Four Downs: Tagovailoa's stock could create opportunity for Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are four observations after having a night to ponder the Detroit Lions' 27-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

First down

Let's be honest here, about the only thing anyone wants to talk about out of this game is Detroit's spot in the draft order. I get it, when the team has won three games on the season and is on the brink of closing out the year on a nine-game skid, the draft is the fountain where hope is renewed. 

The Lions could pick up extra picks from a team interested in moving up to draft Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

By now, you know the scenarios, the most likely being the Lions will select third in April. Of course, that's contingent on losing to the Packers on Sunday and Washington sticking with its script and falling short on the road in Dallas. 

At three, the Lions probably lose out on the Chase Young sweepstakes. That's not a guarantee, but elite edge rushers don't last long. And even if that's how things unfold, Detroit still will have the option to draft one of several blue-chip prospects, from defensive tackle Derrick Brown to offensive tackle Andrew Thomas to cornerback Jeffrey Okudah to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. Different strokes for different folks, but not a bad option among them. 

The one name at the top of the board who carries intrigue, but likely won't draw serious interest for the Lions, is Tua Tagovailoa. That's not to say the team shouldn't be in the market for a backup QB, but the brass can't afford a long-term option in the first round with a win-now mandate for 2020. 

And herein lies the rub. Assuming Tagovailoa's medicals check out, there should be demand for the talented Alabama passer, potentially opening an opportunity for the Lions to move down and pick up more picks. Looking at the current draft board, the Dolphins at No. 5, the Chargers at No. 7 and the Panthers at No. 8 could all have interest in moving up. 

And the cost likely would be steep. While every trade is different, the Colts netted three second-round selections from the Jets to move down from three to six two years ago. Even if the Lions received a lesser offer, such as two seconds, they'd seriously have to consider it given the team's desperate need for depth. 

Another point to consider: Miami has three first-round picks and two second choices after a series of recent trades, so if anyone has the ammo to come get Tagovailoa, it's the Dolphins. 

Second down

Another potential benefit of being this bad is the Lions are in line to coach the Senior Bowl. Lions coach Matt Patricia said he didn't have any news to share on that front, while also expressing interest if the opportunity was presented. 

"The Senior Bowl is actually run by a guy (Jim Nagy) I used to work with, so I know the Senior Bowl has a lot of great benefits to it from coaches that have coached it before," Patricia said. "Having an opportunity to spend time with those (prospects), kind of in those settings is great. Whatever is asked of us, certainly we'll do, try to use it to an advantage any way we can. "

The two coaching staffs for the annual college All-Star game are typically the worst teams in the league that also have continuity with their coaching staff. That likely will disqualify Washington, where it's not expected to retain interim coach Bill Callahan. 

The last time the Lions coached the Senior Bowl was 2013, when they selected a trio of players (Ziggy Ansah, Larry Warford and Michael Williams) from the event as part of the team's best draft class in recent memory. 

Third down

Deep down, we probably all expected the Lions offense would be bad if Matthew Stafford ever got hurt, but the current setup has been unwatchable. In the three games since Thanksgiving, the team has yet to amass more than 300 yards, and the 191-yard performance on Sunday was Detroit's fewest in nearly a decade. 

Things aren't going to get magically better for the season finale. Green Bay is coming to town with a defense allowing 20.2 points per game and something to play for, whether that's the NFC North crown or a first-round bye. Still, at the very least, the Lions can try something new at quarterback. 

After leading the Lions to touchdowns on the first two drives of his career, undrafted rookie David Blough has been in a rut. He did a better job taking care of the ball this week, but he was ultra-conservative against the Broncos, finishing with 12 completions for 117 yards. 

In light of the offensive and quarterbacking struggles, the Lions should give Kyle Sloter a shot against Green Bay. The former Northern Colorado standout plucked off Arizona's practice squad a month back has yet to appear in a regular-season game after going undrafted in 2017. But the preseason numbers are goofy. 

In 12 exhibition games over three seasons, splitting time between Denver and Minnesota, Sloter has completed 111 of his 150 passes (74 percent) for 1,222 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception. That's a passer rating of 119.4, which would be better than any quarterback in football this season. 

Obviously, the level of competition Sloter faced in the preseason must be considered, but his impressive efficiency is enough to make me want to see what he can do against a real defense in the regular season. 

What do the Lions have to lose? 

Fourth down

The Broncos announced there were nearly 10,000 no-shows on Sunday, but the stands felt even more empty than that. And who can blame them? Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in Denver, fans don't want to waste an afternoon watching bad football. 

The Lions got a dose of this a week ago, when they had their second-lowest announced attendance since 2009. And things might get worse for the finale next week. Not that there will be even more empty seats, but those seats could be filled with green and yellow-clad Packer faithful. 

There's nothing more embarrassing than having your house overrun by the opposition. This isn't the Chargers having to go to a silent count at home against Oakland because they've yet to establish a loyal following in Los Angeles. This is a division rival with 85 years of bad blood. With the way things are going, the "Go Pack Go!" chant might be the loudest thing we hear on Sunday.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers