When news broke yesterday that Tua Tagovailoa is entering the NFL Draft, the Lions became crucial players in the larger picture.
With the belief that the Bengals will take Joe Burrow first and the Redskins will take Chase Young second, the third overall pick could define the draft.
Conventional wisdom says the Lions should sell the pick to one of the quarterback-needy teams behind them, such as the Dolphins or Chargers. Detroit has Matthew Stafford under contract through 2022, and Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia are under a win-now mandate in 2020.
The Lions could move down, collect more picks, and still walk away with an impact defensive player in the first round. Which is what they really need.
Here's another thought: the Lions could draft Tagovailoa themselves.
Former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum thinks it's a possibility. And draft analyst Mel Kiper echoed Tannenbaum in an appearance Tuesday morning on ESPN's Get Up! Kiper began by saying Young and Burrow are the top two players on the board.
"And then Tua in at No. 3, with several teams in that top grouping looking at a quarterback. Miami at 5, the LA Chargers at 6, Miami picks again at 18, you have Tampa Bay in at 14. Those are possibilities. I think, and Mike Tannenbaum even brought it up, if there’s favorable medical reports, maybe even the Detroit Lions at pick No. 3," said Kiper.
Theoretically, Tagovailoa wouldn't replace Stafford right away. But he could spend the 2020 season learning the NFL under Stafford's wing, like the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes and Alex Smith in 2017. And then the Lions could look to trade Stafford next offseason when his dead cap hit won't be so crippling.
Tagovailoa's health is the question mark hovering over everything. His value will take a big hit if he doesn't make a smooth recovery from the hip injury he suffered in November. Whatever the Lions want to do at No. 3, they have to hope Tagovailoa clears all his medicals.
If he does, maybe they'll consider pulling the trigger.