizes from 53 to 55 and on gameday from 46 to 48. There is a stipulation in place that one of these two additional active players on the gameday roster must be an offensive lineman. My understanding is that the rule operates as the old third quarterback rule did. Basically, teams will be allowed an extra active offensive lineman only if the players ahead of them suffered injuries during the game.

The other active spot is up to the team. Obviously, injuries and weekly game plans will go into this decision, but it doesn't have to be an offensive lineman by my understanding of the rule.

20man: The Lions are comfortably under the cap and have enough room to make a significant free-agent signing, if they choose. Detroit has around $30 million in cap space, according to overthecap.com. Some of that is allocated to the rookies and extending some of their own players like maybe Kenny Golladay or Taylor Decker. GM Bob Quinn always likes to have some available space heading into the season in case of injury or other unforeseen needs.

But if the Lions look to add to the roster, a few names that could make sense would be defensive end Everson Griffen, defensive end Vinny Curry, edge rusher Markus Golden or maybe re-upping with defensive tackle Mike Daniels at a reduced rate.

20man: I mentioned Griffen above. In 18 career games against the Lions, he recorded 47 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. At 6-foot-3, 273 pounds, he's got the size and durability on the edge the Lions like. He's also coming off a 41-tackle, 8.0-sack season for the Vikings, so he's still productive.

I wouldn't hate it.

20man: They spent considerable resources in free agency acquiring veterans Danny Shelton and Nick Williams. Shelton is a scheme fit at the nose and Williams had a breakout 2019 season with six sacks from the interior.

Let's also not forget about Da'Shawn Hand, Pro Football Focus' top interior rookie defender in 2018. Granted, he's had durability issues, but if he can get those behind him, the Lions will use him a lot. After that, it's role players and hope that rookie sixth-round pick John Penisini can become a player

I still wouldn't be surprised if they another veteran into that mix.

20man: They are different backs. Swift is a little bit shorter and thicker, and runs lower to the ground. Swift is a really good receiver and has that potential. As you mentioned, he did some things in the slot at Georgia and that's part of his skillset.

I thought Johnson showed as a rookie that he can be an accomplished receiving threat down the field too. I think both have that ability, and they complement each other very well. This is expected to be a running-back-by-committee approach in Detroit, so there will be enough carries to go around for both players.

20man: Let's take a look at the numbers.

Oruwariye worked himself into a playing role the second half of his rookie season because of the consistency and playmaking ability he showed coaches in practice.

When given the opportunity to play – he played in nine contests with two starts – Oruwariye made some plays. His two interceptions were tied for the team lead (Darius Slay). Pro Football Focus credited him with allowing 18 catches on 22 targets (81.8 completion percentage) for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Opposing passers had a 108.5 passer rating throwing his way. I don't know if those numbers jump out and say he's earned a starting role.

I thought he did some nice things and developed along the way. Players typically take their biggest leap in development in year two, so when on-field activities begin, he'll have a chance to earn a role and prove himself, but I think it's safe to say Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah will get every opportunity initially to win the No. 1 and No. 2 cornerback roles. Can Oruwariye throw his hat into the mix? We'll see.

20man: As I mentioned above, I love Swift's running style in this offense. Inside, outside, one-cut with speed. He provides the big play.

Johnson can also run effectively inside and outside and is terrific at making tacklers miss and always gaining positive yards. They complement each other well, and offer the Lions insurance in case the other gets hurt.

Bevell has always been dedicated to being balanced on offense. I think the addition of Swift, coupled with Johnson, and the team's other backs, will make that goal more of a reality than we've seen in some time around these parts.

Related Content