ESPN's Mel Kiper boldly projected the Detroit Lions would select Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in a mock draft published this week. But when asked during a Wednesday conference call how realistic that prediction was, given the win-now mandate team ownership has placed on general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia, the draft analyst offered a rambling explanation lacking substance.
"In terms of Tua and the Lions, I agree they need to win and all that," Kiper said. "With Tua, if you drafted him, that would send a message to ownership saying, 'Hey, we got a quarterback now that could be the heir apparent to Matt (Stafford).
"Matt has had, I thought, an outstanding career," Kiper continued. "Coming off an injury, there's a trade possibility there with the money involved, so you could redshirt Tua, which may be the best. A medical redshirt for that one year may be the best scenario for him moving forward, for his career, and to benefit him moving forward."
Kiper wrapped his point by acknowledging the Lions were in good position to trade back so that another team could move up for Tagovailoa. That long-discussed possibility appears to mesh better with a win-now edict than having your top-five pick spend his rookie season on the bench.
And to be fair, in his mock, Kiper noted he believes Tagovailoa will be the No. 3 pick, but he doesn't include trades in his projections.
Whether the Lions stick at No. 3 or trade back, the most popular player analysts have the team selecting is Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah.
While it's uncommon for corners to come off the board in the first five picks, Kiper believes Okudah stacks up well with Patrick Peterson, Jalen Ramsey and Denzel Ward, the three that were taken that early in the past 10 years.
"I think he's going to have as high a grade as Patrick Peterson," Kiper said. "I had him No. 1 on the board when he came out of LSU. The other guys you mention with high grades, Okudah is right up there. Right now, he's third, fourth on the big board, with Tua. Depending on the medical for Tua, you could be looking at the third-best player.
"Some might have him two, right behind Chase Young, his teammate at Ohio State," Kiper continued. "He would make sense for the Lions at three. They need a corner. The Giants at four need a corner. I don't think he's getting past there. He's a guy that's a complete corner. He tackles well, he's aggressive with support, which is important in today's NFL, so I think Okudah is going to go very, very early."
Kiper doubled-down on Okudah not making it past four in his mock draft, slotting him to the Giants at No. 4. That raises a realistic possibility of Detroit missing out if they were to trade back.
It that hypothetical scenario played out, Detroit would likely be left with choosing between defensive tackles Derrick Brown of Auburn and Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, or the top offensive tackle on the team's board.