Matthew Stafford trade: Delayed draft picks a blessing in disguise?

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

On Saturday night, the Detroit Lions changed the future of their franchise forever and ended an era all at the same time. That after reports that the Lions have agreed to trade their longtime franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, to the Los Angeles Rams.

While the trade cannot be made official until March 17, the start of the new league year, this certainly feels like a bell that can’t be unrung. And much of the talk following the news has been about the compensation the Lions will receive in return for Stafford.

The Rams intend to send Detroit two first-round selections in exchange for their 32-year quarterback. Those picks will be in 2022 and 2023. Why? Los Angeles already traded away their first-rounder for this year, 25th overall, to the Jacksonville Jaguars as part of the deal to acquire cornerback Jalen Ramsey back in October of 2019.

The Ramsey trade also had the Rams giving up two first-rounders (2020, 2021) to acquire a player. In addition to those two Day One picks, Los Angeles also sent Jacksonville a fourth-round selection to use in this year’s draft. For Stafford, the Rams are set to send Detroit their 2021 third-rounder as well as those future firsts.

But that’s not all. In what may go down as a franchise-changing trade, the Lions will also acquire quarterback Jared Goff as part of the deal that sends Stafford to sunny California. The 26-year old Goff is a two-time Pro Bowler who led the Rams to the Super Bowl less than two years ago.

But the real Crown Jewels of this pending trade are those first-round selections in 2022 and 2023. And while there may be a lingering feeling the Lions should have taken other deals for Stafford that got them more immediate results i.e. a first-round selection this year, the delayed compensation might be a blessing in disguise.

After all, the current worldwide pandemic has flipped college scouting on its head. That after a season where several high-profile college prospects opted out of playing in 2020 giving scouts only 2019 or prior game film to analyze. And with the news that the annual NFL Scouting Combine and all in-person workouts have been canceled, teams will be entering the draft in April less prepared than ever.

This situation likely doesn’t sit well with the Lions’ new general manager, Brad Holmes. The longtime director of college scouting for the Rams is said to be highly-reliant on analytics and technology to be on the cutting edge when it comes to talent evaluation. That requires a massive amount of information. Information that, in large part, will not be available this year.

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Therefore, by the Detroit Lions getting delayed compensation in the Matthew Stafford trade, it allows the team’s new front office and coaching staff more time to evaluate exactly how to spend those future first-round selections. And while it could hinder the retooling in the Motor City for a season or two, the results may be far better in the end.