Exploring the Lions draft options if Matthew Stafford had stayed

With the NFL draft quickly approaching, what would the Detroit Lions approach have looked like if quarterback Matthew Stafford were still on the team? We know this isn’t a realistic scenario, but more of a fun “what if” peek into this year’s draft from a different, less serious perspective.

For this exercise, let’s assume the roster is exactly the same as today with one difference – Stafford is the quarterback instead of Jared Goff. Now, what would the new front office look to accomplish if this were the case on draft day?

Exploring multiple Detroit Lions draft scenarios

Let’s start with a fresh idea – trading for Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones. Assuming Detroit is in the same cap position and the wide receiver room still looking fairly empty, this would be a major consideration. And due to the post-June 1 designation associated with Jones’ contract, the Lions would still keep the seventh overall pick this year to add talent to the roster.

Stafford and Jones sound like Stafford and Calvin Johnson 2.0 for Detroit. Giving up a future first-round pick would allow the Lions to take the best offensive tackle at seventh overall and ensure Stafford has time to throw him the ball. Then, the team could clean up the defense with the rest of their draft picks.

Without trading for Jones, a more likely scenario would involve the Lions trying to move up in the first round to lock up the top offensive lineman in this draft, Oregon’s Penei Sewell. As mentioned above, this keeps Stafford off his back so he can throw to whatever wide receiver they draft in rounds two or three. It can also improve the running game with a more athletic player on the offensive line.

Another option would be to pair Stafford with a shiny new wide receiving weapon, and the Lions would likely be licking their chops at the possibilities. Guys like Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, or Jaylen Waddle would be great options to build up the Lions roster at the position. Unlike the Jones scenario above, this gives the team multiple years and a cheaper contract for a single-wide receiver and might be much more desirable, too.

Finally, with the options available and needs on the roster, having Stafford at quarterback instead of Goff might not change a single thing. These Detroit Lions could be looking at the very same options, including trading down or eyeing a defensive star instead of the possibilities above. Jones would certainly help Goff. So would a new offensive lineman.

With the state of the roster, there are multiple positions that could be bolstered in this week’s draft. The current quarterback doesn’t really change that fact as both would be expected to start in 2021 regardless. Build the rest of the roster to help the quarterback succeed, and try to minimize the risks you take in making that happen.