I will say this now: 99 percent of the time I am fundamentally against trading future picks in a draft. It leads to all sorts of painful situations when great players who fill needs fall in the draft to a spot where a team was. Even worse, they are often given up for players who in hindsight should never have been traded for.
Martin Mayhew has done a fair bit of this for Detroit, most recently (and annoyingly) when he inexplicably gave the Minnesota Vikings their 2013 fourth-round pick to move back into the 2012 Draft fifth round to take Tahir Whitehead.
In the year since that trade, Whitehead has yet to do anything meaningful for the Lions, and looks to be exactly what most people thought he was coming out of college—an overachiever with great instincts but sub-par athleticism. He is at best a depth outside linebacker.
Meanwhile, a borderline first-round talent at wide receiver has fallen so far in the 2013 NFL draft that he is still on the draft board at the end of Round 3. You can find a more detailed breakdown of Patton's value here, but to put it briefly, he is a perfect No. 2 wide receiver. He is not an elite athlete or deep threat, but he is a great route runner he, has safe hands and is technically sound and he's consistent and a sure thing to produce if teams give him no respect (which is distinctly possible for anyone playing opposite Calvin Johnson).
He is the one percent of players that I would trade future picks for, a player who has fallen multiple rounds from the pre-draft grade and fills a present need in a team's roster.
The problem is that the Lions no longer have a tradeable fourth-round pick. Their next pick is a late fourth rounder, and there is simply no way that Patton will fall that far. Also, since this is a compensatory pick, it is not tradeable. That means that to move up to get Patton, the Lions would need to build a pick bundle around a high fifth rounder. Things would have been much easier with that fourth-round pick they foolishly gave away.
Should the Lions trade up for...?
Since the Lions only have a high fifth, sixth and seventh-round pick that they can trade, a move up in the draft to get Patton would simply have to involve future picks. Also, they would almost certainly have to overpay to trade into the range to take Patton. There are a few good players who have fallen into Day Three like Patton, Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams, Texas defensive end Alex Okafor (another player who the Lions could take if they traded up) and quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib.
Therefore, Detroit will not be the only team looking at trading into the top of the fourth round.
Also, the Lions will have a limited number of trade partners. The Kansas City Chiefs will certainly be interested in Quinton Patton, and the Oakland Raiders will have their eyes on Alex Okafor. Therefore, the Lions will probably have to work out a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars if they want to their man Patton (or even Okafor as a consolation prize).
I believe that in order to make a trade, the Lions will have to give up their fifth, sixth and first seventh-round pick in this draft, plus a fourth rounder in 2014 in return for the first pick of the first round from the Jacksonville Jaguars. I do not see any players that are must-drafts for them, and getting a lot more picks would let them move back into the fourth round.
This trade is overpaying a bit according to a draft trade value table, due to the likely demand for the pick this is probably the reality they will be faced with. However, if surprisingly not many teams want the Jaguars pick, the Lions could probably keep their sixth or seventh-round pick, or maybe even only give up a fifth rounder in 2014.
While this would give up most of the Lions Day Three picks in 2013, I would be fine with that since the Lions would be adding one player with rookie starter potential. The later rounds are such a hit and miss process that taking one great player is the way to go over a bunch of guys who are developmental starters at best.
In all, while it would be bad to give up a fourth rounder next season, the upside of adding Quinton Patton, or even Alex Okafor, would be worth it. Patton would be able to start opposite Calvin Johnson in his rookie season and put up decent yardage, and Okafor has the skill set to be a very good rotational defensive end in the Lions rotation who provides similar production and better pass rush than Lawrence Jackson.