All Lions Mailbag: Best Available or Defense in Draft?

Latest SI All Lions Mailbag covers whether Detroit's draft strategy should focus on best available or defense
Author:
Updated:
Original:

As the Detroit Lions' offseason continues in full swing, free agency and the NFL Draft quickly approach. 

New Lions general manager Brad Holmes has his work cut out for him to rebuild the roster. There will be plenty of difficult personnel decisions to make. 

Naturally, what he will do is on everyone’s mind. Here we go.

*Questions are edited for clarity

1.) Are the Lions going best available or defense in the draft? How much of that is affected by free agency? -- @kevinlh1975

Answer: In the upcoming draft, I don’t think it would be wise for the Lions to reach for any one position. They could use upgrades at almost any position. 

If they were one or two spots away from having a complete team, it may be a different scenario. However, that’s not where the Lions are at right now. 

The Lions' draft should be focused on the best player available and adding talent to a weak overall roster. 

Considering the fact I don’t think the Lions will be looking to shell out big cash in free agency this year, free agency should not impact the draft all that much.

2.) Where does this draft fall as far as overall talent at wide receiver? Is a tag-and-trade a realistic option for Kenny Golladay? -- @Dewitts_Jason

A: As usual, the college game is producing plenty of talent at wide receiver – this year is no exception. The further you go into the draft, there are very skilled wideouts who have some intriguing traits. It seems like every year there are mid to late-round pass-catcher who make an immediate impact.

For Golladay, a tag-and-trade may be much more difficult this year than in years past. 

Organizations have always assumed that the salary cap would increase every year, and they've structured their cap management under that assumption. 

Unfortunately, due to COVID, the salary cap will unexpectedly decrease this year, and it has put plenty of teams in a real difficult situation in terms of cap space.

Given that the franchise tag is a one-year deal, that would mean a team with plenty of cap space this year -- and there aren’t many of them -- would have to be interested in Golladay. That severely limits Golladay’s market. 

If Golladay were to hit the open market, some team will pay him big with a backloaded contract. As long as the Lions don’t make any splash moves in free agency this year, it would likely net the Lions a third-or-fourth-round compensatory pick in 2022.

To answer the question, I do think a tag-and-trade is a realistic option, but it’s not a for-sure proposition.

3.) Assuming the Lions draft a wide receiver in rounds two-five, who should we be targeting or who are some names to watch? -- @26Wilk

A: As I previously mentioned, there is great value at wide receiver in the mid-round of the draft. Depending on the preference of the type of receiver, there are plenty of different routes the Lions could take. Maybe Holmes would prioritize a slot option who could create separation and yards after the catch. 

In that case, I personally like Elijah Moore, D'Wayne Eskridge, Jaelon Darden and Amari Rodgers in the middle rounds. 

Rodgers catches a pass for a 67-yard touchdown against Notre Dame. 

Rodgers catches a pass for a 67-yard touchdown against Notre Dame. 

Rodgers isn’t great at creating separation, but is like a running back once the ball is in his hands. 

Looking at larger-bodied guys who can play more outside, Rashod Bateman, if he is still there in the second round, would be a nice addition. 

The local product, Michigan's Nico Collins, might be another option, as well. It’s very possible he could be more productive at the next level than he was in college. 

Lastly, a late-round option who is very raw but insanely athletic is Simi Fehoko from Stanford.

4.) Who is the biggest Lions free agent to re-sign, not named Golladay? Also, who is the biggest free agent to sign from another team? -- @Jimmy68Parison

A: The first part of the question is fairly easy. Defensive end Romeo Okwara is the biggest Lions free agent outside of Golladay. Okwara had a great 2020 season. Someone will take a chance on him being able to repeat that type of success. Maybe it’s the Lions, maybe it is somebody else. I imagine another team will likely pay more than I would feel comfortable giving him. 

In regard to the latter half of the inquiry, there are plenty of big-name free agents scheduled to hit the open market. The Lions likely aren’t in a spot to spend a ton on a veteran player who could be past his prime once the Lions are turning the corner. They should be looking for players who are coming off their rookie contracts and still have plenty of years left in the tank. 

A couple of names I have mentioned here and there: WR Corey Davis, DT Sheldon Rankins and S Justin Simmons. They are all on my short list of free agents who I wouldn’t mind the Lions shelling out some decent money to.

5.) What is the likelihood that Trey Flowers gets traded, and what would be his potential value? -- @ChefBunni

A: I wouldn’t rule out the Lions putting their feelers out for Flowers. But, the likelihood of it actually happening is low in my opinion -- at least this offseason. The one hang-up for the Lions will be his contract. His dead-cap hit is more than his cap hit if he remains on the roster in 2021. 

After June 1, the dead-cap hit would be spaced out over this year and next. Still, though, Flowers was a very scheme-specific signing, and his talents relative to his price tag may not be prioritized as much by the rest of the league. Most teams are only willing to pay the big money to elite pass rushers.

Flowers' trade value could be all over the map from one team to the next. At the best, I could only see a mid-round pick in return for Flowers.

More from SI All Lions:

Roundtable: How Big of a Downgrade Is Jared Goff from Matthew Stafford?

How Jared Goff Impacts the Detroit Lions' Salary Cap

How Much Cap Space Does Cutting Veterans Save Lions?

Ranking Detroit Lions' Offseason Needs

3 Players Detroit Lions Should Avoid in Free Agency

Lions Select Trey Lance in Birkett's First Mock Draft

Get the latest Detroit Lions news by joining our community. Click "Follow" at the top right of our SI All Lions page. Mobile users click the notification bell. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @DetroitPodcast.