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Detroit Lions: Do They Trade Down? Pt. 1

The Detroit Lions may be looking to move down in the 2021 NFL Draft to acquire more assets as they are rebuilding. You are reading the first of a three-part series looking at Detroit Lions trade-down targets. This series is tiered in a way that does not place them in any order. I will provide a group of players potentially available in the range where the Lions might end up selecting. But, only if they choose to trade down.

An Overview

We are operating with three different scenarios for the Lions to trade down and eventually make their selection. First, picks eight through 12. Second, picks 15-19. Third from a range later in the first-round around selection No. 25. 

We will go over potential trade partners and what might be received from these teams to fall back in the draft. In part one, we are moving down one, two, and potentially five spots. Moving one or two spots may still get you a player you would have selected at seven, and going down five picks means you are likely looking at a different player, but you are also receiving a giant surplus of draft capital.

One Final Note..

Remember, this is an exercise to pinpoint players that should intrigue the Lions in the three different ranges. Two of these scenarios are more realistic than the other. It is almost inconceivable to see them falling to the later part of the first round. The only way the Lions end up picking late in the first round is to move down twice. While I do not think that will happen, we will address it in part three.

The Situation for the Detroit Lions

Trade downs are challenging to execute, and as much as we like to talk about them, they rarely happen. It is doubtful the Lions move back this year. Despite this, it would be the year – if there is a year to fall back. With many holes all over the roster, it is wise to move down and accrue future draft capital. They have already done that via the trade of quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Lions have five first-round selections between now and the 2023 NFL draft. Adding another one would be an excellent move. Still, there is another conversation to have about the financial implications of having too many first-round picks needing a new contract at the same relative time.

We’ll save that for another time. But, it is crucial to understand they are likely using some of those picks to trade up or acquire a proven NFL player. (see Jalen Ramsey). A move to use draft capital may come in the future. However, today we are looking at the tier of players in the range of pick eight through pick 12.

These are the players and positions that might still be on the board starting at pick No. 8 moving through this first tier of players. 

Pass Catching Options:

Source: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Kyle Pitts, Florida

Offensive Line:

Source: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Defensive Line:

Source: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

Secondary:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is USATSI_15271922_168394733_lowres-1024x683.jpg
Source: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

Finally, the Detroit Lions Trade Suitors

Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos

The Lions are in a potentially exciting spot, holding pick No. 7 as several teams behind them need a quarterback. Carolina has made it loud and clear they are looking for a quarterback, and while Denver does not look like they are desperate to replace their quarterback, they have to be looking for an upgrade. 

Source: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Suppose the Lions swap picks with Carolina (potentially adding Carolina’s second-or-third rounder to make the deal happen). In that case, they can realistically pick the same player they would have selected if they stayed at seven. We can assume the Lions did not want to draft a quarterback because the deal makes no sense if that is the case.

In the interest of not wanting to waste your time, I will tell you if the player you wanted to take at seven is still on the board at eight, you blow a hamstring muscle sprinting to turn in the card. Like me running to the door when the pizza arrives!

Source: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to Denver, you can see how they would want to shop with the Lions as they need to jump Carolina to get one of these quarterbacks. Denver holds pick No. 9, and like a deal with Carolina, you are possibly getting the player you wanted at seven, but there are other players to consider, and that’s why there is a group of players here. If your guy is there at nine, you are dancing.

On to San Francisco and pick No. 12. It feels like a perfect spot for both teams, and I think it is reasonable to see the 49ers in their winning window. Paying a quarterback rookie-contract money opens up significant possibilities for them to add players to get them over the top. 

The San Francisco 49ers have to be looking at a future beyond quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. It makes sense for the 49ers to add one of the quarterbacks in this class, sit him behind Garoppolo for one season, and then unleash him in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s very quarterback-friendly system.

So, what Might the Niners Give Detroit?

I’m thinking the 49ers would be giving the Lions at least a second-round pick, a fourth-round selection in 2021, and more because they do not have a third-round choice in 2021. The above compensation feels light, and depending on the trade market at the time; the Lions could force the 49ers to give up their 2022 first-round in this deal, plus more. An excellent move for the Lions and it would give the Lions much flexibility going into the future. 

However, this is a strange time in the NFL, and the prices teams will pay to move up in the draft might be impacted. There is significant unknown around the player evaluation process, and it is undetermined how this affects an NFL teams’ willingness to be aggressive and move up in the draft.

Lastly, Why Should the Detroit Lions Trade Down Here?

We have laid out why this makes sense for the 49ers, so let’s look from the Detroit side. You are moving down more than a spot or two and potentially missing on the player you covet at seven. However, the Lions have many holes to fill, and adding a few extra premium picks makes a lot of sense. 

The Lions need to be comfortable falling out of the top-10 if this deal comes along, as they would be able to add talent on both sides of the ball. The 2021 NFL draft has many good prospects on the defensive side, but the Lions would reach a defender at seven if they do not move down.

The Lions need much more talent on defense; that much is very easy to see. If the Lions made this deal, they could draft a defensive player early, not stuck on value. The Lions have conceded this rebuild will take time, which means they can develop a player.

It is easy to get excited by what the Lions currently have in draft capital and what they could add by dealing with San Francisco. They now have their second-round pick (No. 41), their third-round pick (72), and the third-round pick they acquired from Los Angeles (88) in the Stafford deal.

Now add San Francisco’s second-round pick (44) to the mix, and the Lions then would have pick No. 12 in Round 1 and five total in the draft’s first 88 selections. They would also have their first-round pick in 2022, the Rams first-round pick in 2022, and San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2022.

The Lions started the rebuild when they traded Stafford. Adding these picks would be a fantastic addition and would help them jump on a path to success. Next is hitting on their choices and tying it all together from a scheme and coaching perspective. 

It is not easy to trade down in the draft, but it is undeniable that moving back in this draft could play a considerable part in expediting a painful rebuild. This is but one area to fall down to, and we will explore more in the coming weeks.

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