How College Football Playoff stars might have changed Detroit Lions’ 2021 NFL draft plans

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez answers three questions about how Alabama’s 52-24 victory Monday over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national championship game could affect the Detroit Lions’ plans for the 2021 NFL draft:

Did Justin Fields hurt or help his stock in the loss?

The Ohio State quarterback didn’t have a great game. He was 17 of 33 for 194 passing yards with one touchdown and had six carries for 67 yards. But he did all of that while playing through a hip-pointer injury, and didn’t make excuses. In my mind, that should improve Fields’ stock as a gritty competitor who wants to play in an important game, even when he’s not at his best.

He had a very good career and a great game against Clemson in the CFP semifinal, in which he outplayed expected No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. The biggest question about Fields is whether he or Brigham Young’s Zach Wilson will be the second quarterback drafted. Beating ’Bama would have raised Fields’ stock, but I doubt losing to a clearly better team while playing through an injury hurt it. The Lions should definitely consider drafting Fields if he’s available when they pick seventh.

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Should the Lions draft Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith?

It would be really tempting if Smith is there when the Lions pick seventh. But it’s going to depend on which quarterbacks the Lions like and who’s available. The Heisman Trophy winner ended his college career Monday with 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns. But drafting a receiver early is like buying a sports car. They’re flashy and exciting, but do you really need one that bad? In the Lions’ case, they might. They only have two receivers under contract — including promising rookie Quintez Cephus — though they’re almost certain to re-sign or franchise tag Kenny Golladay. And they can always draft a receiver in the later rounds. After all, Tennessee’s A.J. Brown is the only AFC Pro Bowl receiver this year who was drafted as high as the second round. I wouldn’t hate it if the Lions drafted Smith, but receivers usually don’t change the trajectory of a franchise the way quarterbacks do.

What did the game do for Alabama quarterback Mac Jones

Jones helped himself by completing 36 of 45 passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns. It capped an amazing season for Jones, who threw for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and four interceptions. Jones completed a ridiculous 74.3% of his career passes with an average 11 yards per attempt — both numbers are much higher than Wilson’s or Fields’. Yet almost no one considers Jones a top-10 pick. Maybe that will change after Monday, when he again showed great composure in the pocket, a strong and accurate arm plus nice touch and great instincts. The big knock against Jones is his lack of athleticism. It’s fashionable and enticing for teams to draft mobile quarterbacks, but I think a pro-style pocket passer tends to be the safer bet in the NFL. I can’t imagine the Lions drafting Jones at No. 7, but some team could get a steal if he slips into the high teens.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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