The Detroit Lions added nine rookies to their roster over draft weekend.
They came away with five players on offense and four on defense with varying ranges of skill sets, position versatility and physical traits. Here are some of my takeaways from the Lions' draft:
1. Lions were set on improving their run game
Since Matthew Stafford entered the league in 2009, the Lions haven't ranked better than 17th in rushing offense in any season. Five times they've ranked 28th or worse over that span.
Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell wants balance in this offense and the ability to take more pressure off Stafford and the passing game.
"I think our offense is predicated on controlling the line of scrimmage, running the football, getting Matthew Stafford in the play-action game," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said after the draft. "If you go back and chart the big plays we had last year, how many were on play-action? A good majority of them.
"So, we want that running game to be strong, we want to be versatile and I think Coach (Darrell) Bevell – you guys studied his history before he came here, and he always had successful run games wherever he was, and that really made his quarterback better. That's kind of our philosophy."
Detroit drafted Georgia running back D'Andre Swift, arguably the top back in this class, in the second round (No. 35 overall). Swift was one of the best backs in the SEC the last two seasons, rushing for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Detroit then added New Mexico State running back Jason Huntley in the fifth round, a speed back and terrific receiver out of the backfield. He could push to have a third-down role, similar to what J.D. McKissic gave them last season.
Swift and Huntley join Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson to make up a talented, diverse and pretty deep running back corps in Detroit.
The signing of Halapoulivaati Vaitai in free agency immediately helps the rushing offense. He was a top 10 run-blocking tackle in the league last season.
Quinn selected guards Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg with back-to-back picks in the middle of the draft. Stenberg, in particular, has a nasty streak as a run blocker, and both he and Jackson could push for roles as rookies, and help improve Detroit's blocking at the point of attack in the run game upfront.
Detroit had one of the top passing attacks in the league last year with Stafford under center. They return all of their top receiving options, so improving the rushing part of the operation was a must.
2. Expectations high for Jeff Okudah
Top three picks are always expected to be impact players, and that's certainly the case with Detroit's top pick in this draft.
"I would hope that Jeff Okudah would come in and start day one," Quinn said. "I sure hope so."
Okudah has the size, length, speed, quickness and suddenness all teams look for in cornerbacks playing on an island outside. He's also got the mental makeup and work ethic to be great.
The Lions traded three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to Philadelphia this offseason. They signed veteran Desmond Trufant, but needed another playmaker to add to the group. Okudah was the best cornerback in this draft, and likely pencils in as a starter right away.
3. OC Darrell Bevell has a lot of weapons at his disposal
The Lions ranked 11th in total offense with Stafford under center last season, but were sixth in passing offense. They return their top three receivers – Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola – plus have deep threat Marvin Hall back, and added a productive and tough receiving threat in the draft in Wisconsin's Quintez Cephus, a player Okudah said was the toughest to cover of any college receiver he played against.
History tells us with the top tight ends around the league that Detroit's top pick last year, tight end T.J. Hockenson, should take a big leap heading into year two and be a key contributor in Bevell's offense.
As mentioned above, Detroit went to work improving the blocking and running part of the offense, something that needed to happen. Detroit's current collection of backs gives Bevell a lot of options both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield.
This is year two with Bevell as OC, so the install and language learning is in place. Now they have to get into some of the fine tuning of this offense, and will do so with a lot of weapons in place.
It's safe to say expectations will be high for Bevell and the Lions' offense in 2020.
4. Logan Stenberg has a lot of old-school football player in him
Stenberg has two things the Lions could use a little bit more of upfront – nastiness and attitude.
"I think every time I can finish the guy across from me and move the defensive line back, we have a better chance of winning. That's what I plan to do for the Lions," he said in his conference call after being drafted in the fourth round. "I'm a nasty player. I like to block and finish guys."
Stenberg hopes to bring some nastiness back to the game of football.
That has to happen within the confines of the rules, something Quinn was quick to point out when asked about Stenberg and his 14 penalties in college.
One thing is certain, Stenberg isn't afraid to mix it up and impose his will on defenders, especially in the run game, and the Lions could use a little more of that upfront.
5. Lessons learned from virtual draft experience
This pre-draft process and virtual draft was certainly a break from the norm, but there were lessons learned in the process that could carry over to future drafts when things return to normal.
One thing I thought was really interesting from Quinn's post-draft conference call was that he said he'll take a closer look at this process and maybe try to implement a plan moving forward where he and his staff can work smarter and not longer, finding a healthier work-life balance.
"This could be a good lesson for us to have a good balance in our lives in the offseason, knowing that the draft is critically important to what we do, but maybe we can tone down the hours and work smarter rather than longer, maybe do a few things virtually a day or two a week," Quinn said.
"I'm going to look in to that. I'm not going to make any promises one way or the other, but that's something that I'm going to evaluate over the next couple months."
It's hard being a GM, coach or scout in this league. There are long hours and a lot of time spent away from family. Kudos to Quinn for trying to find a better work-life balance for his staff.