The Detroit Lions ended last season with a blowout win. But it cost them dearly in draft position. This year, the franchise should not repeat that mistake.
No fan likes the idea of their team tanking. And if you are a fan of the Detroit Lions, you likely feel your team has been unintentionally tanking for years. But the harsh truth is the 2019 Lions have already been eliminated from playoff contention and there are four games left to be played.
Some will consider these contests to be meaningless, but they are wrong. The outcome of these games can considerably impact the team’s draft status and the future of the franchise. Let’s look at last year for an example.
Heading into their final game against their divisional rivals, the Green Bay Packers, Detroit had a 5-10 record. They were in a position to secure the fifth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Yet, the Lions went out guns blazing, defeating the hapless Packers 31-0 in Lambeau.
Detroit ended up with a 6-10 record and the eighth overall selection in the first round of the draft. With it, the Lions selected Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson, who’s recorded 32 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns so far.
Although Hockenson leads all rookie tight ends in catches, his top-ten draft status means he’s actually underachieving in his first year. The 22-year old must not only find a way to play better, but he has to erase the memory of former first-round tight end Eric Ebron in the process.
But what if the Lions had tanked the final game of last season and lost to the Packers in order to earn a more advantageous draft position in 2019? There’s a belief that Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen might have been the pick in Motown instead of Hockenson.
Allen was drafted seventh overall, a single pick ahead of Detroit, by the Jacksonville Jaguars. And the first-year defender currently leads all rookies with 9.0 sacks, which is tied for 12th most in the league so far this season.
Now, it’s anyone’s guess if Allen would be able to post those same results in head coach Matt Patricia’s questionable defensive scheme. But for a team with a distinct lack of pass rushers, he would have been a game-changer.
By winning in that final week of the 2018 regular season, the Lions not only dropped three spots in the first round of the draft but in every subsequent round afterward. That victory against Green Bay did nothing to inspire the team as it appears Detroit may actually post a worse record this season. Instead, all winning did was cost the Lions a chance at players like Allen and many others.
Again, no fan wants to tank. It goes against everything we’re taught about competition. And getting a higher draft selection doesn’t guarantee success. But the 3-8-1 Detroit Lions need every advantage they can get in order to rebound after two down seasons. And, as last year taught us, there is nothing to be gained by winning any of these last four games outside of Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn saving face … and possibly their jobs.