5 Creative Moves the Detroit Lions Can Pull off on Draft Day
Or will general manager Martin Mayhew be a seller at No. 10 overall, picking up an extra selection or two in order to move back a few spots?
Mayhew has shown he won't hesitate to be aggressive in making moves. Past trades for Jahvid Best and Chris Greenwood have not paid off as hoped, but falling back and using the trade bounty on DeAndre Levy and Sammie Lee Hill (for the pick that became Shonn Greene) proved quite beneficial.
Here are a few creative moves the Lions could make in this year's draft.
All draft history and transaction information is from NFL.com
Making the Big Move Up
The prospect of Detroit trading way up in the first round has been a hot topic of discussion for weeks now.
As Pro Football Talk noted last month, "If the Lions have genuine interest in trading up for Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, they’re doing a bad job of hiding it. If they’re not interested, they’ve put together a potent smokescreen."
So how can the Lions pull off such a big move up the board? Here's one possibility:
- Detroit trades the Nos. 10, 45 and 111 overall picks as well as the team's 2015 first-round pick to the St. Louis Rams to secure the No. 2 overall pick.
This pick originally belonged to the Washington Redskins, but they packaged it as part of their own bold move to trade up and draft quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2012. Detroit's potential package here is a little less than the original bounty Washington paid:
- No. 6 overall
- Second-round pick in 2012
- First-round pick in 2013
- First-round pick in 2014
At that No. 2 spot, the Lions could choose from wide receiver Sammy Watkins, offensive tackle Jake Matthews or perhaps edge defender Jadeveon Clowney.
None of those elite talents will fall to Detroit at No. 10.
Jump Back into the 1st Round
Jumping back into the bottom of the first round is a move Mayhew already has some experience with.
The Lions made such a deal in 2010 to acquire running back Jahvid Best, as chronicled by SI.com. Detroit sent picks 34, 100 and 214 to Minnesota for picks 30 and 128. The Lions turned those picks into Best (pictured) and offensive tackle Jason Fox.
In this draft, Detroit could make a similar move. It would cost more, as the 45th pick is a fairly precipitous plummet for a team in the late first round.
Here's one potential move:
- Detroit trades No. 45, No. 76 and No. 189 to New England for No. 29 overall.
- The Lions select Oregon State wideout Brandin Cooks 29th overall after taking UCLA pass-rusher Anthony Barr with the No. 10 pick.
The Lions would be sacrificing greater depth for more impact at a position of need.
Of course, the Best trade does not have a happy ending. Detroit risked that his collegiate concussion issues were not going to inhibit the running back's NFL career. However, Best's career was over just six games into his second season due to his brain trauma.
Hopefully another move of this caliber would wind up more in Detroit's favor.
Trading Back from No. 10
The Lions could fall back in the first round instead of moving up. That would allow the team to pick up extra picks.
It also provides more flexibility to move once again, as the Cleveland Browns proved a few years back. In 2009, Cleveland held the fifth overall pick.
As broken down by ESPN.com, the BRowns made a series of moves before actually using a pick:
- Traded No. 5 to the New York Jets for No. 17, No. 52, veteran defensive end Kenyon Coleman, young starting safety Abram Elam and third-string quarterback Brett Ratliff.
- Traded No. 17 to Tampa Bay for No. 19 and a sixth-rounder.
- Traded No. 19 to Philadelphia for No. 21 and another sixth-rounder.
After that dizzying array of moves, the Browns selected center Alex Mack at No. 21. He's proven to be worth the histrionics.
As Pro Football Focus notes, "Since Mack entered the league in 2009 he has graded out as one of the Top 10 centers every season, and once in that time he finished inside the Top 5."
Of course, the rest of the acquired picks have largely fallen flat for the Browns. In fact, not one other player involved in that trade is still in Cleveland. But that's beside the point for any series of moves Detroit could make.
However, the Lions get another offer they can't refuse at 16, as the Browns come calling to catch the falling Johnny Manziel. Cleveland gives up No. 26 overall, along with its second-round pick at No. 35 and both its third-rounders (Nos. 71 and 83).
This would give Detroit ample ammunition to trade right back up to take a player like Anthony Barr in the late teens. It could also net the following, purely hypothetical return along with its own picks:
|26||Jimmie Ward||Safety, Northern Illinois|
|35||Davante Adams||Wide Receiver, Fresno State|
|45||Kyle Van Noy||Linebacker, BYU|
|47||Scott Crichton||Defensive End, Oregon State|
|71||Marcus Martin||Center, USC|
|76||Ego Ferguson||Defensive Tackle, LSU|
|83||Robert Herron||Wide Receiver, Wyoming|
How's that for a two-day draft haul?
Selling a Player for a Pick
While this phenomenon happens more in other sports, it's not unprecedented in the NFL. San Diego traded cornerback Antonio Cromartie to the Jets for a 2011 draft pick and the Eagles traded wideout Reggie Brown to Tampa Bay for a pick in that draft as well.
Those trades happened the year before the picks in question were made, though. In this scenario, the Lions would get a more immediate return.
In this hypothetical, the Lions have already selected offensive tackle Jake Matthews in the first round. Doing so has a couple of ripple effects:
- The team had to trade up, and that cost them a later pick.
- Matthews takes over at left tackle, kicking incumbent starter Riley Reiff inside to left guard.
That leaves veteran guard Rob Sims as an odd man out.
Sims is still an effective player and Spotrac indicates that he is signed for a reasonable $3.75 million in 2014. A needy team like the Miami Dolphins or New York Giants could offer a fifth-round pick to ensure they get Sims instead of waiting for his eventual release from Detroit.
It's not a high return, but it's better than nothing. In this deep draft, an extra fifth-round pick could net a player like Oregon linebacker Boseko Lokombo or Delaware defensive tackle Zach Kerr.
Trade a Pick for a Player
This is the flip side of the last coin. In this scenario, Detroit would trade a pick for an actual player with NFL experience rather than another draft pick.
Making a move like this takes some of the projection and risk out of the equation. A player targeted in a trade would have some relevant NFL tape with another team.
One such option could be Dallas cornerback Morris Caliborne. Steven Mullinax of The Landry Hat notes that the Cowboys might have an interest in moving the 2012 first-round pick.
While it seems hasty to give up on a player so highly regarded that they made a big move in the 2012 draft (a first- and second-round pick) to select him, he hasn't met expectations.
It wouldn't hurt Mayhew to call Dallas owner Jerry Jones and dangle a third-rounder for the falling star. Maybe the Lions can sweeten the pot with one of their glut of young corners too, like Jonte Green or Cassius Vaughn.
Another potential player is Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham. The 2010 first-rounder from Michigan has struggled with injuries and doesn't fit well in coach Chip Kelly's 3-4 scheme.
As Chris Wesseling of NFL.com reported recently, the Eagles are open to moving Graham. Offering a sixth-rounder just might land the former first-rounder and bolster the defensive depth chart more than any prospects available with that pick.