Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia speaks to the media at the NFL combine on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 in Indianapolis.
Detroit Free Press
The 2020 NFL Draft is in just over two weeks and the Detroit Lions and other teams that choose from the top six have a puzzle – Tua or not?
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains the most intriguing player in this year’s draft because of his accomplishments during his three college seasons, injury records and world events which made it possible to obtain the necessary medical and other assessments, impossible at this time.
Yes, Tagovailoa performed a localized version of a medical checkup last week, a neutral assessment which essentially replaced the combined medical checkup he would have undergone in a more normal year. But individual NFL teams cannot ask their doctors to take a close look at Tua and cannot spend time with him outside of the video workouts he is ready to perform, and the lack of time. real on the face left Tua’s stock of projects in motion.
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To be clear, nothing I have heard in my reports from the past few months has led me to believe that the Lions will select Tagovailoa with the project’s third choice.
I gave Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah to the Lions in my fourth spring mock-up this week, just like I did in my previous three simulations, and unless I hear something that strikes me suggests otherwise, that will not change when the last two versions of my fake gout later this month.
The reasons are obvious:
♦ Lions general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia are in win-win mode after the property-set edict in December and are using the third pick of the quarterback draft which, if all goes well well, won’t play child’s play in 2020, goes against that.
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♦ Matthew Stafford has just had one of the best seasons of his career and at 32 he should still have a few seasons to choose from. He is on contract for three more years, he is loved by the property, and having someone to replace him would send shock waves into a locker room that truly respects and appreciates his quarterback.
♦ Tagovailoa’s health – and his ability to stay healthy in the future – is a concern. Not only did he fracture and dislocate his hip last fall, but he also had surgery on both ankles. It seems unreasonable to expect that a player who could not stay healthy behind an NFL caliber lineage in college will be without injury from the pros.
♦ And Okudah (and Derrick Brown of Auburn and Isaiah Simmons of Clemson) are also excellent prospects. They’re all a step below the defensive end of Ohio Chase Young, and all behind Tagovailoa and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow for their positional value, but the addition of Okudah or Brown or Simmons would have a more immediate impact on a defense which was the main reason for the Lions’ struggles last year.
That said, handing over Tagovailoa to write Okudah or Brown or Simmons is not necessarily the right long-term decision for the franchise – if you feel comfortable with his medical assessments and your screening reports make him the prospect that we have in the media. built it to be.
These are large yews, probably too big for GMs to play safely like Quinn and most of his colleagues in the league.
But a healthy Tagovailoa playing at the top of his game offers more potential for a team than any other prospect in the project.
Having a good, inexpensive young quarterback gives an NFL team the flexibility to build championship caliber training. The Kansas City Chiefs (with Patrick Mahomes in the third year of his rookie contract), the Philadelphia Eagles (with Carson Wentz in the second year) and the New England Patriots (with Tom Brady for contracts below the market) have won the last four Super Bowls and the Patriots, which Quinn and Patricia tried to get inspired for a T-shirt, are going cheap at the stand this fall after letting Brady leave in free will.
Lions should be able to trade if they decide to shop at Stafford, say, next spring, when a young quarterback like Tagovailoa is likely ready to take over. This transport, in theory, would allow them to build a deeper and better list.
And Tagovailoa isn’t the only rookie needing a red shirt this fall.
Tua Tagovailoa. (Photo: Brian Spurlock)
It seems increasingly unlikely that the NFL teams will put their players on the field this spring, which will have a negative effect on recruits in all fields. Okudah is an NFL-ready cornerback and football junkie, by all accounts. But he and everyone have yet to adapt to professional play. Maybe it happens in a training camp, maybe it happens in October, or maybe it won’t happen until it is too late to be important this year. In fact, a wise person from the NFL suggested to me this week that smart teams and teams capable of doing so will look to take on the 2021 draft picks, knowing that rookies in good shape will have more trouble than d used to make significant contributions this year.
Another person more connected than me indicated another reason to believe that Tagovailoa for the Lions would work: Chase Daniel.
While the initial reaction of many was that by adding a veteran save as Daniel removed the Lions from the race at Tagovailoa, NFL people consider Daniel one of the best groomsmen for the young quarterbacks in the league . With the Eagles, he became the sounding board for Wentz as a rookie, and the Chiefs and the Chicago Bears competed for his services (Chicago winner) when Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky entered their second season in the NFL.
Daniel, who signed a three-year contract with the Lions, was well aware of the West Coast offenses that the three teams were managing. But when it comes to helping young quarters, there aren’t many players with a better reputation in the league.
The Lions think they are a better team than their 3-12-1 record last year, and I generally agree. Talent-wise, they’re in the middle of the pack in the NFL, and if they keep Stafford healthy this fall, they could factor in the NFC North run.
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That regardless of who they take in the project. And even if I believe Okudah will be their choice, and a swap down is the most likely scenario (for the Miami Dolphins at five or the Los Angeles Chargers at six), if they end up by staying three and taking Tagovailoa, there is a lot of logic in this decision.
Contact Dave Birkett at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Learn more about the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.
Agent Leigh Steinberg sits with Dave Birkett on Miami radio, Super Bowl 54 site, to talk about the NFL draft and more.
Detroit Free Press