May 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

Bob Wojnowski

No need for Lions to gamble in this year's NFL draft

The Lions shouldn't think about trading all-pro DT Ndamukong Suh. He's too good a player and he won't bring enough value in return. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Itís so, so tantalizing. This must be why the NFL pushed the draft back, so everyone could spend more time dreaming up longshot scenarios that make their toes tingle.

The Lions are at the center of the vortex, with trade-up rumors and trade-down rumors and the standard batch of Ndamukong Suh rumors. Iím not here to ruin anyoneís vortex. Really, Iím not. But you know what the Lions probably need most? A perfectly mundane draft.

That means wiping away the drool and resisting the temptation to move up from No. 10 to grab Calvin Johnson 2.0 (aka Sammy Watkins). Would it be a fascinating leap? Yep. Would the Lionsí offense be the talk of the draft? Yep. Would it cost a bounty of draft picks? Yep. Would it make sense to trade Suh for him instead? Nope.

I donít mind a good healthy gamble, but this would be needlessly extravagant. If Martin Mayhew wants to gamble on receiver talent, he could take a smaller risk and hope Texas A&Mís Mike Evans falls in range for a modest trade up. Mayhew and Jim Caldwell are clear about their win-now mentality, but with all the Lionsí questions on defense, would a blockbuster deal for Watkins be a ďwin nowĒ approach or a ďscore nowĒ approach?

I donít have quite the NFL experience of Mayhew, but this is how I view trades in general ó if youíre the one aggressively pursuing, youíre more likely to get ripped off. If youíre the one being courted, youíre more likely to extract a better return. In any Suh deal, the Lions would get ripped off.

Thatís why many teams are willing to trade down, patiently waiting for a desperate suitor to call. Thereís a decent chance the Lions could get the same player at 15 they could get at 10. If they stay at 10, they could take a perfectly solid safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), or defensive tackle (Aaron Donald), or outside linebacker (Anthony Barr), or cornerback (Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert), or offensive lineman (Zack Martin), or tight end (Eric Ebron).

What to do with Suh?

Are any of those names major needle-movers? Ha Ha. Not really. But the Lions should be more concerned about moving forward than moving needles. There are about five to seven elite prospects in this draft, and if you want Jadeveon Clowney, Watkins or Khalil Mack and youíre not picking in the top seven, youíll pay a hefty price.

Trading Suh is way too hefty a price, no matter the motive. Because he didnít show up for a voluntary workout, and because heís in the last year of his contract and seeks a juicy raise, and because he occasionally acts like a detached diva, some suggest the Lions consider it.

The Lions understand the suggestions and might even listen, but they shouldnít trade him, and I highly doubt they will. As good as Suh is, and as controversial as he is, itís impossible to get fair value with only one expensive year left on his contract. Other teams donít want to assume the cost and the risk without assurance heíd sign long term. The Lions finally have an imposing defensive player, so call me goofy, but Iíd actually like to keep him. There is one caveat ó if you truly believe he wants to leave, based on his agentís demands, then you explore options.

Suh is a vexing player, and of course it wouldíve been better if he appeared at the workout, happy and hearty. His aloofness can be bothersome, but if thatís his worst flaw, you live with it, and most Lions fans embrace him. Heís been to the Pro Bowl three times in four seasons and has missed only two games in his career ó when he was suspended for aggravated stomping.

He toned it down last season, and when the Lions collapsed and cost Jim Schwartz his job, it wasnít the defense that fell apart. It was the offense, which is why they signed Golden Tate and are enamored with Watkins.

It could be amazing to watch a trio of Johnson, Watkins and Tate catching passes from Matthew Stafford. But the Lions have had two of the most-thrilling offensive talents of the past quarter-century in Johnson and Barry Sanders and havenít won nearly enough.

Defense needs help

The Lions desperately need secondary help. As it stands now, their starting cornerbacks could be veterans Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis, with young players still trying to learn. They also need a play-making outside linebacker to complement DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch.

And hereís the scary part ó they might need another batch of defensive linemen. I think Suh will end up re-signing here, but with his odd whims, who knows. The Lions arenít sure about Nick Fairley, declining to pick up his fifth-year option, and they lost Willie Young to the Bears. They do have a couple promising pass-rushers in Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor.

Mayhew has done a good job upgrading the offensive line, no longer a major weakness. Now the nagging area that never stays upgraded is receiver. When the Lions were down to a hobbled Johnson and random guys named Kris last season, Stafford was lost. That drives the buzz for Watkins, one of the top receiver prospects in years.

The Lions have been buzzing diligently, interviewing all sorts of candidates, discussing all sorts of scenarios. It promises to be busy right up until Thursday nightís first round. My guess ó subject to change ó is the Lions will buzz-kill and make a solid pick, someone like Donald or Barr or Clinton-Dix. Embracing temptation can be fun, but itís also very expensive.

bob.wojnowski@detroitnews.com
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