Quintez Cephus have consistently fought against long odds since entering the league. When he was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, he was already behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola in the depth rankings. And when Golladay got injured for most of the season, instead of giving Cephus plenty of time (he only started two games), they promoted Marvin Hall (five as starters) and added Mohamed Sanu (four as starters).
So, after a rookie season where his coaches seemed to refuse to give him significant playing time, he entered 2021 with an entirely new coaching staff who hadn’t recruited him. The Lions were clearly looking for a different type of receiver in this new attack, so Cephus was once again facing tough challenges.
Let’s take a closer look at Cephus’ journey last year and the challenge he will face again in his third year in the NFL.
Previously: RB Godwin Igwebuike
Expectations towards 2021
The Lions’ reception body was questionable throughout the off-season, which, in theory, would mean that Cephus would have the opportunity to shine. However, it was clear that Detroit was looking for fast receivers after the addition of Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and Kalif Raymond. Cephus’ play is more physical in nature, and given that Jared Goff is best pitched to players who can split up, some believed that Cephus simply wouldn’t fit in with what the Lions were trying to do on offense. Add in the draft of Amun-Ra St. Brown and suddenly it looked like Cephus was going into his second year with no guarantee of a place on the roster.
To make matters worse for Cephus, a head injury in training camp cost him about a week of practice.
On the other hand, almost all the receivers either fought on the pitch or were facing an injury. With no standout element in the group other than St. Brown’s tenacity, Cephus was one of the most consistent players in the group and seemed somewhat safe when it came to his place on the roster. However, it seemed unlikely that his role would grow much from his rookie season.
Actual role in 2021
Statistics 2021: 5 games (3 starts): 15 catches, 204 yards, 2 TDs
PFF Grade: 71.7 (DNQ, but would have been 46th out of 94)
Cephus, in fact, joined the 53-man roster and when Williams suffered what would have been an end-of-season concussion in the first week, Cephus was inducted into the lineup. Over the next four weeks, Cephus proved to be a profound and legitimate threat and Detroit’s most reliable wideout at the time. Here’s a look at his production versus the rest of the group in week 2-5:
Quintez Cephus: 13 catches, 192 yards (16.0 YPC), 1 TD
Kalif Raymond: 11 catches, 132 yards (6.6 YPC), 2 TDs
Amon-Ra St. Brown: 17 catches, 155 yards (9.1 YPC)
Trinity Benson: 3 catches, 36 yards (12.0 YPC)
KhaDarel Hodge: 3 catches, 39 yards (13.0 YPC)
Unfortunately for Cephus, his season would end in the middle of week 5 after breaking his collarbone against the Minnesota Vikings.
Outlook for 2022
Cephus did a great job proving his worth last year, stepping up when Lions were in dire need of someone to impact the perimeter of the attack.
However, he will enter again in 2022 fighting for a spot on the roster. Detroit added DJ Chark and Jameson Williams as their initial two external receivers. Combine that with St. Brown’s rookie season, and when everyone is healthy, there simply isn’t an offensive role for Cephus.
Even worse for Cephus, the Lions have brought back Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds, two players who have proven they can be weapons in this bout and have good relationships with Jared Goff.
So Cephus will enter training camp firmly in sixth place in the depth chart, behind Williams, Chark, St. Brown, Raymond and Reynolds. However, with Williams looking increasingly inclined to enter the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, Cephus moves up one spot to fifth, and that would likely be enough to make it onto the final roster.
That said, it looks like Trinity Benson, a player this The commercial-acquired Lions regime is up for the challenge this off-season. After an extremely disappointing season where Benson was simply trying to catch up as a belated addition, he suddenly seems more capable of being the quick and versatile weapon that General Manager Brad Holmes thought he had when he traded him.
Cephus vs. Benson could turn out to be one of the more interesting fights on boot camp, and it’s possible that both will make the roster while Williams is sidelined. If not, though, Cephus’ best advantage is its size and physical nature. Detroit simply doesn’t have a lot of offensive weapons that can do what it does. He already looked promising in offseason activities and receiver manager Antwaan Randle El expects him to continue when the pads come on next month.
“His spring this year is better than last year, but he’s also a guy who when you turn on the pills, he’s a little different,” Randle El said. “In the sense that he shows up a lot more. He is just different with his tampons than him. He’s a bigger guy, more physical, so it’s nice to see him (improve). ”
As always, when it comes to players so deep in their position, a good way to get on the roster is through special teams. Cephus does not have a lot of experience there (91 shots in 2020, two in 2021) and will likely enter the field by escorting Benson in special teams. That said, he gained a lot more trust from the coaching staff after his actual performance on Sunday, and his he 2022 started well as well. At this point, he should be considered a slight favorite to get a spot on the roster in September.