Perhaps the biggest thing we learned from NFL Combine week is that if the Detroit Lions want a receiver (or receivers)—and they certainly sound like a team who does—they’re going to have an absolute blast with this draft class. It is stocked from top to damn near bottom with players who could come in and play an immediate role. The big question for the Lions is when do they draft one?
To answer that question in April, we must first answer a question in March. The draft won’t be the only place to grab a receiver this year. There’s a lot of great talent in free agency this year. Guys like Chris Godwin and Christian Kirk could really make an impact in Detroit, although Godwin may be getting slapped with the franchise tag. Amari Cooper is another guy who could be a great get for the Lions if the Cowboys indeed decide to part ways with him, as recent rumors suggest.
The Lions’ draft plans at the position are undoubtedly going to be impacted by what they do in free agency. I have no doubts the Lions will draft a receiver or two in April, but how much they prioritize it in April will be based on how much they prioritize it in March.
Let’s say the Lions miss out on receiver in free agency. They try really hard and strike out. Then wide receiver jumps to the top of the priority list, and they’ll have to go after one of the big fish. Chris Olave, Drake London, Treylon Burks, and Garrett Wilson would all be prized draft picks for the Lions, but there’s a big problem: Will they have a shot at any of them?
The Lions have two first-round picks and in most cases that is an advantageous position. But the Lions are in something of a “No-Man’s Land” when it comes to taking a top receiver. Taking any of these guys would be too high with the second overall pick, and there’s a realistic shot none of the top options are available at 32.
So should the Lions trade down from the second overall pick? That’s a tough one. This year’s draft is full of talent no doubt, but there doesn’t really appear to be that much separation between the guys that are expected to go top five and the rest of the players predicted to go on Day 1. Don’t get me wrong, the top guys are there because they should be, but they aren’t the Chase Young’s and Joe Burrow’s of the world. Nobody in this draft is that can’t miss talent that teams have to have.
What I’m getting at here is that teams are going to be less likely to trade up this year. If you need a pass rusher and you’re not in the top two or three picks, you might miss out on Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux, but you’ll probably have your shot at Travon Walker, Jermaine Johnson or David Ojabo. You can afford to wait. So trading down doesn’t seem like an option.
If a trade down doesn’t happen, the Lions will be at the mercy of waiting to see how the board lays out. That is, unless they try to trade up from the bottom for the first round. What would that take? To move from 32 to, let’s say, 16 may cost the Lions’ their second-round pick. They could always dive into next year’s draft picks, too. It’s just a really bad scenario the Lions should avoid unless they are sure the juice is going to be worth the squeeze. That’s a hard thing to be sure about in the draft.
The good news for the Lions is that the Combine showed that there may be more top receivers than the ones listed earlier. North Dakota State’s Christian Watson had a lot football people talking about him at the Senior Bowl, and after his Combine performance over the weekend, the buzz is at an all-time high. Check out his overall Relative Athletic Score after running a blazing 4.36 40-yard dash:
Christian Watson’s official time was 4.36, which is still 96th percentile.
It drops him to top 10 from top 2, out of over 2,000 WR. pic.twitter.com/vc6kIqq35Z
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 4, 2022
Watson is a guy who could be there at 32 if the Lions want him. At 6-foot-4, he meets the big outside receiver frame the Lions seem to be looking for. Others to keep an eye on are Georgia’s George Pickens, Calvin Austin III from Memphis, Tyquan Thornton of Baylor and Tennessee’s Velus Jones. All of these guys posted great workouts at the Combine.
If you feared before the Combine that the Lions would be in trouble when it came to drafting receiver because of where their picks are, then fear no more. The Lions will have a shot at some good players in this draft.
This offseason could very well be Antwaan Randle El’s favorite offseason ever. It’s not about whether or not the Lions get a receiver, it’s about how many they get. I’m predicting that the Lions walk into camp with three new receivers who will be expected to get targets right away. The Sun God is about have some company.