One of my favourite things about Spring is the signs that it’s getting nearer. There’s a reassuring comfort in those familiar, annual patterns that signal the darkness and cold of winter are soon to end. The days lengthen and brighten, the flowers bloom and bud, and Lions fans get obsessed about trading down in the draft.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of trading down a couple of spots. You get extra picks to fill holes on this veritable colander of a roster, whilst still picking up a blue-chip prospect.
I also understand that the NFL offseason is long. The Lions played their final game over a month ago and have to wait for another seven before they next see the field for competitive action. The draft helps us fill that gaping hole and the prospect of trading down opens up a myriad of exciting possibilities.
But that’s often as far as it goes - a possibility.
I’ve not been a Lions fan long. My first game was the Lions @ Falcons London game in 2014, for which I followed the live NFL.com text from a laptop in Rwanda. Since then, the best chance the Lions had of trading down was the 2020 draft. The Lions held the 3rd overall pick with QBs Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert on the board. The Miami Dolphins and LA Chargers were expected to be looking to move up and grab their future QB. A trade between either and the Lions seemed eminently possible.
And it didn’t happen. According to then-GM Bob Quinn they never even got a serious offer.
Lions fans scoffed and moaned. They’d had months to build up all the wonderful trading down scenarios in their heads. They couldn’t believe that there hadn’t been an offer for the 3rd overall pick with two quality QB options just sat there!
But (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) Bob Quinn was probably right. The Dolphins got their guy in Tua at 5 and the Chargers took Herbert at 6. They both got what they wanted without having to move up. No one had to move, so no one did.
This brings us to this year. There are no QBs as well regarded as Tua or Herbert to trade up for. There isn’t a franchise QB sitting there and teams rarely trade up to number 2 overall for a non-QB. So, just as in 2020, there isn’t a market for trading down. If there was a QB worth trading up for you know the Lions would be taking him.
All in all, there isn’t likely to be any market for the Lions to move down. And neither should they.
Earlier in this article, I compared the Lions roster to a colander. And whilst that isn’t quite true, this team does need a lot of help in a lot of places on defence. Every level of the defence needs playmakers. Not depth or starters- playmakers.
Staying at number 2 gives the Lions a chance to land a quality pass rusher in Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson. And if neither of them catches Brad Holmes’ eye there’s Safety Kyle Hamilton. Any could be an immediate playmaker and strengthen the Lions pass defence- critical in the modern NFL.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of talent to be found in this NFL draft. But difference-making EDGE defenders or sensationally talented players like Hamilton are harder to find outside the very top of Round 1. To ensure we get a quality player, a player that can help transform this defence, we wouldn’t want to trade down too far.
So, who could we get in a prospective trade down a couple of spots? According to the PFF ratings, there seems to be an abundance of Offensive Tackles and a couple of corners worthy of a top 3 – 7 pick. However, Offensive Line is the only position in the team where we don’t need immediate help.
Leaving aside how Lions fans would react to another corner taken high, I’d prefer to add a starting calibre veteran to the CB room. Amani Oruwariye did well last year, we still don’t know what we have in Jeff Okudah, and Ifeatu Melifonwu showed some flashes last year. And that’s not even including Will Harris’ improved play at corner nor breakout star Jerry Jacobs. A veteran CB would help the young players develop and be less exposed than they were last year.
Taking all this together, I just don’t think there is enough talent at positions of need outside of the big three of Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, and Hamilton. Any move to pick 4 or later unnecessarily risks us coming away with a lesser player. I don’t think there are any non-OTs as good as the big three. And considering where we stand at OT, it makes no sense to trade down for one.
So, whilst we probably won’t have the option of moving down, we shouldn’t take it anyway. We need blue-chip talent on this team and the number 2 pick is the ideal place to select one. Best case? Holmes has his choice of those three mentioned above. Worst case? There are two of them available. That’s an excellent worth case scenario. Unless he receives a king’s ransom Holmes’ should just stay where he is and take the best player available.
It's both what is most likely to happen and what should happen.
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