Detroit Lions 2018 NFL Draft: What if Saquon Barkley falls?

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Running back Saquon Barkley
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Running back Saquon Barkley /

How far would Penn State running back Saquon Barkley have to fall in order for the Detroit Lions to move up in the first round to draft him?

There is one running back in the upcoming NFL Draft that everyone agrees is the best player at his position. And possibly the most talented player in the entire class. That prospect being Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

And if there is one team in desperate need for a transcendent running back, it’s the Detroit Lions, who finished dead last in the NFL last season in rushing offense. It’s been five years since the Motor City had a 1,000-yard rusher on their roster. In fact, the last time Detroit won a playoff game, they had a third-year running back named Barry Sanders in the backfield.

With a heavy investment made to their offensive line the past two seasons, which included a first round pick in 2016 and signing two high-priced free agents last year, plus one of the league’s top passing offenses; the Lions’ brass may feel now is the time to go all-in on the best running back they can find in the draft.

The only problem is Detroit will not have their number called in the first round until pick number 20. As some view Barkley as a potential top five selection, the Lions are in no position to add Saquon to their roster without trading up.

More from Lions Draft

If Detroit opts to stay put at 19, they figured to have plenty of running backs to choose from. Prospects like LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Sony Michel and Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson figure to be in play. Although certainly serviceable backs, all three come with their own concerns and none are projected to be the once-in-a-generation player Barkley might become.

In fact, many seem to believe the Lions would be better off waiting until Day Two to find themselves a young running back to pair with newly signed veteran LeGarrette Blount. Prospects like San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Oregon’s Royce Freeman, USC’s Ronald Jones, Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage or Iowa’s Akrum Wadley are all possible selections in the second and third rounds.

But what if Barkley falls out of the top five when teams start making actual picks on Thursday, April 26th? How far would Saquon have to fall before the Lions consider trading up for him? According to Colin Cowherd’s latest mock draft, the national sports pundit has the Penn State star dropping all the way to ninth overall and the San Francisco 49ers.

If that scenario starts to play out, when would the Lions possibly look to make a move? I think Detroit could try to make a trade for the seventh overall selection to grab Barkley. Here’s my example proposal.

In this scenario, the Lions trade away their first and third picks to the Bucs as well as a second rounder next year. In exchange, Detroit moves up 13 spots to draft Barkley. More importantly, the Lions get to keep their second round pick. As they only have six total selections going into this draft, I think it would be a priority for Detroit to trade down in the second round to get themselves more picks.

Next: Should the Lions draft an offensive lineman in round one?

This is just one possible way the Detroit Lions could end up with Saquon Barkley. But it would only be possible if the Lions are in love with the player and grade him much higher than all the other prospects at running back. Losing multiple picks is never ideal, and Detroit likely wants to gain more selections rather than further depleting their draft ammunition. But if you believe Barkley is the missing piece, it’s worth the sacrifice.