Last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Arizona Cardinals—owners of the third overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft—have received calls from at least six different teams interested in trading up to that spot. Coincidentally, last week the Detroit Lions also hosted two NFL Draft prospects who could very well go in the first three picks of this draft: Alabama edge defender Will Anderson and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.
Those two news pieces lining up have understandably led some to speculate that the Lions are one of those teams who have contacted the Cardinals for the third overall pick.
But would they actually do this? Is this Lions general manager Brad Holmes just doing his due diligence?
Today, let’s break down five reasons why Holmes would actually do this. Later in the week, we’ll break down reasons why the Lions wouldn’t.
Why the Lions will trade up to 3
C.J. Stroud could be available
If you are to believe certain rumors, the top of the draft may be starting to come into focus. Bryce Young is now the heavy favorite to be the first overall pick of the Carolina Panthers, and the smoke coming out of Houston is that the Texans aren’t going to force a selection at quarterback and may draft defense with the second overall pick.
If that’s the case, Stroud would be there for the taking. For months, many proceeded under the assumption that the top two picks would be quarterback, meaning any team looking to add their franchise guy would have to settle for QB3 in this draft—and that next series of quarterbacks (Anthony Richardson, Will Levis) involve some tougher evaluations and red flags.
Stroud is far from a perfect prospect, but he brings incredible accuracy and plenty of athleticism that Jared Goff lacks. Remember, this was a guy who was considered the favorite to go No. 1 just a few weeks ago.
This could be their best, last opportunity to grab a quarterback of the future
The Lions have left little doubt that Jared Goff is their quarterback of the present. However, if they aren’t confident enough in Goff to be prepared to hand him an elite-level contract next offseason, then this year presents their best chance to move on.
As we’ve talked about several times this offseason, Goff is likely due for a massive extension in 2024 if this season goes as planned, and when a quarterback is taking up around 20 percent of your salary cap—which seems quite possible for Goff’s new deal—it makes it incredibly difficult (but not impossible) to build a championship-caliber roster.
In light of the Lamar Jackson news, here is a breakdown of SB winning QBs (since 2009) and the percentage of cap their contract took up that season— Brian Renick ️ (@brenick77) March 7, 2023
Unless your QB is a surefire HOFer (or Eli Manning) he should not take up more than 15% of your cap space#49wz pic.twitter.com/NF6BrUsQwm
In short, you better be ABSOLUTELY SURE Goff is the guy.
The Lions could get ahead of that all by adding a franchise quarterback now, letting them develop on the bench for a year or two, and move on from Goff when his deal expires after the 2024 season (or earlier). This team is trending upwards, and it seems very unlikely they’ll have the draft assets they currently have (Picks 6, 18) in the future. Kicking the can on this decision risks three potentially worse options:
- Goff on a huge extension that prevents team building
- Needing a QB in 2024, but not having the draft capital to get one (or spending nearly all your picks on getting him)
- Goff struggles and now you have no franchise quarterback
The Lions have plenty of draft capital
While moving into the top three would normally severely hamper a team’s ability to fill out their draft class beyond that one pick, the Lions are in a unique position to make this move and still add plenty of top talent in this draft. With five picks in the top 81—and two in the first round—the Lions could trade up and still be in a position to grab at least two other starter-level talents on Days 1 and 2.
An argument against trading up for a quarterback is that it sets your team back for years and years to come if you get the pick wrong. But Detroit has enough draft resources—and enough of a young foundation right now—that it wouldn’t ruin the franchise. It would mean the end of Goff and the start of another quarterback search—which would certainly be painful—but Holmes would continue to have plenty of resources to build a solid roster on both sides of the ball, keeping this team competitive throughout the process.
Get the safest defensive prospect
If the trade up isn’t for a quarterback, the Lions could potentially grab the best defensive talent in the class—and Detroit still needs blue-chippers on that side of the ball.
When it comes to defensive players in this year’s draft, most agree that there are two prospects that stand above the rest: Anderson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Carter certainly comes with a lot of baggage, and the Lions may not want any part of that. Instead, they could grab Anderson—one of the cleaner prospects in this year’s draft—to pair with Aidan Hutchinson and wreak havoc on any opposing offensive line in the league.
This offseason, Holmes specifically talked about the value of continuing to add defensive line talent to turn a strength into an elite unit, harkening back to his days with the Rams.
“It got to a point where we had a pretty strong defensive line and we had some concerns elsewhere but we just kept adding to our defensive line,” Holmes recalled. “And it just turned into this beast that was just a strength of the football team.”
Brad Holmes ain’t scared
Perhaps the most convincing reason the Lions may do this is that the Lions' general manager has shown that he is not afraid to pick a player he has high conviction in. He reportedly tried to do it for Ja’Marr Chase in his first draft, and he went ahead and did it for Jameson Williams last year when Detroit jumped 20 spots in the first round to get him.
“I’ve always told you guys, if we have the conviction and we have the buy-in, we know that we’ll be aggressive and go get that player,” Holmes said the night of that trade.