Lions possess draft capital to trade up, but for who?

Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (David Platt/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports)
Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (David Platt/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports) /

The Detroit Lions have already agreed to make a big trade this offseason. Could they look to do the same in the 2021 NFL Draft?

The Lions made national headlines at the end of last month with the pending trade of quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams. In exchange, Detroit will receive a new passer in Jared Goff, two future first-round selections (2022, 2023), and a third-rounder in April’s draft.

With five first-round selections over the next three years, the Lions should be in perfect position to retool their roster under new general manager Brad Holmes. The former director of college scouting for the Rams himself, Holmes was responsible for helping to bring in names like Goff, running back Todd Gurley, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, to Los Angeles.

No doubt the hope is that Holmes can do the same in the Motor City. And the bounty of draft picks the team will receive for trading Stafford should kickstart that process.

But possessing that much draft capital also affords the Lions the opportunity to trade up in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft if they desire to. That leaves the question as to whether there’s a potential candidate worth mortgaging the team’s new future for.

The Lions already own the seventh overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. The only logical reason to move up any higher is to land one of the top quarterback prospects in this class. So the first question Detroit must answer is how they feel about Goff.

The former number one overall selection in the 2016 draft, Goff is a two-time Pro Bowler who led his Rams to the Super Bowl just two years ago. If the Lions feel like the 26-year old passer is better than any quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft, they can simply use their draft picks to build the talent around him and upgrade the league’s worst defensive unit.

But if the Lions view Goff as a bridge player and not their true savior under center, Detroit could consider using their multiple first-rounders to move up for the quarterback they are in love with. And the only prospect worth making such a move is likely Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

Projected to be the number one overall selection in the 2021 draft, Lawrence all but confirmed his status as the top quarterback in the class recently during a pro day workout. Pro Football Focus recently named the 6-foot-5 5/8 and 213-pound passing prospect the best quarterback they’ve graded in the last seven years.

As a true freshman, Lawrence led the Tigers to a national championship in 2018 and he’s been one of the most highly-anticipated draft prospects ever since. Last season, he threw for 3,153 yards, 24 touchdowns, and only five interceptions with a career-high passer rating of 169.2 as a junior. Lawrence also rushed for eight more scores.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who own the number one overall selection in the upcoming draft, are expected to make Lawrence their top pick. So if the Lions wish to secure his services, they’ll likely need to trade with the Jags. But what might that cost?

Looking back to 2016, the Rams traded two first-round picks, two second-rounders, and two third-round selections to the Tennesse Titans to trade up 14 spots to the number one pick. In exchange, Los Angeles got Goff at No. 1, a fourth-round pick, and a sixth-round selection.

Since the Lions currently own the seventh overall selection, the cost might be more like what the Philadelphia Eagles traded to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz right after Goff in that same draft. The Eagles gave the Cleveland Browns two first-round picks including the eighth overall, a second-rounder, a third-round pick, and a fourth-round selection. Philly got Wentz with the second overall pick and an extra fourth-rounder.

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The Eagles trade to get Wentz is certainly a package of picks the Detroit Lions could offer the Jacksonville Jaguars for the rights to draft Trevor Lawrence. But it truly depends upon how the Lions’ new regime feels about Jared Goff and if Lawrence is that much better than him that it’s worth mortgaging the team’s future for.