Donovan Peoples-Jones: What the Lions are getting in their new wide receiver

USA Today

Welcome home, Donovan Peoples-Jones!

The Detroit native and former Michigan Wolverine wideout is the newest member of the Lions. The team traded a sixth-round pick in 2025 to the Cleveland Browns for Peoples-Jones ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline.

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What are the Lions getting in Peoples-Jones?

He’s a familiar name for a lot of fans, of course. A speedy 6-foot-2 wideout from Cass Tech High School, Peoples-Jones has spent his entire NFL career in Cleveland. I covered his first three seasons there for Browns Wire and have watched him closely since Cleveland selected him in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL draft.

“DPJ,” as he’s known, is a vertical threat of a receiver with excellent straight-line speed. He was a part-time player for the Browns in his first two seasons, rising from 14 catches as a rookie to 34 in his second season. His rookie campaign was spent primarily as Odell Beckham Jr.’s backup.

The 2022 season was his first time getting a chance to start and he blossomed into a useful No. 2 receiver opposite Amari Cooper. He saw more action working his speed out of the slot and it worked well, catching 61 passes for 839 yards and three touchdowns–all career-highs.

Despite playing a lot in 2023, the production has gone down: 8 catches on 18 targets. The Browns have had a revolving door at quarterback and that has hurt Peoples-Jones, who is a wideout who needs trust from his quarterback to play well. The Browns offense has deployed him more on shorter routes and that takes away from his strengths; he’s not a “get-open-quick” kind of player or a shifty route runner.

Drops haven’t been a big issue, though fumbling after the catch (or return) is something that has dogged DPJ going back to Michigan. He’s never been a great runner after the catch aside from being out in space. Peoples-Jones won’t break many tackles and goes down on first contact more than desired. He is a tough blocker who understands his assignments well.

He’s also proven to be an accomplished return man. He only returned kickoffs as a rookie but has maintained his role as a punt returner into 2023. He was one of the NFL’s best in 2022, though he’s not been so effective this year with a 6.5-yard average on 13 returns.

Role in Detroit

This is a move made for depth more than on-field impact. Peoples-Jones figures to be a versatile backup for Josh Reynolds and Jameson Williams who can also play the Kalif Raymond role with more size, if needed. Peoples-Jones checks the boxes of a smart player on and off the field who is competitive and works hard, mandatory qualities for the Lions.

He’s in the final year of his rookie contract, making DPJ a free agent at the end of the season. In that sense, it’s an audition for a potential one-year extension or for coming back as an unrestricted free agent.

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