MOBILE – If Detroit Lions wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El gets his wish, the Detroit Lions WR room will gain a lot of competition this offseason.
Randle El said down at the Senior Bowl Thursday he hopes the team adds a receiver in free agency and two more in this year's NFL Draft, including a playmaker on the outside.
"You always want to have a guy, so to speak," he said. "That guy, we're throwing to him and we don't care who's covering what. We know he can go up and get it. And my guys know we haven't had that guy yet, so it's nothing new from them. It's not a slap to them or a jab to them in anyway, but that's what we need to be able to complement (the receivers we have currently in the room)."
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Quintez Cephus, Trinity Benson and Javon McKinley are under contract next season, with Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
View photos from the third day of practice at the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
"I'm excited about our competition going into next year, especially if we're able to bring Josh back and bring Kalif back," Randle El said. "It'll be some real competition, which we need. I told them all ... I'm trying to draft two and bring in one, because it's going to be some competition. I want it to be competition. That's the only thing that makes them better. So they're expecting that. And they know it and that's part of the game."
It's a loaded free-agent class at wide receiver this offseason, with players like Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson and Mike Williams scheduled to become free agents.
In the draft, Ohio State teammates Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Alabama's Jameson Williams, USC's Drake London and Arkansas' Treylon Burks could all be first-round selections. The Lions are getting a head start on the senior draft class this week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. There's some good talent assembled for the week that could fit into Detroit's plans come draft time. The Lions will have three of the first 34 picks in the draft.
One of the more intriguing prospects has been North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson, who stands 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and has made plays all week for the National Team.
"I just wanted to show teams I'm a dominant competitor regardless of the level I'm playing at," Watson told detroitlions.com after Thursday's practice. "I came out here to showcase what I can do at this next level and what I'm capable of accomplishing, and I think I did just that."
South Alabama's Jalen Tolbert, like Watson, was out to prove this week he could make plays against stiffer competition. The back-to-back 1,000-yard receiver for the Jaguars is a smooth route runner, and he's been a playmaker this week. Randle El said he really likes Tolbert's ability to adjust his body and make plays down the field, though he said Tolbert plays too high at times and that's something they've been working on together this week.
View photos from the second day of practice at the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
"One thing me and coach actually talked about is me working F, Z and X," Tolbert said. "I actually played all three spots this past season, so I put on film I can do all of the above. I'm just going to continue to grow as a slot receiver and outside receiver and a receiver as a whole and just continue to make plays and get better."
Boise State's Khalil Shakir ended the week on a high note with three touchdowns in the National Team's final practice on Thursday.
"I really just wanted to come out here and show that I can compete with everybody from all kinds of schools," said Shakir, who caught 77 passes for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns this past season. "I wanted to come out here and show I could compete against not only Mountain West players, the film shows I can do that easily, but in person showing scouts what I can do."
Other receivers including Calvin Austin III (Memphis), Velus Jones Jr. (Tennessee) and Romeo Doubs (Nevada) have made plays this week as well.
I expect the Lions to be heavily involved in the receiver market both in free agency and the draft this offseason. Whether any of the WR prospects at the Senior Bowl this week are part of those plans is yet to be determined.