The nine players in the Detroit Lions' 2020 draft class will create their identity with their play on the field.
This is not a prediction column on how the 2020 class will fare. It's a memory column – just for fun about who the 2020 class reminds me of compared to players taken at the same positions in previous Lions drafts.
One rule – with one exception – is that the players were drafted by the Lions since 2002, the year the franchised returned to downtown Detroit in Ford Field.
Another rule – that they were drafted by the Lions – is broken. Actually, it's been shattered.
The draft is not an exact science. Neither are memories.
These are mine. Feel free to express yours.
Here are the Lions' 2020 draft picks by round, and the former Lions they remind me of.
1. CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State.
Reminds me of: The late James "Hound Dog" Hunter, Grambling, 1976.
I went back 44 years to find a cornerback drafted in the first round to match Okudah's skill set and body type -- a lean, athletic cornerbacks with fluid movement.
Hunter was a smooth and explosive athlete at 6-3, 195. He started at free safety and both corners in a career shortened to seven seasons because of a neck injury sustained in 1982. Hunter had seven interceptions in 1976 and six in '77.
2. RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia.
Reminds me of: Kevin Jones, Virginia Tech, 2004.
The Lions traded up to take Jones late in the first round (30th overall). He was a dual threat – a tough runner (1,133 yards as a rookie) and a good receiver. He had a career-high 61 receptions in 2005, and 8.5 yards per catch. He played only five seasons because of injuries.
3a. DE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame.
Reminds me of: Cliff Avril, Purdue, 2008.
Avril was a speed rusher, as Okwara is expected to become.
Avril was a steal in the third round. He had a 4.51 40 at the Combine and used that speed to rush the passer – 39 sacks and 16 forced fumbles in five seasons with the Lions before signing with Seattle as a free agent in 2013.
3b. Guard Jonah Jackson, Ohio State.
Reminds me of: Graham Glasgow, Michigan, 2016.
Glasgow and Jackson share similar traits. Glasgow was drafted in the third round – GM Bob Quinn's first draft. He was a versatile interior lineman who started 58 of 63 games played at center and guard. Versatility and toughness are part of what made Jackson attractive to the Lions.
4. G Logan Stenberg, Kentucky.
Reminds me of: Joe Dahl, Washington State, 2016.
They aren't the same body types. Stenberg is 6-6, 316; Dahl came into the league at 6-4, 310 as a fifth-round pick from Washington State. But both were drafted as development players. Dahl was a college tackle who was shifted inside. He overcame injuries to start 13 of 13 games played in 2019 in a three-guard rotation.
5a. WR Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin.
Reminds me of: Anquan Boldin, Florida State, 2003.
I'm throwing out the rules here for one reason – it's my column, and it's a perfect fit.
Boldin ran a 4.73 40 and was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round. Cephus also was timed in 4.73 at the Combine and improved to 4.62 at his Pro Day.
Boldin played his first game against the Lions at Ford Field and set the NFL record for receiving yards by a rookie in an opening game with 217. Boldin scored the first TD of the game in an eventual loss to the Lions.
Despite his lack of speed, Boldin played 14 NFL seasons and caught 1,076 passes, ninth most in NFL history.
His last season was in 2016 with the Lions, and he had 67 catches. His last regular-season catch was for a touchdown against the Packers at Ford Field with 13 seconds left in the last game of the 2016 regular season.
Not saying Cephus will match Boldin's career, but they have similar traits – tough, strong, run good routes. And a bad 40 time.
5b. Jason Huntley, New Mexico State.
Reminds me of: Theo Riddick, Notre Dame. 2013.
Riddick didn't have Huntley's speed when the Lions drafted him in the sixth round, but his college background playing wide receiver and running back showed the versatility that made him a valuable part of the offense.
Riddick was a part-time starter, but a full-time threat as a receiver whether he lined up in the backfield, the slot or split wide.
Huntley adds a dynamic threat on kickoff returns that Riddick did not possess. It will be interesting to see where he fits in the offense.
6. DT John Penisini, Utah.
Reminds me of: Caraun Reid, Princeton, 2014.
Penisini is a run-defending specialist, similar to what Reid brought to the Lions as a fifth-round draft pick. Reid played part time in 2014 and started 12 games in 2014 after bulking himself up. He lasted six NFL seasons. The first two were in Detroit, and he returned briefly in 2017.
7. DL Jashon Cornell, Ohio State.
Reminds me of: DE Willie Young, Florida State, 2010.
Young was an outgoing, upbeat 25-year-old rookie who was blessed with raw talent when he got to Detroit in 2010 as a seventh-round pick.
He didn't start a game until his fourth season, when he had three sacks in 15 starts. He played his last four seasons with the Bears. For his career, Young had 32 sacks – and he no doubt enjoyed every one of them.