Detroit Lions mailbag: Should Lions make a play for Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson?

Detroit Free Press

No film review this week. At 0-6, I don’t need the tape to me how the Detroit Lions are playing.

Instead, I’m answering your questions with my first Lions mailbag in a while. You had some good ones this week, including one of the trickiest questions out there, which is where we’ll start.

Should Lions make a play for Watson? He’s still young to build around. — @BdukeKing

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has neither been convicted nor charged with any crimes, but he remains embroiled in a serious legal matter right now over his interactions with about two dozen massage therapists. The allegations are disturbing, and the Texans have heard enough that they do not intend to have Watson play for them again. Watson, before he was accused of wrongdoing, asked for a trade out of Houston, so the feeling is mutual.

Watson was (is?) one of the five best quarterbacks in football, and at 26 years old, is not even in the prime of his career. If he was free of legal drama, there would be a bidding war for his services. Young, top-shelf quarterbacks rarely come on the trading block, and the Lions desperately need one of those on their roster.

I’ve wrestled with my feelings on whether the Lions should get involved with Watson if he is cleared of charges — the criminal investigation could last into the winter. This is an organization that has long valued character in its players, and I think that’s an admirable approach.

But I cannot see the Lions (or any team) giving up valuable draft capital while these allegations and the potential for jail time are hanging over Watson’s head. This is not a misdemeanor shoplifting charge he’s being investigated for; these are potentially serious crimes.

I think it would be organizational malpractice to trade for Watson — and potentially give up multiple first-round picks — until his legal issues are resolved. Once that happens, we can revisit this question.

BIRKETT: Lions may miss Matthew Stafford, but neither he, nor Jared Goff, are the answer

Who are the 5 blue chip, future all pro players we should be watching on Saturdays so we know who the Lions will take with the #1 pick in the draft? — @TeachingZeus

That list starts with Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who made my “stock up” list after the Lions surged to the top of the draft order. Thibodeaux is a Myles Garrett-type talent who, in the absence of a great quarterback prospect emerging the next few months, seems like a good bet to go No. 1 overall.

After Thibodeaux, the top position players in the draft are probably LSU cornerback Derek Stingley, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton and Alabama tackle Evan Neal. Stingley could miss the rest of the season after undergoing foot surgery, but he was the best cornerback in college football when the Lions took Jeff Okudah at No. 3 overall in the 2020 draft. The Lions appear set at offensive tackle, so if you’re not interested in tracking Neal, keep an eye on Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal.

Since we’re talking Lions, we can’t ignore the quarterback class. There is not a generational prospect like Trevor Lawrence in the group, or a late-riser like Joe Burrow, and one player who was on the top of watch lists to start the season, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, seems more likely to end up in the transfer portal now.

Ole Miss’ Matt Corral could end up the first quarterback drafted if he continues his hot start, Liberty’s Malik Willis has the type of athleticism and upside that should make him a high pick, and I wouldn’t rule out North Carolina’s Sam Howell either.

And one more name I want to throw out there. I don’t think he’s a top-five pick, but Georgia’s defense is loaded with prospects and I’m a big fan of Adam Anderson’s abilities as a pass rusher.

Meet 10 elite college quarterbacks the Lions could eye in 2022 NFL draft ]

Would you rather the Lions go 0 and 17 and secure the bag at No. 1 pick now that the Jags have won or would it be better to get a top 5 pick and build on a win or two late in the season? — @LionsFrederici

Can I have both? Under no circumstances do I think it would be good for the Lions to go 0-17. That’s a black mark this organization does not need, and suffering through that type of season would leave me deeply concerned about the coaching staff. Bad teams in the NFL are supposed to win two or three games, not go 0-for the season.

Having the No. 1 pick and a chance at Thibodeaux would be nice. He seems like a great building block for a young team. But I’d rather have, say, Pick No. 3 than deal with another winless season.

A KEEPER: Amani Oruwariye one of few bright spots on Detroit Lions

The Lions are trending in getting the #1 overall pick. This roster has a ton of holes to fill. If you were in Holmes’ position in the next draft, do you take BPA, QB, or trade back to acquire additional future/current picks to fill out the roster? — @TTime90

Another draft question because it’s October and it’s that time of year. Look, the Lions need a quarterback to build around in the worst way. I do not believe they will win anything meaningful until they have one. But you can’t force a draft pick at that position because making a mistake there sets your rebuild back even further.

The Lions need to go deep on every quarterback at the top of the draft. If they believe Willis is a future star, even if he needs extra development time once he reaches the league, you take him at the top of the draft, no questions asked.

Short of identifying that player, I think the Lions have to take the best prospect available (likely Thibodeaux). You don’t pass on premium talent for the right to add a couple “good” players. You need stars in this league to win.

CARLOS: Jared Goff is not the answer, so Lions’ quest for franchise QB needs to start ASAP

I’m all about the Kool aid in the summer and it all goes away by Halloween. Same this year but I do not feel optimistic already about 2022. Can you change my mind? — @dgmccready

Sorry, but I don’t have much good to sell you in that regard. We all knew 2021 would be a lean year, and I think we all know next season will as well, even though the Lions’ rookie class has shown promise and they should be active spenders in free agency.

If I had to guess now, I’d say the Lions are headed for a five-win-type campaign in 2022, but I’m willing to bet they sign and draft enough players to have you feeling optimistic again.

BIRKETT POWER RANKINGS: Winless Lions, finally, fall to No. 32

I can see a lot of positive in the Lions season so far, including Barnes who has been playing very well could be a steal. Is there anything you can point to on the offense at this point that is positive? Sewell could be but it seems as though he is grabbing a lot. Thoughts! — @HerronRyanP

If you see “a lot” of positives, you have a much stronger prescription than me. I think the Lions have several young building blocks on both sides of the ball, but at 0-6 there is not much to be excited about.

Barnes is coming off his best game of the season and looks to be a keeper at linebacker. Sewell has had his share of hiccups the past few weeks, but he is incredibly talented and should be part of a very good line moving forward. I still am all in on him being a Pro Bowl lineman one day.

As for other positives on offense, I’ll leave this one to Dan Campbell. When I asked him Monday what the Lions are doing well on offense right now, he said, “Not much,” which pretty much sums up where they are.

What game on the schedule do you give the Lions the highest chance to win? — @Det_Lions_Fans

Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Lions’ 2021 schedule: Dates, game time, TV channel info ]

The Lions are not currently favored in a single game the rest of the season, but a home game against a middling team before the bye, and before the pressure really starts to mount to avoid 0-17, seems like an easier ask than beating the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving or winning on the road against Atlanta the day after Christmas.

Look, I still think the Lions win two or three games this year — including one nobody sees coming. But the schedule ain’t easy and beating the Eagles is no sure thing. If it doesn’t happen, prepare for a tense final two months.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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