Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa officially declared for April's NFL Draft on Monday, forgoing his senior season of college eligibility. Tagovailoa is currently rehabbing a serious hip injury suffered mid-November in a win over Mississippi State that ended his season.
The Lions currently have the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. While Lions general manager Bob Quinn said in his season-ending press conference that every player is on his radar selecting as high as Detroit is, including the quarterback position, it seems unlikely the Lions would select Tagovailoa or any other quarterback third overall. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is expected to be healthy by the time the offseason program rolls around, Stafford is under contract through 2022, and there is a mandate on the current regime to be playing meaningful games in December for a playoff push.
Tagovailoa's presence in the draft, however, does open the door for some trade possibilities for the Lions at No. 3.
Before the hip injury, Tagovailoa was considered by some to be the top quarterback prospect in this draft, along with LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Burrow, an Ohio native, is expected to go No. 1 overall to the quarterback-needy Cincinnati Bengals.
Where Tagovailoa comes into play for the Lions is that the No. 2 (Washington), No. 3 (Lions) and No. 4 (New York Giants) picks don't appear to be in the market for quarterback. Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins Jr. in the first round last year and New York selected Daniel Jones with their first-round pick a year ago.
But Miami at No. 5, the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 6 and Carolina at No. 7 could all being looking to upgrade the quarterback position this offseason.
One of those teams could potentially jump the Lions and trade with Washington for Tagovailoa, which isn't a bad scenario for the Lions. That would put Detroit in a position to draft the best non-quarterback prospect in the draft, potentially Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.
If Cincinnati selects Burrow, and Washington stands pat at No. 2, potentially taking Young, Detroit could be in a position to field calls for a possible trade down for someone to come up and get Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa's health and the medical updates leading up to the draft will be a key component in this equation. Tagovailoa said in his Monday press conference in Tuscaloosa that his recovery was on track, but that doctors won't really be able to tell for sure if he's on track until three or four months into his rehab.
Assuming Tagovailoa gets a clear bill of health, which every team will do their due diligence on the medical side with him, the No. 3 spot could be pretty coveted.
Miami has three first-round picks, No. 5, No. 18 and wherever Houston ends up finishing (25-32) during their run through the AFC playoffs. They could certainly put an interesting package of high picks together.
Los Angeles and Carolina just have their own picks the first three rounds.
There's always a possibility of a team selecting much farther down in the draft wanting to get into the quarterback sweepstakes as well. Kansas City did that a few years back moving from No. 27 to No. 10 to get Patrick Mahomes, giving up pick No. 27, a third rounder and the following year's first-round pick to Buffalo for No. 10.
Chicago moved up one spot in the 2017 Draft from No. 3 to No. 2 to select Mitchell Trubisky. The 49ers got Chicago's No. 3 pick along with picks No. 67 (third round), 111 (fourth round) and a third rounder the next season, just to go back one spot.
Detroit could be in a position to potentially get a first round and Day 2 pick in a trade down, maybe even more depending on the potential trade partner.
However it plays out over the next few months, Tagovailoa's decision to enter the draft could give the Lions a few more options come draft day April 23.