The Detroit Lions need to use pick 3 in the Draft wisely to kick start 2020.
“We need to be playing meaningful football in December.” Those words, from the Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, must be ringing in the ears of Head Coach Matt Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn.
They have been put on notice after a very disappointing 2019. The Lions 3-12-1 record, and a second straight 4th place in the NFC North, included nine straight defeats to close out the season.
Matt Patricia now has an unenviable 9-22-1 record as Head Coach. He was brought in to help the team kick on after Jim Caldwell’s four season spell (36-28 with 2 playoff losses) was deemed insufficient progress. What Patricia would give for a winning record in 2020. Bob Quinn is also in the crosshairs of ownership for being unable to provide sufficient talent on the roster for first Caldwell and now Patricia to work with.
A disappointing season
In 2019 the Lions were severely hampered by the loss of quarterback Matthew Stafford after eight games. Stafford was on course for possibly his best season when he was diagnosed with a fracture in his upper spine, ending his 136 game streak of consecutive appearances.
By the week 13 Thanksgiving Day game versus the Chicago Bears the Lions were down to their third string quarterback David Blough. The defense had struggled to keep the opposition at bay through most games. Giving up the second highest number of yards per game, ranked 29th against the pass and 17th against the run on DVOA (FootballOutsiders.com). In losing Stafford halfway through the season the Lions then could not muster sufficient offense to keep pace with the opposition. Leaving them a middle of the road 16th passing rated offense and 26th running the ball.
Hope for the future?
The one upside the Detroit Lions have at the moment is that they sit at pick number 3 for the 2020 NFL Draft in April. This position could be the key to kick-starting improvements to their roster.
The intentions of the two teams above them in the Draft are, at this point in time, fairly clear. The Cincinnati Bengals are expected to select quarterback Joe Burrow from LSU, with the Washington Redskins selecting edge rusher Chase Young out of Ohio State.
With Burrow off the board there are three sides (the Miami Dolphins, LA Chargers and Carolina Panthers) in position behind Detroit at 5,6 and 7. All of whom could be looking to take a quarterback with their first pick. This gives the Lions some real leverage. It may take a trade up to position 3 for any of those three teams to secure the expected second quarterback off the board, Tua Tagovailoa.
What could the Lions get if a team trades up?
The Miami Dolphins seem most likely to make a play for trading up for Tua, as long as there are no lingering concerns relating to the recovery from his hip injury. Miami have two things in their favour: the ability to “red-shirt” Tua and sit him behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for a year. Plus they have plenty of trade capital to deal with. The Dolphins have three first round picks (5, 18 and 26) and two second round picks (39 and 56). It is likely that the Lions would be looking for that late first round pick at 26 in order to deal with the Dolphins.
If that trade took place the Lions could move back two places and still take their preferred best player on their board. This would most likely be either cornerback Jeffrey Okudah or defensive lineman Derrick Brown. Both Okudah and Brown are projected as day 1 starters and as future Pro Bowl calibre stars in the league. Both would instantly upgrade Detroit’s wafer thin defense. Either are possible, particularly in light of recent news coming out of Detroit. Following the release of Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison and the potential trade of Pro Bowl calibre cornerback Darius Slay.
Trading for more instant draft capital
It seems inevitable that Slay will be traded and it has been reported that several teams are interested. Here is where the Lions could profit again by ensuring the asking price is a high 2020 draft pick. Two teams in need of a quality cornerback could give up their additional first round pick for Slay (Las Vegas Raiders at 19 or the Jacksonville Jaguars at 20).
Alternatively two others could offer their additional second round pick plus a later 2021 pick (Indianapolis Colts at 44 or Atlanta Falcons at 47). Either way because of these connotations the Detroit Lions could then be looking at taking four players within the top 50 picks.
It should be about the D for the Lions
Those 4 picks could go a long way to rebuilding the defense, which is surely Matt Patricia’s main aim.
The Detroit offense behind a fit again Matthew Stafford, a running back committee of Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarborough and receivers Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola are in better shape than the defense.
Could they take a player to boost the offensive line? Certainly. Could they take one of the many quality wide receivers in this year’s draft? Yes, but that could wait until round 3 or 4. The defense should be the focus of the early picks. As well as securing Okudah this scenario could bring linebackers Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray, and defensive lineman Neville Gallimore or Marlon Davidson into play.
Taking all that into account and working on the assumption that the Lions get an extra first rounder from Miami and an extra second rounder for trading Darius Slay, this could result in Detroit walking away from the first two rounds with a really impressive haul.
Detroit’s 2020 rookies could make them competitive in a similar way to the success of the Raiders’ 2019 class. If so, Matt Patricia could have a team still playing competitive football next December. Which would naturally please ownership and the loyal Detroit fan base alike.
Mark or MJ has turned his love of the NFL into sharing his thoughts and opinions. You can find him on twitter @47yards and on 47yards.blog. If you like his take on the Lions here you can find more of his writing right here on 99 Yards.
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