OPINION – The Lions Should (and Will) Move Out of #3 in NFL Draft
The onset of the 2020 NFL Draft is coming and for Detroit Lions fans, there is excitement and doubt with the first round on the horizon Thursday night.
In a league first, the teams will have their team representatives at their own homes hashing out their future picks that could make or break them in the upcoming season(s). The Detroit Lions have the third pick in the first round based on their finish last season at 3-12-1. The likely consensus by several mock draft makers has the Lions taking Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah (seen above), deemed the second-best defensive player behind college teammate, defensive end Chase Young.
While defense could be a possible key for head coach Matt Patricia heading into his third year with the Honolulu Blue, a couple of signings Tuesday may have just given a little hint into what could happen on Thursday (just a little hint, Detroit re-signed two free agent corners).
Even before the recent signings, the money configurations and free agency signings during the off-season, I've stuck to my guns and have made this front office option that should be taken - move out of the third spot.
According to Over The Cap, the Lions have to bank on just under $13 million that goes against this year's cap space on the nine current picks through all seven rounds. The Lions first round pick would cost $6.096 million towards this year's cap, but the total value over the four-year rookie contract is slated to cost $33.5 million. That includes the signing bonus that would be valued at $21.9 million over the same period. Just in this year's cap alone, the nine picks would drop the leftover space to just over $16 million, and the re-signings of two other corners (totaling $1.5 million) brings the remaining budget to $14.5 million.
There are other teams in the top ten of the draft that have also ventured into moving out of their positions. They could viably do it in large part because of their vast number of draft picks in 2020. The team currently behind the Lions, the New York Giants, have ten picks this year and are looking at relatively the same rookie pool as Detroit.
In the five-slot is the Miami Dolphins, who have 14 picks and have a rookie pool of almost $19 million. Two of those picks are compensatory picks thanks to former players that signed with other teams as unrestricted free agents that also have contracts among the top 25 percent from other free agents. Over The Cap explains the methodology here.
The second largest rookie budget is the Jacksonville Jaguars at $14.1 million with 12 picks. With recent turmoil with their top pass-rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, who has had a public argument with management over the past week, could be a trade token that could come into play.
Now, How to Get Out of the Third Pick
I have a few scenarios that could work that would not only keep the Lions with a pick in the first round, but get out of the higher-price third pick with the current NFL Draft pay scale by slotting.
Option 1 - Go Back One Spot
Don't go too far back and trade with the New York Giants. I know, it's only a difference of roughly $200,000, but it would be an opportunity to snag one of the G-Men's seventh-round picks this year and more in the future. If the Giants are desperate, see if they move up one and get their fourth or fifth round pick this year and a seventh. The Lions could throw in one of their third round picks for this year to sweeten the pot. I wouldn't be surprised if they made a run for Okudah, as the Giants secondary needs some help
Option 2 - Go For Some Sunshine
The Miami Dolphins have three first round picks out of their league-high 14 picks this draft. I don't expect the Fins to sell the farm, but they may want to make some moves to elevate themselves in the chase for a quarterback. Should they panic, I think the Lions would enjoy stepping back to the fifth pick and still get Simmons.
And by the way, with the rookie budget the Dolphins currently would have room for just $4 million in cap space. Don't be surprised if Miami gets heard a lot this weekend.
Option 3 - Get A Defensive End and Someone On The Line
The Lions are in desperate need to get a pass rush. With the Jacksonville Jaguars being in a verbal spat with Ngakoue, maybe the Lions may have their ears perked up to pounce. Ngakoue had a career-high in tackles last season on the defensive end, but saw his sack total drop to his rookie year in 2016. After the season Jacksonville placed the franchise tag on Ngakoue, giving them the opportunity to piece together a new contract or send him off in a trade. Apparently, if you read above, Ngakoue wants out.
Detroit could be a viable suitor, but they may need to pay the price to do it. Jacksonville may want to make the move to save themselves $17.8 million (Ngakoue's guaranteed contract with the franchise tag).
Jacksonville may want to look for the next Jalen Ramsey, who they dealt to the Los Angeles Rams mid-season. Getting an elite cornerback in Okudah may be what the Jaguars need. Detroit could take Ngakoue, Jacksonville's compensatory pick in the fourth round and one of the fifth round picks.
Don't worry, Lions fans, the extra picks could be in night two Friday.
No matter what the Lions do in this year's draft and with all the sports on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be an exciting time for the sports fan this week, especially those die-hard Lions fans that are looking to enjoy the 2020 season. That is only if and when it all begins.