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Four Downs: Their season shot, Lions can make push for No. 2 pick in NFL Draft

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are four observations after having a night to ponder the Detroit Lions' 20-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

First down

After a sixth straight defeat, few fans care about the remainder of the season. The focus is already 20/20 on 2020. And while it remains unclear whether Bob Quinn or Matt Patricia will remain in their roles beyond the season finale against Green Bay, whoever is calling the shots is in line to land an impact prospect come April. 

Lions quarterback David Blough (10) was sacked five times by the Vikings on Sunday.

With the loss to Minnesota, and Atlanta's victory over Carolina, the Lions moved up a spot, to No. 5 in the draft order. And there's a realistic possibility to get as high as No. 2, assuming they can't muster another win the final three weeks. 

Here's a refresher on the situation. At 3-9-1, the Lions are a half-game better than both Washington and Miami and 1.5 games up on the New York Giants. The lowly Bengals are bringing up the rear at 1-12, and with an angry Patriots team on deck, the Lions have a near-zero chance to catching them for the top spot in the order. 

The other three, though, they're within reach. That's largely because they have matchups with each other. New York plays Washington and Miami the next two weeks. Miami also has a game remaining against Cincinnati. That means at least one, probably two of those teams are going to pass Detroit if the Lions lose out.

Here's how the Lions could get to No. 2. First, New York beats both Washington and Miami. Then Miami gets past Cincinnati. That leaves Washington needing to beat Philadelphia, at home, next week. 

The alternative is Washington beats New York, and the Giants win one of their two remaining games against Philadelphia, starting with a road trip this Monday night. 

Second down

Prior to kickoff, the Lions announced cornerback Rashaan Melvin was active after missing two games with a rib injury. The immediate question the return raised was what it meant for rookie Amani Oruwariye, who had started those two games in Melvin's stead and performed well. 

Given Melvin was questionable heading into the game, and limited throughout the week of practice, a rotation seemed the most likely solution. Instead, not only did Oruwariye get the start, Melvin didn't play a single snap. And he had to be healthy enough to play, otherwise the Lions wouldn't have scratched cornerback Mike Jackson from the lineup.

The decision to start Oruwariye and give him a heavy workload was the right one. With the season already down the tubes, now is the time for evaluation and development of young talent.

Oruwariye didn't have a perfect game, giving up an early touchdown on a crossing pattern, but he has a legitimate opportunity to contribute in 2020, as opposed to Melvin, who is playing on a one-year deal. 

Third down

The night game on Sunday saw the Los Angles Rams take on the Seattle Seahawks. And while Seattle came up short, the game served as a harsh reminder of what the Lions gave up this season when they traded veteran safety Quandre Diggs for a fifth-round pick

Diggs intercepted not one, but two passes for the Seahawks, returning the first back for the second touchdown of his career. 

After struggling at the start of the season for the Lions, Diggs has been a playmaking machine post-trade. With the hamstring injury he suffered earlier this year healed up, he's generated four turnovers in four games for his new team. The Lions entire defense has forced as many during the same stretch. 

The Lions lost faith in Diggs, not because he spoke his mind as he's hinted, but because they thought his play was slipping and he was limited schematically. And there's no question about it, he was off to a slow start this season, particularly with missing tackles. 

There are a few ways to look at his drastic turnaround. First, maybe Seattle is a better schematic fit. And maybe a change of scenery was needed. But, while I won't dismiss those other factors, if I had to bet on the intangible that was playing the biggest role, it's that Diggs is motivated by disrespect. He always has been. After being selected No. 200 in his draft, he had impressive recall about what the defensive backs taken before him had accomplished. 

Diggs always has had a chip on his shoulder. In Seattle, he's weaponized it. And with every big play he makes, he's making Detroit's decision-makers look worse and worse, because they no longer could figure out how to motivate him, or how to put him in positions to produce, and that led to them selling low on a young, dynamic player. 

Fourth down

It's disingenuous to call it a bright spot, because the moment came in garbage time, with the Lions trailing by 20, but Kenny Golladay did manage to catch his league-leading 10th touchdown of the season. 

It's been a monster year for the third-year receiver, who also crossed the 1,000-yard mark in the loss. Not bad for a guy trending toward a monster second contract. 

Speaking of that contract, Golladay's rookie deal expires after next season, but he recently said he'd be open to signing an extension with Detroit this offseason. Fans might want to brace for the sticker shock that will come with that price tag.

Look at the top receiving contracts from recent years. Brandin Cooks and Adam Thielen both signed long-term deals that averaged $16.2 million per season. This offseason, Tyreek Hill got $18 million per over three years, while Michael Thomas scored $19.25 million per over five years. And Julio Jones topped them all with an extension that averages $22 million per season. 

Golladay won't reset the market, but odds are he'll command a top-10 deal for a receiver. That conversation starts in that Cooks and Theilen range.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers