Detroit Lions Draft Countdown: Making the Case for Sammy Watkins

Brandon AlisogluCorrespondent IApril 23, 2014

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03:  Sammy Watkins #2 and Ryan Norton #58 of the Clemson Tigers celebrate after a Watkins touchdown in the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Golden Tate by himself did not solve the Detroit Lions' receiver problem, but the addition of Sammy Watkins wouldn't either. It would eviscerate it.

I get it. Plenty of fans are hesitant about trading up in such a deep draft for one guy when there are other issues that have to be addressed.

But hesitation is what gets general managers fired. As the old saying goes, if you want to win, you must be bold.

OK. I just "coined" that saying. But that doesn't mean it's wrong. And neither is Watkins in Honolulu blue.


The Time Is Now

First, let's address something that few people discuss: the Lions' championship window. While there are a few young contributors on the roster, the roster is either older or more expensive than you think.

Calvin Johnson will only be 29 when the 2014 season ends, but his knee could be a lingering issue moving forward. Plus, how many guys have endured the physical toll that opponents have forced him to pay? And he certainly isn't getting any cheaper. 

Obviously, quarterback Matthew Stafford and his almost $20-million annual cap hit and Ndamukong Suh's inevitable richest-defensive-player-in-the-league contract will be a burden for years to come. And stalwarts like Dominic Raiola, Rob Sims, and Stephen Tulloch aren't getting any younger.

Oh, and that's not including the stud running backs who will be 29 and 28 when the season starts. We all know what happens when those guys get to 30 and start losing a step.

The Lions simply won't be able to take the wait-and-see approach with multiple picks to add depth. The core of this team is ready to win now, because trying to build a team with a triumvirate paid like Johnson, Suh and Stafford will be incredibly difficult. 

Therefore, adding such a huge advantage like a trio of wideouts that includes Megatron, Tate and Watkins is paramount. Championship teams do something better than everyone else, not everything better than everyone else. The chance is there to strike, and the Lions cannot delay.


What Would It Really Take?

The chief concern is giving up multiple picks in what's defined as a deep draft. But, as was explained above, Detroit won't really be afforded the option of building a talented roster via the draft with a few smart free-agent investments.

The popular consensus is Detroit would have to move up to the second overall pick to land Watkins. I'm not necessarily buying that and if it's the truth, maybe it isn't worth it. Using this draft-pick value chart, the second pick is worth 2,600 points which would require at least Detroit's 10th pick, two second-rounders and possibly one more second to land it.

However, if Watkins doesn't go in the first two picks, his charted value plummets. For the No. 3 pick, the price drops to just the 10th pick and two second-rounders. And if he falls to four or five overall? Detroit could land him with just the 10th, one second-rounder and a late-rounder. 

That's not nearly so steep, is it?

Plus, Nick Fairley might make some interesting trade bait. His future in Detroit is in doubt after the Lions declined his 2015 option, and his asking price could be prohibitive if he goes nuts in 2014. So there's that.

So if Detroit only has to lose a second-rounder (or even two), what would the Lions really miss out on? To answer that question, let's see how their recent second-day prizes have fared.

Detroit Lions' Recent Second-Round History
2008Jordon Dizon
2009Louis Delmas
2010Traded To Minnesota Vikings
2011Titus Young
2011Mikel Leshoure
2012Ryan Broyles
2013Darius Slay

Still ardent about holding on to those second-rounders? Because general manager Martin Mayhew hasn't exactly been killing it in this sector. Yes, we can't say for certain he'll botch the pick this year, but why not take a sure thing instead of a couple maybes and a bunch of guys who aren't even on the team anymore?


Does Anybody Really Compare to Watkins?

The above all leads to thisSammy Watkins is one of the three best players in this draft. There's no arguing that at this point.

He's a 6'1", 211-pound playmaker. Just check out the tape or flip on the 2014 Orange Bowl when he went for 227 yards and two touchdowns against an Ohio State defense that boasts two possible first-round picks in linebacker Ryan Shazier and, more relevantly, cornerback Bradley Roby.

Watkins can high-point the ball, track deep passes using his 4.43 speed and even break a few ankles in the flats after the catch. He's a home-run threat with the ball in his hands or going after it. Defenses will have to account for that, meaning they can't pay all their attention to Johnson or Tate.

The worst-case scenario involves the St. Louis Rams demanding full value for the second pick. However, in a draft as deep as 2014's, it's very possible teams won't be willing to give up full value to move up, and it's possible they won't be targeting Watkins that high anyways.

I'm not saying it's completely necessary, but there is a very strong case to be made for taking the former Clemson Tiger standout.