What to Make of the Detroit Lions’ Interest in Sammy Watkins


Feb 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins participates in a pass catching drill during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Detroit Lions make a bold move up the 2014 NFL Draft board to select Sammy Watkins? With connections between the team and player at seemingly every turn of the path towards the draft, no one would be shocked to see it happen.

While some nationally seem to think the Lions are set at wide receiver after signing Golden Tate, most of us locally know the position remains a question mark after the top two. There is a ton to like about Watkins and he is strongly regarded as the top wide receiver in a draft that is supposedly loaded with wide receivers. Standing head and shoulders above that group is impressive and the Lions only chance to get him is to trade up.

The Lions have dined with the Watkins family and Bill Ford Jr. stopped by the Lions’ practice facility while Watkins was in town for a pre-draft visit. So, case closed, all that is left to be determined is how far they’ll move up and what it cost the Lions to grab Watkins, right?

The problem with taking the Lions’ interest in Watkins at face-value is that doing so ignores the way Martin Mayhew has done things leading up to other drafts. The Lions had a serious crush on Jahvid Best prior to the 2010 draft and did everything they could to hide their interest.

"We really liked him. (Coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan) have been very, very excited about the guy, and we thought the smart thing to do was to not say too much about him."

In fact, Best was expressed surprise the Lions traded up back into the first round to select him because he didn’t have much contact with the team previously.

Just a year later, post-draft reports came out that the Lions had tried to trade into the top five to draft Patrick Peterson – a shock even to those who closely followed the team leading up to the 2011 draft.

So, what are the Lions doing with Watkins?

It is possible their interest is totally true and they feel no need to hide it because they know they’ll have to make trade up to get him. There is no use in playing coy and hoping he falls.

Smokescreens are everywhere in the weeks leading up to the draft and while Watkins is a fine prospect, what if he isn’t the Lions target at all? If you want to go into deep-level mind games, perhaps the Lions are indicating a willingness to trade up while using Watkins to mask their true target – perhaps Khalil Mack or even Jadeveon Clowney.

Trading up in some form seems likely as Mayhew is already on record as stating there aren’t ten elite prospects in this draft. The Lions will have to move up to get one, but Watkins isn’t the only elite prospect.

It’s hard to know what to believe this time of year. Unfortunately we still have four weeks to wait before we see how it all plays out.