Did the Lions just “settle" by taking Jeff Okudah in the first round of the NFL Draft?
Obviously, there wasn’t a market to trade down with Miami or San Diego for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa -- unless the Lions actually selected him. Even then, it was iffy they could actually trade him.
Did the Lions miss out on having their cake -- selecting Okudah anyway -- and eating it, too, by adding another early-round draft choice?
It all comes back to a familiar situation for the Lions: The difference between what they should do and how they actually proceed.
Yeah, if their opinion is Tagovailoa is a generational talent, and they passed on him, it was a terrible mistake.
The way the rookie salary cap is slotted compared to Matthew Stafford’s hefty salary dictates it.
But it’s as plain as the beard on Matt Patricia’s face the Lions are tethered to Stafford for now and forever. It’s clear owner Martha Ford and her family prefer contending for a playoff spot than taking two steps forward and perhaps eventually making a genuine run to the Super Bowl.
I have mixed feelings about Tua. His injury history is disconcerting. He can spin the ball, but not necessarily at an elite level. The upside is his knack for reading plays while in progress and tremendous timing on his throws. His mobility was good, too, at least before the hip injury.
Stafford had one of his best seasons in 2019 before going out with a back injury. He also handled his wife’s illness gallantly. We’ve seen now what the Lions were like without him as QB: 0-8 ugly. As such, Stafford has flipped the script in regard to popularity in this town. While he still has detractors, support has grown for him.
Okudah is not overrated. He will help the Lions’ defense. Perhaps he will mirror fellow Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who starred as a rookie for the Saints in 2017.
Odds are much better Okudah will win the Lions games in 2020 than if they were left holding the bag with Tua sitting behind Stafford. And you never know how Stafford was going to react to drafting Tua.
This much is clear: Tua was not going to be drafted by the Lions.
It’s just another example of the Lions constantly adjusting everything around No. 9. That includes drafting guards back to back, and selecting four offensive players in a row after picking defenders with two of their first three selections.
Stafford is the face of the franchise, the center of their universe, the overriding factor in everything that is the Detroit Lions.
It will stay like that into the foreseeable future, too.
While that doesn’t mean it’s right, it’s nonetheless just the way it is.
Given those parameters, the Lions didn’t “settle” for Okudah as much as they fit their model.
For better or worse, depending on your opinion about Matthew Stafford.