Should the Detroit Lions trade up, stay put or trade back? That the question the Lions look to answer come draft day on May 8th. Each option has merit, but each options also has repercussions.
To this point there’s no reason why the Lions would be willing to trade up in the draft unless it’s for Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The clear cut best receiver in the draft has been mentioned in the same class as Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson. Pairing Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford with Watkins is reminiscent of when the Colts paired Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison with Reggie Wayne. Coincidentally, that same group worked with Jim Caldwell who is considered the main reason why Manning is the player he is today.
When Jim Caldwell held his introductory press conference he said, “We’re going to have a fast football team. There’s nothing like a team with speed.”
Caldwell witnessed first hand the success Manning had with two receivers that were capable of dominating by themselves. In fact, General manager Martin Mayhew said that finding a receiver that could carry the load if Johnson was unable to play would be a priority.
“We want guys that, if, for whatever reason Calvin is getting doubled or he’s not playing in a particular game that he can go out and make plays by himself. That was one of our things last year, when Calvin was injured, we struggled offensively a lot of times to get off or other players to get off. ”
“We’re going to be looking for receivers who can win one-on-one battles, win one-on-one matchups and make plays down the field.”
Sammy Watkins certainly fits the profile the Lions have identified, but a deep class of wide receivers gives the Lions options, albeit options that are more risky.
Sticking with the 10th pick in the draft allows the Lions to keep all of their draft picks, but it also means taking a “wait and see approach” at the risk of missing out on Watkins. With Watkins off the board, the Lions’ focus likely shifts to wide receiver Mike Evans, the best offensive tackle available or the best defensive player available.
Evans is dominant on film and his performance at the combine validates his status as a potential top 10 selection, but he isn’t as refined as Watkins and he had some anger problems on the field that could be an issue. Selecting an offensive lineman would bolster an already blossoming offensive line in Detroit which would likely move left tackle Riley Reiff to guard in the near future.
The linebackers considered top ten picks includes Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack. Barr isn’t a great fit for the Lions as he is viewed more as a pass rusher than a drop back cover linebacker. Mack however, can drop back into coverage and rush the passer effectively and would be a solid selection despite linebacker being a lesser position of need.
Some might think the Lions would consider a corner or safety at with their first round pick, but the Lions could still have their choice of the top safeties by trading back a few spots and drafting a corner within the top 10 picks usually doesn’t work out immediately. The Lions can’t afford to wait, they need production now.
With that said, teams almost always stay true to their board and if a cornerback is the highest player available on their board, they shouldn’t second guess taking him.
Sometimes finding a trade partner is difficult, but there may be a team out there that covets a particular player who finds himself available at ten. In trading back the Lions could still get a top 10 talent while acquiring additional picks in what Mike Mayock called “the deepest draft in ten years.”
Trading back is always a solid option, but the Lions are considered just a few players away from a playoff team and may miss out on a player like Evans, Mack or Gilbert if they trade back.
The Lions using their first round pick to trade up, stay put, or trade back all have merit. With a new coaching staff and high expectations there is a lot riding on this draft. Whichever route the Lions decide to go, there needs to be immediate results.