Should Lions Sell the Farm to Trade Up for Sammy Watkins in NFL Draft?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 9, 2014

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins runs with the football during the first half of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee

The Detroit Lions fell apart down the stretch a season ago, but they aren't a team hurting for offensive weaponry.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has a 5,000-yard passing season on his resume. Tailbacks Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are both as adept as receivers as they are carrying the ball. The Lions added wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency.

Then there's the small matter of wide receiver Calvin Johnson, he of the record-setting season two years ago. You won't get much of an argument calling "Megatron" the league's very best at what he does.

Still, it appears that the Lions may be looking to give Stafford one more weapon in the passing game.

The question is whether or not it's worth what it would cost the rest of the team.

As Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday, the Lions had Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins in for a visit:

As Birkett pointed out, it's hardly the first time the Lions have been connected to Watkins:

Watkins isn't averse to the idea either, according to Michael Rothstein of

I think that'd be a blessing, having Calvin Johnson on the other side," Watkins told said at February's NFL combine. "He's still young. It'd definitely be a blessing going to Detroit.
That's the best situation you can go into. Then you're looking at a great player every week and he's pushing you. He's teaching you the ropes, breaking down film, how to study other guys, transitioning into the NFL.

Of course, if the Lions are truly serious about pursuing Watkins, it's going to take some draft-day wheeling and dealing.

Because there's next to no chance that Watkins makes it to the Lions at No. 10.

Sammy Watkins NFL Draft Rankings
Ranker/SiteWR RankOVR Rank
Matt Miller/Bleacher Report14
Rob Rang/CBS Sports15
Mel Kiper/ESPN14
Chris Burke/Sports Illustrated13
Matthew Fairburn/SBNation15
As of 4/8/2014

Mind you, it's certainly not hard to understand why the Lions would be interested in the 6'1", 211-pound Watkins, who Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst called "probably the most dangerous skill player in this year's draft when it comes to making plays in space."

Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller went one better:

In Johnson, Tate and Watkins, Stafford would have one of the most formidable wideout trios in the NFL. If Watkins comes close to advertised, it wouldn't be long before the Lions wideouts were called the class of the league, especially considering that all three players are more than capable of hurting defenses over the top.

Like, say, this:

And yet, this is still a dangerous deal for the Lions.

It's not Watkins. He's a terrific talent. The Ohio State Buckeyes are still licking their wounds after his otherworldly performance in the 2014 Orange Bowl.

It's a matter of what the Lions would have to pay to move up in a draft that's loaded to the gills at the wide receiver spot.

Not a single mock drafter at CBS Sports expects Watkins to make it out of the top five. Conversely, CBS draft expert Rob Rang has given a potential first-round grade to seven wide receivers this year.

Rob Rang First-Round Wide Receivers 2014
WR RankOVR RankPlayerSchoolProj. Round
14Sammy WatkinsClemson1
211Mike EvansTexas A&M1
319Brandin CooksOregon State1
421Odell BeckhamLSU1
528Marqise LeeUSC1-2
632Kelvin BenjaminFlorida State1-2
734Allen RobinsonPenn State1-2
Per CBS Sports

Sure, the Houston Texans aren't likely to make Watkins the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, but from the second pick (St. Louis) on, Watkins will be very much in play.

Of course, the Rams have also made it clear they're open to trading down, much as they did two years ago. The Rams aren't going to net the windfall of picks they received from Washington Redskins in 2012, but they (or the Jacksonville Jaguars, or the Cleveland Browns, or the Oakland Raiders) aren't going to just give the pick away, either.

Throw in other teams who could be interested in moving up, and the bidding is likely to start with a package involving Detroit's 10th overall selection and a couple of Day 2 picks.

It's just too much for the Lions to give up in this draft.

This isn't to say it's a bad idea for the Lions to add a wide receiver. It's not. Tate is ideally a slot receiver, leaving the same hole opposite Megatron outside that has seemingly existed in Motown forever.

However, there are other ways to go about filling that hole.

Mike Evans of Texas A&M, he of the 6'5" size and 4.5 speed, could well be there when the Lions pick at No. 10. In fact, there are those who think Evans might actually be this year's top wide receiver prospect.

If the Lions were to eschew the wideout position altogether in the first round, there would still be several options open to the team. Penn State's Allen Robinson could be there at No. 45. Ditto for Cody Latimer of Indiana at No. 76.

Both youngsters would not only be solid complements for Megatron, but both Robinson and Latimer also possess the sort of size that (coupled with Johnson) would create matchup nightmares for opponents in the red zone.

It's also not as if wide receiver is the Lions' only problem, or even their biggest one. The secondary, pass rush and offensive line could all use work. The Lions could also stand to add a tight end.

There are just too many holes to fill to justify the extra pick(s) needed to move up and obtain Watkins, especially in the deepest draft at the wide receiver position in years.

Of course, this could change if the asking price to move up drops, and the next time the Jaguars, Browns or Raiders do something inept won't be the first time.

With that said, though, the odds of a discounted top-five pick aren't good, and while Watkins' talent is tempting, the Lions are better served letting the draft come to them in this instance.

There's too much low-hanging fruit to pay a premium for the first orange off the tree.


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