On Monday afternoon, news broke of another big NFL trade prior to the draft. As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Carolina Panthers are trading for quarterback Sam Darnold. In order to acquire Darnold, the Panthers are sending a 2021 sixth-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the New York Jets.
Trading down certainly has to be one of the more appealing options for the Lions with the seventh overall pick considering the massive amount of holes on their roster and the long-term approach the front office is taking to team building (as evidenced by all of the one-year deals in free agency). Without a doubt, trading down is more difficult today than it was yesterday.
The Panthers are a team that was obviously looking for a quarterback all offseason. They were in on the Matthew Stafford trade. They were inquiring about Deshaun Watson. It was obvious that if they couldn’t upgrade at the quarterback position before the draft, they were going to take one early in draft weekend.
And that made the Lions’ draft pick extremely valuable. As the team picking right before the Panthers, the Lions represented the best option to trade up for a quarterback should one fall out of the top five. Even the Panthers may have been an option to trade up, as they would want to prevent teams from jumping them.
But with Darnold in Carolina, it doesn’t appear quarterback will be near the top of their draft needs list. It’s possible they’d still be looking for a quarterback to compete with Darnold. After all, Darnold only has one more year on his contract (plus a fifth-year option, if the Panthers exercise it). However, the Panthers just gave up a significant amount of draft capital, and it would be pretty ridiculous to immediately replace Darnold less than a month after making the trade. So... don’t hold your breath.
There are still teams below the Lions that teams may be looking to jump up for a quarterback. The Broncos (Pick 9) and Eagles (12) are two hurdles for quarterback-needy teams in the teens or below, but now it’s the Panthers who hold the true leverage in trade-down scenarios. Why trade with the Lions when you can theoretically trade with the Panthers for less?
It’s an unfortunate development for the Lions, but with so many options still on the table with the seventh overall pick, there are still plenty of good outcomes for Detroit on draft day—including just taking a quarterback on their own.