Detroit Lions: Making the case for drafting Tua Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert No. 3 overall

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions aren’t moving on from Matthew Stafford yet, but taking his successor at No. 3 overall makes sense. 

With Matthew Stafford coming off an injury-hindered but impressive season, quarterback does not appear a likely direction for the Detroit Lions with the number three overall pick.

Detroit has been penciled as a destination for one of the 2020 NFL Draft’s top defensive prospects, while the Lions are also seen as a candidate to trade down should they receive a satisfactory offer from a quarterback-needy team.

Yet there is a case to be made for the Lions to use the third overall pick to draft a successor to Stafford in the form of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

Stafford has one of the best arms in the NFL and, when healthy and playing at his peak, is firmly in the top half of the league’s quarterbacks.

However, the case for finding a Stafford replacement lies in his age and his contract.

He is 32 and, though it would make no financial sense to part with him in 2020, the Lions could save money by ending his time with the team in 2021.

Stafford, according to Spotrac, has a cap hit of $21.3million in 2020 but parting with him would cost the Lions $32m in dead cap.

In 2021, though, the Lions can save $33m against the cap by moving on from Stafford at a cost of $19m in dead cap.

That would allow the Lions to start him in 2020 while grooming either Tagovailoa or Herbert to take over. Both would benefit from a year on the bench, Tagovailoa to give him more chance to get back to the rigors of football after dislocating his hip, and Herbert to allow him to iron out the inconsistencies in his footwork and his accuracy.

Drafting either Tagovailoa or Herbert third overall would set the Lions up for the long term at quarterback on a rookie contract. By then trading Stafford, who would likely command significant interest, they would have additional draft capital and cap space with which to build a playoff-caliber roster around their new signal-caller.

Next: NFL Draft: Minnesota Vikings quarterback options that are actually realistic

The likelihood appears to be that the Lions will select a defensive stud like Jeffery Okudah or Chase Young with the third overall pick if they do not trade back. But the case for picking a quarterback is a compelling one, and it will significantly shake up the draft if the Lions decide to go down that route.

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