Tim and Mike: Investigating draft rumors

Posted Apr 30, 2014

Senior Writer Tim Twentyman and Columnist Mike O'Hara investigate the latest draft rumors, speculation and chatter.

It would take a team of CIA agents to decipher all the rumors, speculation and chatter that is buzzing through the rumor mill concerning the upcoming NFL draft, and even then they would be hard-pressed to separate fact from fiction.

But that’s why we’re here, as the agents of reason to predict what really might come of all the talk about trades involving draft picks, other deals for veteran players and some draft prospects seeing their stock rise while others fall like a lead coconut.

What’s real? What’s surreal? What’s unreal?

Since you’re asking . . .

Mike: The flip answer is that it could be some of each and none of all of it, but the hottest rumor in the last two weeks has been speculation that the Lions are entertaining the possibility of trading Ndamukong Suh.

Ndamukong SuhDT Ndamukong Suh (Photo: Gavin Smith)

It’s common when a team is involved in a difficult contract negotiation with a player for another team to ask if the team is willing to trade the player and let someone else meet his demands.

That is one way reports of trade talks get started, even if the team with the player is receiving calls, not making them, to get the word out that the players is on the block.

I put trading Suh in the category of possible but less than 50 percent.

Too high or too low?

Tim: That might be a little high. I’d say closer to 25 percent or so.

The Lions believe they can win now and trading away their best defensive player doesn’t match that mantra.

There are also a number of factors you have to consider with trading Suh. One, you have to find a team willing to pay his $12.5 million salary in 2014. That team isn’t likely to want a rent-a-player for a year, either, so it would likely have to be a sign-and-trade deal. That complicates things.

Not only do the Lions have to find a team willing to pay huge money for Suh, but is also be willing to deal with some of the baggage that comes with him, on and off the field. It's not serious baggage, but baggage nonetheless.

Also ask yourself, are there really a lot of teams willing to give up the chance of getting an "elite" prospect in the top part of the draft, who they'll likely pay $50 million less over the next five years, for Suh?

I can't answer that, but it's a question teams will ask themselves.

Mike, I’ve heard a lot of chatter recently about the Lions adding a quarterback next week. Thoughts?

Mike: I’d do it in the fourth round or later, but I’d want a quarterback with mobility over a pure pocket passer. Then turn him over to Jim Caldwell, Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter to develop.

There are two reasons to get a mobile prospect, and neither has anything to do with putting pressure on Matthew Stafford. He’s going to be the starter for a long time. If you develop a quarterback as the backup, you can get trade value after two or three years. The Packers used to have success with that.

And another reason is to add a dynamic for practice that’s lacking. There isn’t a mobile quarterback on the roster who can help prepare the defense in practice to face the likes of Russell Wilson.

How high up should the Lions trade in the first round, and who is the No. 1 target?

Tim: Going all the way to No. 2 is likely to be too pricey. You’re looking at a first, second and probably an additional pick this year or next year. In a deep draft, that’s a big price.

If they move up, No. 4 or No. 5 is more likely.

There are three players I’d consider trading up for – defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker Khalil Mack and receiver Sammy Watkins.

I like Watkins a lot, but I think Clowney and Mack would have more immediate impact. Clowney isn’t making it past Houston at No. 1, so if it were me, and I could move up to get a versatile linebacker who can drop in coverage, play the run and rush the passer, that’s an immediate impact for the defense, I’d probably select Mack over Watkins.

But Megatron, Golden Tate and Watkins would be pretty special. Tough choice. Glad I don’t have to make it.

Who’s No. 1 for you, Mike?

Mike: My target pick is No. 4. If the Browns are on the clock, and Watkins is on the board, I’d hit the speed dial so fast that it might blow out every phone line in northern Ohio. I’d offer this year’s No. 1 – that’s a no-brainer – and work out what it would take to keep the second pick.

If there’s no deal for Watkins, I’d hang tight like a wise old owl waiting for the sun to set and think about trading down – but not so far that I can’t get Odell Beckham Jr., the wide receiver from LSU. He’s the No. 3 receiver in this draft, and he’s more versatile and polished than Mike Evans, who’ll be the No. 2 receiver taken after Watkins.

If you could add a decent draft pick – third round or so – it would be worth it to drop down a few spots.

Tim: Getting Watkins and keeping the second-round pick would be a huge draft-day win for Martin Mayhew. If that scenario plays out, Mayhew gets an “elite” impact player and another likely day-one starter in the second round.

For a team that wants to win now, that’s the best-case scenario, but I think any team trading out of the top 5 is going to want that second-round pick.

I’d be fine with Odell Beckham Jr. plus an additional pick or Mike Evans at No. 10.

How about the defense? What do the Lions need most on that side of the ball?

Mike: Regardless of position on defense – front four, linebacker or secondary – my rule is to take the best player regardless of position. There is no way to hide a player on defense who has lesser talent. The offense will locate him and attack.

If the question is whether all things are equal, I’d take a linebacker for the Lions. There isn’t really a linebacker behind the three starters with any playing experience. For talent, depth and development, linebacker would be No. 1.

Tim: This team needs another pass rusher, especially with the uncertainty of Jason Jones’ injury. If that’s a defensive end or a hybrid-type linebacker/defensive end so be it.