Mon, 25 Jan 2021

2020 position breakdown: Wide receivers

Detroit Lions
12 Jan 2021, 00:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

The good: The offense, and particularly the passing attack, wasn't the problem in Detroit this past season. The Lions scored at least 20 points in 14 of their 16 contests, a franchise record. Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a 4,000-yard passing season, and Detroit's 4,397 total passing yards were eighth most in the NFL in 2020.

The receiver position battled injury all year, which allowed a lot of different players to step up and get into the mix, including rookie Quintez Cephus and veteran Mohamed Sanu, who both did so nicely.

Marvin Jones Jr. led the Lions in receptions (76), yards (978) and touchdown receptions (9). Those 76 catches were a new career high. He proved this season that age (30) is just a number. He hasn't lost a step, and concluded his five-year contract with the Lions on a high note.

Even without Kenny Golladay, who played in just five games due to injury, Detroit's receivers were still able to make a lot of plays down the field. On pass attempts that traveled 21-plus yards in the air, Stafford had a passer rating of 118.1 with 791 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

The bad: It was a year to forget for Golladay, who played in just five games due to hamstring and hip injuries. He finished the season with 20 receptions, 338 yards and two touchdowns. It certainly wasn't the year Golladay was hoping to have as he heads to free agency this offseason.

Speaking of free agency, this will be an interesting offseason when it comes to the receiver position because only Cephus and Geronimo Allison, who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, are under contract for next season.

Key stat: Detroit's pass catchers, which also includes tight ends and running backs, dropped 6.5 percent of the catchable passes thrown their way in 2020, which was the fourth highest percentage in the league.

It was a big contrast from 2019, when the Lions had the fourth best drop percentage in the league at 3.8 percent on catchable passes.

O'HARA: How Lions' 2020 draft class fared in first season Ragnow, Fox earn second-team All-Pro honors A Closer Look: Robert Saleh

Free agents: Golladay, Jones, Danny Amendola, Jamal Agnew and Sanu are all unrestricted free agents.

That's 171 receptions, 2,185 yards and 12 touchdowns worth of receiving production in 2020 potentially walking out the door. It's certainly possible the Lions re-sign a number of their own free agents.

The big news this offseason will surround Golladay, who's looking to get a lucrative long-term deal after two 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 & 2019, which included a Pro Bowl nod in 2019 after leading the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions. Will the Lions and Golladay get a long-term deal done? Will the franchise tag come into play?

Jones said last week he's looking forward to free agency and is leaving all options on the table.

Draft: Last year's draft was probably the deepest at receiver in recent memory, but the 2021 class is pretty well stocked too.

The Lions have the No. 7 overall pick, which means they could come away with one of the best receivers in the class, if that's the way they decide to go.

Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (Alabama) headlines the class. He has star talent. LSU's Ja'Marr Chase is a close second. Minnesota's Rashod Bateman and Alabama's Jaylen Waddle could also be top 15 picks.

Elijah Moore (Ole Miss) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (LSU) are also outstanding prospects.

If the Lions want a receiver, they'll be able to find a good one in the first two days of the draft.

MVP: After a slow start, Jones became Detroit's top playmaker at receiver with Golladay missing so much time.

How consistent has Jones been the last five seasons in Detroit? Jones' two touchdown catches against Minnesota Week 17 moved him into third place in franchise history with 36 touchdowns behind only Calvin Johnson and Herman Moore. That's a little better than a seven-touchdown average per season.

Jones produced nine touchdown receptions in consecutive seasons, which is only the fifth such occurrence in franchise history. The only other players to do so are Johnson (2010-11), Moore (1995-96; 1994-95) and Terry Barr (1963-64).

Most improved: Cephus, a fifth-round pick, was thrust into a role early in the year with Golladay missing the first two games with a hamstring injury. We saw him grow and get better, particularly when it came to his route running. Cephus made his biggest plays late in the season with the long touchdown catch in Chicago Week 13 and the nice touchdown grab against Minnesota Week 17.

Cephus is the first rookie in franchise history selected in the fifth round or later to catch multiple touchdowns in a season since Ty Hallock in 1993.

Quotable: "They drafted me here, so I just want to show my loyalty," Golladay said about wanting to be in Detroit and re-sign with the Lions. "They believed in me. Say if a contract didn't work out, I'll go somewhere else and ball out and play, but like I said, I'm a loyal person and of course I want to be here."

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