Should the Detroit Lions draft a first-round receiver again?

Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports)
Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports) /

What if the Detroit Lions drafted the best receiver in round one?

We’re barely two weeks into the Detroit Lions offseason and are already turning our attention to the upcoming NFL Draft. It’s only natural to look to the future after a down year (or twenty … ). The team doesn’t even have a new general manager or head coach yet, but the next on-the-field product is easy to yearn for.

In that vein, what if the Lions did something they are constantly raked over the coals for … again. What if they used the seventh overall pick in the draft on a shiny new wide receiver? It’s a funny thing. The team hasn’t selected a first-round wide receiver since Hall of Fame nominee Calvin Johnson was taken with the second overall pick in 2007.

Looking back, Detroit has selected more tight ends in the first round in the past 10 years than they have wide receivers – one tight end and zero wide receivers. Yet, the media and fans certainly remember the team’s run on receivers in the early 2000s. I mean, four first-round wide receivers in five years, from 2003 to 2007, is pretty impressive. Or infamous.

Since the general manager in those years, Matt Millen, is no longer calling the shot, it would almost be a decent selection if the Lions selected Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith. He’s certainly talented as shown by his performance Monday night in the College Football National Championship.

Smith could be the new Johnson for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, should the team keep him around for another year. We all know how well Stafford played when Johnson was around. And we also know how below average the defense was during those years. Playing for shootout wins didn’t really pay off back then.

What needs to happen to justify this selection? First, there’s no way the team can move up for one of the top signal-callers without giving up too much in return. This statement includes trying to trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Second, he’s simply the best player on the new general manager’s draft board assuming key defensive players have been selected ahead of him. Finally, Stafford is in the fold for 2021.

Without a top quarterback or defensive playmaker available, it still wouldn’t make sense to take Smith without Stafford. Nearly every spot on the defense could use some help and going offensive line should be the only other plan for a first-round selection with this Lions team.

For example, look at the Cleveland Browns. They beefed up the offensive line and retooled the backfield with fantastic runners. Building inside out led to success and a playoff victory. Building outside in, as all long-time Detroit Lions fans know, doesn’t work.

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While drafting the next Calvin Johnson in Detroit sounds awesome, it would be a waste without bringing anything else together around him. Smith could very well have a major impact at the NFL level in the coming seasons. The Lions’ new general manager and head coach better be prepared to use him correctly and build this team correctly or it will be another laughable selection the Lions have been known for throughout the 2000s.