It’s possible the Detroit Lions’ group of wide receivers could look a lot different after the 2020 season.
Their top three receivers — Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola — all could hit free agency after this season, though it seems Golladay would be a priority in terms of landing an extension as one of the game’s top emerging playmakers at the position.
With that in mind, ESPN’s Todd McShay is sending some help Detroit’s way in a “very premature” 2021 mock draft, posted Wednesday. Picking at No. 7, based on ESPN’s Football Power Index, McShay has the Lions selecting Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman, an underclassmen who opted out of the season because of COVID-19 pandemic.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Bateman enjoyed a monster 2019 season for the Golden Gophers, with 60 catches for 1,219 yards (20.3 average) and 11 touchdowns. He was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year.
“Bateman won’t wow you with his wheels,” McShay writes, “but he produced … because of his precise route running, soft hands and physicality. He has some versatility in where he lines up — he will work the middle of the field and eat up press coverage. Oh, and essentially the entire Lions wide receivers room could be off to free agency in 2021 … meaning ‘area of need’ might be an understatement come April.”
Should the Lions select Bateman in the first round, it might bring back memories of the early 2000s, when the position was a popular first-round choice for the franchise. During a five-year run from 2003 to 2007, the Lions used their first pick on a receiver four times: Charles Rogers (2003, No. 2 overall), Roy Williams (2004, No. 7), Mike Williams (2005, No. 10) and Calvin Johnson (2007, No. 2).
Golladay, a third-round pick in 2017, is coming off a season in which he led the NFL in touchdown receptions (11) and posted his second straight season of at least 1,000 yards receiving. The Lions also added Wisconsin product Quintez Cephus in the fifth round of April’s NFL draft.
McShay has the NFC North rival Green Bay Packers also taking a Big Ten receiver 11 spots later in Michigan’s Nico Collins.
“Aaron Jones broke out, and Davante Adams is going to put up points,” McShay writes, “but can someone in the Packers’ front office get (quarterback Aaron Rodgers) another playmaker? Please. While Collins had just 37 catches last season, he turned that into 729 yards and seven scores with mediocre QB play. He’s a physical beast, with a 6-foot-4 frame and plenty of vertical speed.”