The Detroit Lions are in the first stage of a rebuild, one the franchise has appeared to be doing for the past 25 years. Detroit closed the book on the Matthew Stafford era by trading him to the Los Angeles Rams, and landing former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff in return. Having Goff paired with new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn -- and new head coach Dan Campbell -- gives the Lions an opportunity for a fresh start with a former Pro Bowl quarterback that is only 26 years old.
The Lions have Goff, but not much else around him on the roster. Detroit's rebuild will take time as the Lions look to compete for the NFC North title, but the Lions can't accomplish that goal unless they get the next few drafts right. The Lions have just six picks in the 2021 draft, so they have to find impact starters early to speed up this rebuild. Detroit has four first-round picks coming over the next two years, but this first-round pick will be crucial toward the culture Campbell wants to build.
With the Lions having needs at a lot of positions, how can Detroit infuse as much young talent as possible in 2021? Here's the game plan for the Lions to have a perfect NFL draft in the coming weeks.
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Trade down from No. 7, get more picks
Having six picks this year just isn't going to work for the Lions, who need to acquire more assets in order to help Goff out as best they can. Here's the only issue with trading down -- the Lions are in prime position to draft one of the big three wide receivers at No. 7, an impact pass catcher for Goff in year one with his new team.
There's a good chance the Dolphins will take Ja'Marr Chase at No. 6, but the LSU wide receiver could be waiting at No. 7 if Miami doesn't take him. What does Detroit do in this situation? Take the best wide receiver in the draft and have a game changer for the next decade or listen to trade offers for the pick?
In a quarterback-needy draft where two of the top-five signal callers could be available at No. 7, the Lions should take the best offer and try to move back and stockpile picks. Quite a few teams will be interested in that real estate, namely the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, and Washington Football Team. Detroit should take the best offer possible and load up on draft picks to make some noise later in this draft.
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Wide receiver and offensive lineman for first two picks -- in no particular order
At the very least, Detroit trades into the teens and lands an extra second-round pick this year (and a bunch of other picks) with any of these teams that traded up. Trading down to No. 9 still puts the Lions in prime position to land one of the big three wide receivers -- and still an opportunity to add Chase with that extra pick.
The Eagles are at No. 12, Patriots No. 15, Washington No. 19, and the Bears No. 20. The farther back Detroit trades, the more picks the Lions receive. For the sake of drafting one of the top three receivers, it's best for Detroit to deal with Philadelphia or Denver as the Lions could land Smith or Waddle at No. 12 (at worst). Detroit can't go wrong with drafting either of those three players and stockpiling more picks.
What if the Lions trade down to No. 15? Detroit clearly starts looking at the offensive line market and the players available, which raises the potential of Rashawn Slater and Christian Darrisaw in the middle of the first round. The Lions are contemplating moving Halapoulivaati Vaitai to guard, creating a huge hole at right tackle. Slater or Darrisaw -- the latter has an excellent chance of being there at No. 15 -- is the ideal play for the Lions as they strengthen the right side of the offensive line with a Week 1 starter. Detroit then can double dip at wide receiver in the second round, or trade back up and select an impact pass-catcher late in the first round.
The same concept applies if the Lions move back to No. 19 or No. 20, only Detroit takes one of the "other" wide receivers at this spot. Kadarius Toney, Rashod Bateman, and Elijah Moore are strong picks for the Lions here, specifically since Detroit needs a slot receiver (Toney and Moore are more than qualified for that role). The Lions then look at an offensive lineman for that tackle spot with the No. 41 overall pick or the other second round pick they acquire from either one of the teams -- perhaps even trade back in the first round to draft an offensive tackle.
Double dip at wide receiver with two of first three picks
Whether the Lions stay at No. 7 or trade down, adding pass catchers for Goff is key toward him succeeding in Detroit. The Lions have plenty of first-round picks in subsequent years to fill other holes on the roster -- and to evaluate what they have in a rebuilding year in 2021. Since this is year one of a fresh rebuild, make the offense exciting.
The Lions can draft one of the big three wide receivers at No. 7, No. 9, or No. 12 (again following the plan they trade down and stockpile picks) or get one of Toney, Moore, or Bateman if they take a huge haul from Washington or Chicago. Regardless of the road map the Lions take, they need to take two wide receivers with their first three picks.
Williams and Perriman are veterans, but both are on one-year deals for a reason. After those two, the Lions have Quintez Cephus, Victor Bolden Jr., and Kalif Raymond as the top options on the depth chart. They need to stockpile here.
So what are the available options in the second round at No. 41? There may not be any of the top eight receivers left on the board, but Rondale Moore could be in play. The hidden gem of this draft at wide receiver is North Carolina's Dyami Brown, a player Detroit should covet with the extra second-round pick it acquired from trading down or hope he slips to No. 72 overall (third round). Amari Rodgers is another good fit for the Lions later in the second or third round.
Getting two wide receivers early helps Goff succeed in Detroit right off the bat, which is the biggest evaluation for the Lions this year. The Lions need to do whatever they can to put Goff in the best position to revitalize his career.