Detroit is being flooded this week and not just by melting snow and rain. Rumors are cascading about the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft, and the Detroit Lions are in the thick of it. The mill is churning out more than speculation concerning a massive trade up for the Lions, now with a visit from the somewhat polarizing defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Such a deal would likely mean the Lions would have to make a move worthy of a top three pick, maybe even No. 1.
This is a bad idea.
Sure, Clowney could be the next Reggie White for all we know, but smart drafting (See: annually good teams) is all about need versus want. It’s not about getting the best player in the draft; it’s about getting the best player for your team. Clowney is not the best player for the Lions for several reasons.
First, the Lions don’t need a defensive end. In fact, they don’t need any defensive linemen really. Is it awesome to have an unstoppable force along the line and rack up a bunch of sacks from the defensive end position? You bet, but what happens when the offense figures out (already knows) that the rest of the defense has more holes than Augusta National?
Second, Clowney is still a wild card talent wise. He’s the Johnny Manziel of defensive draft picks this year. He was a star for one season essentially, and the general public had no idea who he was until he crushed a small running back in the backfield after going unblocked against Michigan. There are high school defensive lineman who would have put down a decent hit on that play.
Then there’s the question of “laziness”. Recently an anonymous NFL executive called Clowney “spoiled” and “lazy”. Not exactly high praise for a rookie, especially a defensive guy. You can maybe get by at wide receiver with those attributes, but not a defensive end.
Those comments and initial thoughts on Clowney following interviews and other forms of over-analyzing have brought up concerns about his drive. The Lions already have Nick Fairley; they don’t need another lazy defensive lineman that you have to threaten with money to motivate. Plus, even if the rumors of laziness are not true, it’s a risk that the Lions don’t need to make by betting the farm in the draft.
On the flip side, Ndamukong Suh’s contract has not been inked yet, and Fairley is getting the “motivate through contract year” treatment. There is some speculation that the Lions are planning on a big trade that might include either Fairley or Suh to get Clowney. Could that work? Yes it could if Clowney turns out to be great. However, the only way that makes sense for the Lions is if Fairley is the one traded, and nobody is going to want Fairley over Clowney unless the Lions dress up that trade real pretty with a solid veteran or a collection of future picks. The Lions already know what Suh can do, and it would be a huge risk to let him go for Clowney.
The final reason why the Lions should not trade up for Clowney is simple. There are other options, even better options that could have more of an impact on the Lions this season. A guy like Khalil Mack could be the roaming outside linebacker that every good defense needs. The Lions have brought in an array of mediocre defensive backs in the offseason, but it still would be wise to pick up a solid prospect in the secondary.
Regardless, the Lions are in the unique position where they don’t need to bet the house all on one pick. They can be selective and smart to find someone they truly need, or rather several players they need. This is not the Lions of the past where they need to find a great player to build around. It’s time for the Lions to do their homework and find the guys to fill key roles. That’s what championship teams do.