Realistic Draft-Day Trade Possibilities for the Detroit Lions
One of the great allures of the NFL draft is the possibility of commissioner Roger Goodell uttering the phrase, "we have a trade."
The Detroit Lions fostered that back in 2010, when they traded back into the bottom of the first round to select running back Jahvid Best (pictured). They have the opportunity to do so once again in the 2014 NFL draft.
Trade rumors abound in all corners of all media these days. Some are rooted in reality, while others are nothing more than crazy talk.
In order to keep some semblance of reality in the trade, a good reference tool is the famous NFL trade value chart. Created by then-Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson over 20 years ago, NFL teams still use it as a basic outline for ascertaining the value of a particular pick and how it weighs against the potential compensation.
A copy of Johnson's chart is available from Draft Countdown. Many teams have their own charts that differ in value, but this serves as a handy basic guideline.
Here are five trades the Lions could legitimately execute during draft weekend.
Trade Up for Sammy Watkins
The proposed trade:
- Detroit sends its first-round pick (No. 10 overall), second-round pick (No. 45) and sixth-round pick (No. 189) to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 overall pick
This trade has appeared in mock drafts already, including this one from Will Brinson at CBS. It has deep roots in Lions general manager Martin Mayhew's acknowledged love of Watkins as a player:
Martin Mayhew calls Sammy Watkins "an outstanding player". "He's got the speed, he's got the quickness... playmaking ability." #TUFSS— Detroit Sports 1051 (@DSports1051) March 26, 2014
Of course, all the talk of trading up for Watkins could be a clever smokescreen by Mayhew and the Lions. Perhaps they really want Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans or his Aggie teammate, tackle Jake Matthews.
Maybe, just maybe, they're gunning for No. 1 overall and South Carolina freak show defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
If the Lions are indeed moving up into the top three, it will cost them—at minimum—their current first- and second-rounders. That's a steep price to pay in such a deep draft. But if the franchise is convinced that adding Watkins (or Clowney) is the one piece needed to achieve a deep playoff run, it will go for it.
Move Up in the Second Round
This trade scenario takes advantage of the two extra fourth-round picks Detroit received.
While those compensatory picks cannot be traded, they do provide some cushion if the team opts to package its original fourth-round pick (No. 111 overall).
From the trade chart, that pick is worth 72 points. When paired with the 450 points of value for the 45th pick, that gives the Lions enough ammo to move up to the 37th or 38th pick.
Should the Lions aim higher, packaging Detroit's second- and third-round picks would get them to 760 points on the draft chart. That's equivalent to the 23rd overall pick, currently held by the Kansas City Chiefs.
In that range, Detroit could land a safety like Louisville's Calvin Pryor, a pass-rushing presence like Auburn's Dee Ford or a wideout like Indiana's Cody Latimer.
This is a similar move to what Mayhew pulled off to obtain Best back in 2010. In that situation, Detroit only had to climb four spots, however.
Trade Back for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
This one comes from a mock draft I did recently for Detroit Lions Draft...
- Dallas trades No. 16 and No. 47 overall to the Lions for the No. 10 pick
It takes a motivated buyer to trade back, and years of middling mediocrity in Dallas could foster that sort of motivation from aggressive, competitive owner Jerry Jones.
Remember, Jones traded up from 14th to sixth in the 2012 draft for cornerback Morris Claiborne, throwing in the 45th overall pick to the Rams as well.
So, who would the Lions target with the 16th pick?
In the aforementioned mock draft, here's the commentary:
16. *Detroit Lions (trade with Dallas): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU. If the Lions trade back, their list of desired targets likely starts with Justin Gilbert and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. So in this situation, they lose out and “settle” for the third wideout. OBJ is NFL-ready as the third wideout opposite Megatron and Golden Tate.
Clinton-Dix makes a lot of sense. Even after signing free agent James Ihedigbo, the team still could use a younger, more dynamic safety. The Crimson Tide product certainly fits the bill.
It's the extra second-rounder which gives this option so much appeal. In this mock, Detroit landed USC center Marcus Martin with the bonus bounty. His merits are discussed here from last week.
Some other options the Lions could explore with an extra second-round pick include:
- Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief
- Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward
- Colorado State center Weston Richburg
- Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin
Sell a 2015 Pick for One in 2014
Numerous sources, including Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News, have reported that the Lions are in "win-now" mode.
One way to help achieve that goal is to mortgage the future for the present. Detroit could sell off a 2015 pick in order to obtain another pick in 2014.
Traditionally, the return for a future selection is one round later than the dealt pick. In other words, a second-round pick in '15 would only bring back a third-rounder in 2014. Some later picks might get shuffled to make the trade value chart work, too.
The last time Detroit sold a future pick for more immediate return was during the 2012 season. Desperate for healthy bodies at wide receiver (sound familiar?), the Lions shipped their 2014 fifth-round pick to Jacksonville for Mike Thomas.
Alas, that did not work out favorably. Thomas, captured in a rare Detroit moment above, couldn't make the final 53-man roster last season and the Lions have nothing to show for this year's fifth-rounder.
Still, it's not unreasonable for Mayhew to scratch the immediate gratification itch if a player the Lions value highly begins to fall into a range where such a move doesn't seem too expensive.
One such hypothetical scenario would be Detroit sending its 2015 second-round pick to a team near the top of this third round in order to lock up Fresno State wideout Davante Adams if he unexpectedly falls to that range.
Deal an Extra Cornerback for a Seventh-Round Pick
This isn't exactly a sexy move, but it's a situation where the Lions can take advantage of their current glut of young talent at cornerback.
Yes, you read that correctly: The Detroit Lions have a glut of young talent at cornerback. I'll give you a few seconds to wipe up the coffee you just spat all over your mobile device.
Detroit has eight cornerbacks under age 28 on the roster. That does not include holdover starters Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis. While the collective group hasn't exactly set the NFL world afire with talent, there is a lot of young potential.
Here's how they break out:
- Darius Slay
- Bill Bentley
- Chris Greenwood
- Jonte Green
All four of these youngsters were drafted in either 2012 or '13. Slay and Bentley are second- and third-round choices, respectively, which indicates fairly high expectations. At the moment, Slay is penciled in at one outside starting spot, while Bentley is the starting slot corner.
Greenwood showed great promise in the '13 finale, finally hinting at why the Lions traded up to get him in the 2012 draft. Green has some regular-season experience, too.
- Cassius Vaughn
- Akwasi Owusu-Ansah
- Aaron Hester
- Nate Hess
These four were all free-agents signings this offseason. Vaughn (pictured) started 15 games in the last two seasons for a playoff team in the Indianapolis Colts. Owusu-Ansah was a fourth-round pick by the Cowboys in 2010.
The Lions are not trading Slay, and there's extremely little chance any of the second grouping other than Vaughn has any trade value.
Not all those young bodies are going to make the roster, however. If the Lions take another corner in this draft's first two days, that's one more of these necks on the chopping block.
It makes sense for the Lions to see if they could bring back even a seventh-round pick in return for a player who isn't going to make the team.
Greenwood and Green both have enough potential that some team ought to be willing to pay that price. Bentley could bring back a higher return, though dealing away a 2012 third-rounder for an early sixth-round pick puts a lot of egg on Mayhew's face.
That extra late-round pick could turn into a kicker or a developmental quarterback. Either option stands a better chance of making a lasting impact than the sixth or seventh corner on the depth chart.