NFL Draft 2020: Why the Detroit Lions should select Tua Tagovailoa

NFL Draft 2020: Why the Detroit Lions should select Tua Tagovailoa

One of the most forgotten NFL storylines from 2019 is that Matthew Stafford was having an MVP caliber season for the Detroit Lions before he got hurt. 

Stafford played in eight games before breaking bones in his back and put up 2,499 passing yards and 19 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Of note, Stafford completed 41 passes of 20-plus yards in just half the season. Eight of those were touchdowns. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he led the league in average completed air yards (8.3). By comparison, Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky managed just 35 completions of 20-plus yards in 15 games last season. Three were touchdowns. He averaged 5.1 average completed air yards (for what it’s worth, Aaron Rodgers averaged 5.4).

Something clearly clicked between Stafford and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell last year. But that doesn’t mean general manager Bob Quinn should ignore the quarterback position with the No. 3 overall pick next week.

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The Lions have enough talent that they should not be drafting in the top five again next year. In fact, if Stafford hadn’t gotten hurt, they wouldn’t have the No. 3 pick right now. They were 3-3-1 going into their Week 9 game at Oakland, and despite breaking his back, Stafford still nearly tied the game against the Raiders in the final seconds. Without Stafford, the Lions didn’t win a game the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, the Lions don’t have enough to talent to seriously compete for a Super Bowl either. Even with Stafford playing some of his best football ever, they were still a 3-4-1 team. And they most likely will continue to be that type of team going forward, which will probably get Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia fired. At 32 years old, Stafford still has some good football left in him, but he’s never been the type of transcendent quarterback capable of putting a struggling franchise on his back. He might able to win elsewhere, but it won’t be in Detroit.

Enter Tua Tagovailoa.

Yes, the hip is a concern. But so is Stafford’s back. Tagovailoa is good enough to take a big risk, especially for an organization like the Lions who really need a quarterback capable of putting the national spotlight on Detroit. With all due respect to Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, you don’t take a cornerback at No. 3 overall when you have a quarterback as talented as Tua Tagovailoa sitting there for the entire city to embrace.

So here’s my advice to Bob Quinn: draft Tua and trade Stafford. 

Stafford’s contract is complicated, but the results of a trade are simple. The Lions will take on a large immediate cap hit, which they have plenty of room to absorb. As a result, they will create a very affordable, three-year, team-friendly contract for the team that trades for Stafford, which will only help the return in the deal. In the end, the Lions would have Tua Tagovailoa on a rookie contract, a good return for Stafford (maybe an additional first round pick?), and $33 million of additional cap space in 2021 and $26 million of additional cap space in 2022 to improve other areas of the roster.

Plus, Quinn and Patricia might be able to buy themselves some time by bringing in a rookie quarterback as promising as Tagovailoa. 

And you know who could use Stafford’s services? Patricia’s old boss: Bill Belichick.

It all makes too much sense. Kind of like the Bears trading for Nick Foles.

Future Bear? Top wideout prospect Calvin Ridley announces he's heading to NFL Draft

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Future Bear? Top wideout prospect Calvin Ridley announces he's heading to NFL Draft

A guy who could be one of the Bears' top targets this spring declared for the NFL Draft on Wednesday.

Two days after his Alabama Crimson Tide won the national championship, wide receiver Calvin Ridley announced he's skipping his senior season to pursue a pro career.

This was obviously expected, as Ridley was one of the best wideouts in college football this season. But it's welcome news for teams looking to add an impact pass-catcher through the draft, and the Bears could very well fit that description.

A lack of high-caliber wide receivers around Mitch Trubisky was a big talking point during the quarterback's rookie season, and while Cameron Meredith and Kevin White are both expected to be back after missing the entire 2017 season, there's little doubt that the receiving corps could use an upgrade.

For the Bears, picking eighth, Ridley would be as attractive a receiving prospect as anyone. He had a monster freshman year in 2015, catching 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. After a 769-yard, seven-touchdown seasons as a sophomore in 2016, he caught 63 passes this past season for 967 yards and five touchdowns, including the scoring catch with under four minutes to play in regulation in Monday's title game.

All in all, Ridley caught 224 passes for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns, the first and third of those numbers being second most in Alabama program history.

Rotoworld's Josh Norris currently projects Ridley as a mid-first-round pick but has him as the first receiver selected. If the Bears choose to go with a first-round wideout again — they made White the seventh-overall pick in 2015 — they could gow ith Ridley.

See how they stack up: Week 11 college football top 25 rankings

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See how they stack up: Week 11 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 11 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (9-1)

The Sooners probably won’t be No. 1 in the Playoff rankings, as the committee will almost surely move Bama up a notch. But OU has an incredible resume, one much better than the Tide’s, with wins over Ohio State, TCU and Okie State. No one in the country can compete with those wins.

2. Miami (9-0)

The Canes are too legit to quit after pulverizing Notre Dame on Saturday night. That signature win teamed with the prior week’s win over Virginia Tech makes that near loss to lowly North Carolina seem like forever ago. Welcome to Miami, indeed.

3. Alabama (10-0)

A great win on Saturday night by the Tide in what seemed like their first actual game of the season. The schedule has been soft as silk, but now Auburn’s status as an SEC juggernaut makes the Iron Bowl a colossal clash.

4. Georgia (9-1)

Knocked off the top of the college football mountain, the Dawgs still deserve to be in the Playoff field, just a one-loss team with that one loss coming to another top team and that still-excellent win at Notre Dame. The resume’s still there, but now the SEC title game will be for all the marbles.

5. Wisconsin (10-0)

Bucky’s sitting pretty after making Iowa look like an FCS team on Saturday — especially impressive considering what Iowa did the week prior. Expect Michigan and Minnesota to provide decent enough challenges, but it seems like Wisconsin’s set up for a Big Ten title-game date with Ohio State.

6. Clemson (9-1)

Miami is the king of the ACC, but thankfully the ACC title game looks to be a Playoff play-in game between the Tigers and Canes. The champs still have as good a shot at this thing as anyone.

7. Auburn (8-2)

Two-loss Auburn in the Playoff? It’s not crazy at all after what the Tigers did to Georgia on Saturday, destroying the No. 1 team in the country and setting up what will be another titanic Iron Bowl meeting with Bama.

8. Notre Dame (8-2)

The Irish’s Playoff hopes sank like a ship in Biscayne Bay thanks to the demolition Miami dolled out on Saturday night. ND’s resume is still fine — two losses to two Playoff-caliber teams. But with no conference title to play for, a two-loss ND team might as well be a six-loss ND team.

9. Ohio State (8-2)

Guess who's still lurking in the Playoff race? It seemed Brutus was dead as could be after getting woodshedded by Iowa last weekend, but then Ohio State put a whooping on Michigan State and everyone’s ears perked up again. Appearing destined for the Big Ten title game, things could get interesting.

10. TCU (8-2)

The Frogs will most likely still get a crack at a Big 12 title — and revenge on the Sooners, who picked em apart on Saturday — but the Playoff might be out of the cards now.

11. Oklahoma State (8-2)

You know who’s still really good despite having losses to the two top teams in the Big 12? Okie State. That was some game between the Pokes and the ‘Clones on Saturday. If only the Mullet could be unleashed on the Playoff. Alas.

12. USC (9-2)

Dramatically overrated in the last batch of Playoff rankings, the Trojans now seem to be the cream of the unimpressive Pac-12 after Washington’s loss. All sorts of madness would have to occur in order for USC — or any Pac-12 team — to land in the final four.

13. Penn State (8-2)

Great job beating up on Rutgers this weekend, Penn State. Now what? With games against Nebraska and Maryland left, will any preseason favorite (outside Florida State, of course) get less attention down the stretch than the Lions?

14. UCF (9-0)

Central Florida is that Group of Five team this year. If it beats USF in the regular-season finale, people you know will be like, “Why shouldn’t UCF be in the Playoff?” And you’ll just have to give them a look and walk away.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Wazzu has to win one game and it’ll play USC for a Pac-12 title. Despite the lack of Playoff stakes, the Cougs winning a conference championship would be a pretty big deal.

16. Washington (8-2)

Of course, standing in Wazzu’s way is Washington, which tripped up against Stanford and could follow up last year’s Playoff appearance with absolutely nothing.

17. NC State (7-3)

The ACC and SEC seemed to have flipped roles overnight. The once-mediocre SEC now has three playoff-caliber teams and a couple other decent ones. The once-awesome ACC now has two of the best teams in the country and then … NC State.

18. Mississippi State (7-3)

The Bulldogs put up one heck of a fight against Bama on Saturday, and if it wasn’t for that ridiculous sequence of play-calling following Bama’s missed field goal, they might have won. Oh well.

19. LSU (7-3)

LSU beat Arkansas on Saturday, which isn’t a terribly difficult thing to do. 2017 will go down as a “what if” year for the Bayou Bengals. As in, what if they hadn’t lost to Troy?

20. Stanford (7-3)

Two of Stanford’s losses have come against ranked teams. It’s now beaten Washington and could beat Notre Dame in two weeks. It has one of the best running backs in America. So shouldn’t Stanford be better?

21. Memphis (8-1)

Since losing at UCF, Memphis has rolled everyone, winning five straight by an average of 47.8-27.2. Good job, Memphis.

22. Arizona (7-3)

The Wildcats are 7-3 this season and have scored at least 45 points in every one of those wins. That includes last weekend’s win over Oregon State, in which Khalil Tate ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Dude's good.

23. Northwestern (7-3)

Meow. The Cats are winners of five straight, even if their overtime streak came to an end. The quest for a 9-3 finish is on, with only Minnesota and lowly Illinois left on the regular-season schedule.

24. Michigan State (7-3)

Two losses in three weeks for Sparty, who got absolutely steamrolled by Ohio State this past weekend. Michigan State will likely be rooting for Michigan in The Game as it would figure to wrap its regular season with wins over Maryland and Rutgers.

25. West Virginia (7-3)

The ‘Neers have only lost to Virginia Tech, TCU and Okie State, which is not too bad. But that’s a couple losses too many in the high-flying Big 12.

Others receiving votes:

Virginia Tech (7-3)

Things have bottomed out for the Hokies, who have lost back-to-back road games to Miami and Georgia Tech after a 7-1 start. Without the loss to the Jackets, Virginia Tech’s resume would look real nice. But alas.

Iowa State (6-4)

There was almost another Attack of the ‘Clones this past weekend in a thriller with Okie State. But the Pokes came out on top, sending Iowa State to its fourth loss. That dream Big 12 title game featuring the ‘Clones? A fantasy. Sigh.

Michigan (8-2)

Michigan only has two losses, which means it has to be kinda good, right? Well, it’s lost its only two games against ranked teams and its best win is Florida, so … no, I guess not.

South Florida (8-1)

Way to beat UConn, South Florida.