On Monday, I broke down five reasons the Detroit Lions could realistically trade up to the third overall pick. Given that the Lions have done their research on some of the top prospects and have shown they aren’t afraid to go up and get “their guy” in the past, it remains a very possible outcome.
But today, we’re going to tackle the opposite side of this debate. While there are specific things Detroit has said that would indicate a trade-up is possible this year, there are also many reasons that suggest they won’t.
So here are five reasons the Lions will not trade up to the third overall pick.
Why the Lions won’t trade up to 3
‘We don’t feel pressed”
Dan Campbell said publicly that they are looking at quarterbacks, knowing that Goff can’t be in Detroit forever. But in the same breath, he also noted that there is no urgency at filling that position.
“We don’t feel like we’re pressed right now,” Campbell said at the NFL Combine. We don’t feel like we’re pressed, but that doesn’t mean our eyes aren’t on a quarterback.”
Trading assets to grab a guy in the top three certainly seems like pressing the issue. Especially when...
A trade up could get expensive
Depending on which trade charts you abide by, a normal trade up from Pick 6 to 3 would cost anywhere between a late first-round pick or an early third-round pick. Some have suggested the Lions’ second-round pick (48) would do it. Others, like PFF’s Brad Spielberger, suggest it would cost a lot more. In his mock, the Lions paid picks 48 and 81, along with a 2024 first and fourth-round pick.
These sorts of things are very difficult to predict, but if there have truly been six teams contacting the Cardinals for that pick, it’s logical that the price would be driven up. If C.J. Stroud, specifically, is available—like some are speculating—that price may be even higher, as there are teams far more desperate than the Lions for a franchise quarterback. They may be willing to overpay for the pick.
The Lions are not desperate enough to start overpaying to trade up.
The Lions have so many options, no need to pick the most expensive
The Lions aren’t desperate because they’ve done such a great job in free agency to tackle their needs. Sure, that would allow them to go “luxury” and take a swing at quarterback, but why go and take the biggest risk when there are so many other routes? They can sit back and be patient. This draft isn’t only going to have a handful of good prospects. Detroit can address any position they want and come away with a handful of big contributors to continue to build a roster around Goff.
Brad Holmes has consistently said that he is looking to build a team that won’t only compete but will stay a consistent winner. One way to do that is to constantly reload your talent with young players in the draft. With five picks in the top 81, the Lions can keep the talent pipeline going rather than digging into resources this year and next to take an overly-risky swing.
It’s easier to get worse at quarterback than better
Brad Holmes couldn’t have said it any clearer. Finding a franchise quarterback is really, really, really hard.
“It’s easy to get worse at that position than get better at that position because there’s so few of them.”
The Lions would have to be pretty darn certain that a quarterback in this draft class is a huge upgrade from Goff, and I’m not sure anyone can say that confidently about any of the quarterbacks. Heck, a popular comparison for Stroud is... Jared Goff.
If the Lions do swing and miss on a quarterback prospect, it won’t ruin the entire team, but it will be them back at square one at the game’s most important position. That’s not a great place to be. Just ask the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Commanders, or Cleveland Browns.
Trade up is rarely worth it
While Holmes has been selectively aggressive in the draft through two years—trading up on multiple occasions to get “his guy,” that as a long-term strategy is inherently flawed. Several studies have shown that the team trading up in the draft more often than not ends up getting the worse deal.
Take, for example, this study on NFL Draft trades from Bruin Sports Analytics that used Career Approximate Value to evaluate which team typically wins a trade in the draft, and they came to this conclusion (emphasis added):
When comparing the value acquired on each side of the trade, a strong advantage was given to the team who traded down. Not only was the mean difference in Career AV substantial, but trade downs were far less likely to result in very little return value.
Even last year’s move to trade for Jameson Williams remains a highly-dangerous move that has certainly not paid off yet. Following that up with another risky trade-up would suggest a dangerous habit for Holmes.