Detroit Lions: Which positions are worthy of a top-three pick in the draft?

Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images /

The Detroit Lions have been linked to some great prospects in the NFL draft. But is their positional value enough to warrant being taken third overall?

With great power comes great responsibility. That might be a bit hyperbolic but the Detroit Lions have a lot on the line in the 2020 NFL Draft picking at third overall. When you are in a position to draft this high you really have to milk it for all it’s worth because you don’t know when you’ll be back in that position of power.

How do you do that? Either use it on an elite talent at one of the three most important positions in football or trade it in for more chips to someone who does.

When there’s only two teams picking before you you would think you would have the entire board at your disposal, and technically you do, minus two. But if you’re not using it on one of the three most important positions in football … you’re essentially throwing away value as these players have the greatest impact on the game.

Historically, the top-three slots in the NFL Draft are reserved for these three most valuable positions:

  • QB’s
  • DE’s who rush the QB
  • OT’s who protect QB

Everything is always about the quarterback …

So let’s take a look at which positions have been taken in the top-three in the past 20 years, according to … that’s 60 picks total for my math majors.

  • QB’s (23) (38%)
  • DE (12) (20%)
  • OT (8) (14%)
  • DT (5) (8%)
  • WR (5) (8%)
  • RB (4) (7%)
  • LB (2) (3%)
  • OG (1) ( 2%)

There’s a clear drop off after quarterback, then two more after defensive end and offensive tackle. The most valuable positions in football are about the quarterback, rushing the quarterback, and protecting the quarterback. NFL GM’s draft accordingly.

Defensive tackle is kind of a mixed bag as many also rush the quarterback, especially in today’s game where the lines of positions are more blurred than ever along the defensive line. Elite defensive tackles who can pass-rush are almost just as valuable as an EDGE rusher. It’s still quarterback pressure.

Wide receiver is when we first really get outside the three most positions in football. There have been five selected in the past 20 years, but none since Calvin Johnson in 2007, 13 years ago. It’s not because of talent either … Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Sammy Watkins, Amari Cooper were all thought of as possible ‘generational talents’, but were all passed up over the best available in the three most valuable positions.

There were four running backs taken top-three in this time frame. Ronnie Brown, Reggie Bush, Trent Richardson, and Saquon Barkley. Out of all four situations Reggie Bush was the only one to win anything with New Orleans, and we know how they got to the Super Bowl, and even then Bush was only third on the team in rushing that year.

Barkley’s story isn’t finished, but it’s not looking great. The New York Giants will most certainly have to pay him way before they are ready to win … and after he has over 1,000 carries under his belt in the NFL.

After running back you only a few anomalies with two linebackers and one offensive guard. The linebackers were LaVar Arrington and Von Miller, one worked out, one didn’t. The guard, bless the Cardinals’ hearts for trying was Leonard Davis. Now Davis was a good player, never great though and definitely not what Arizona needed at second overall to get out of the hole they were in. Bad value.

One position or lack thereof that surprised was cornerback. None were taken top-three in the last 20 years? But some at four, five and six including Denzel Ward and at fourth overall and Jalen Ramsey at sixth overall. But let’s look at the draft value chart as well.

  • Pick 1 = 3000
  • Pick 2 = 2600
  • Pick 3 = 2200
  • Pick 4 = 1800
  • Pick 5 = 1700

After pick three the drop off in value halts from 400 within the first three picks to only 100 per pick after that. Proving there is a perceived tier of value within the first three picks.

To bring it home to the Lions 2020 draft. Players like linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah are phenomenal talents, but realize how phenomenal they would have to be in general manager Bob Quinn’s eyes to pull the trigger on them at third overall. Hell, even cornerback Charles Woodson didn’t go top-three.

Because of the value that will be there at third overall with either an elite prospect quarterback or defensive end in Joe Burrow, Chase Young or Tua Tagovailoa … the Lions should be able to sell high on the stock if they’re not interested in one of those three players themselves.

Next. The Detroit Lions top 7 ‘buyer remorse’ first-round draft choices. dark

If I’m Bob Quinn, the pick at three is for, in order of preference … Chase Young, trading back or being forced with rolling the dice with either quarterback that is still there. The Detroit Lions don’t know when they will be back picking in the top three, best to get the most value you can. Third overall is not the time to draft for needs.