The Detroit Lions are currently 5-7 — two games away from a wild card spot. They have won four of their last five, and their lone loss was by only three points to the Buffalo Bills — a team many people consider Super Bowl favorites. With five games left on their schedule, only two are against teams with a winning record. They’re favored in one of them, and the other is against Mike White. The playoffs aren’t out of the picture. Things are looking good.
The future in the Motor City is bright, especially considering they still have an extra first-round draft pick in the 2023 draft, courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams and Matthew Stafford. Wait a minute! The Rams are terrible this year! There are only three teams (the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, and Denver Broncos) with worse records than them currently. There’s a chance the Lions not only make the playoffs but have a top-five pick as well...this makes things very interesting.
One of the key pieces to Detroit’s sudden fortune has been quarterback Jared Goff. He’s already matched his passing touchdown total from last season, is on pace to surpass 4,000 yards through the air, is currently matching his career-best completion percentage (64.9 percent), and is on pace for his best passer rating since 2018 — when he took the Rams to the Super Bowl.
There are still several holes on the Lions’ roster, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, but Goff isn’t a franchise quarterback. He’s a solid bridge quarterback, someone to lift the team to potential relevance while you look for the future face of the franchise. Once the roster around Goff has been solidified, it’s time to make like Elsa and let him go. However, with so many issues to solve on the defense still, the rest of the NFC North looking rather weak moving forward, and two first-round draft picks, is it really time to switch off Goff, or can the Lions ride it out with the former No. 1 overall pick one more year?
The answer...is a resounding “no.”
The fact of the matter is that the Lions are built for the future. They’ve got a great young corps of receivers, most of which are still on their rookie contracts. Their best defensive contributors are young. Their offensive line is older, but still have young bucks like Penei Sewell holding down the fort at right tackle. Should everything go according to plan (AKA avoiding injuries and whatnot), the Lions will be in contention in the NFC North for many years. They won’t have another top-five draft pick for a long, long time, so the time to draft an elite quarterback prospect is right now.
Sure, there are a multitude of quarterbacks in the league nowadays who weren’t drafted in the top 10: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, and Justin Fields. And at the same time, you could also say there’s never been a bigger concentration of quarterback busts drafted early: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Mitchell Trubisky, Zach Wilson, but I’d hesitate to claim drafting a quarterback in the top 10 is not a smart move. Everybody knows that’s where you get the top-tier talent.
That’s why most draft analysts still believe three quarterbacks in the upcoming draft class will go in the top-10 picks: Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young, and Kentucky’s Will Levis. While recent drafts, when there were this many QBs projected to go in the top-10, didn’t exactly pan out — 2021: Lawrence, Wilson, Lance; 2019: Mayfield, Darnold, Allen, Rosen — there was still some high-end talent to be found. Josh Allen is a perennial MVP candidate, although he took a few years to develop. Trevor Lawrence is still regarded by many as the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck, and he’s shown flashes of greatness in his short career thus far. Plus, the quarterbacks in between have been pretty solid as well. Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert have all turned into franchise talents with top-five upside. Even Daniel Jones has managed to remain a starter for four seasons and has had moments where he’s looked like a franchise guy — upping his completion percentage every year he’s been in the league, while doing the opposite with his interception rate.
The Lions are at a crossroads right now where they can either grab a potential star and compete for a Super Bowl, or hope Goff can continue his run of success and lead the Lions to a Super Bowl just as he did with the Rams, despite Detroit not having any of the superstar defensive players that L.A. did.
The choice seems easy on the surface, and it kind of is. Yes, there’s always potential that the player you draft busts. I’m not denying that, but in that case, you’ve still got Goff to fall back on. He’s under contract for another two seasons after 2022. I’m not saying to cut him (even though there is an out in his contract following 2022 which would save $20 million in dead cap compared to if they cut him in 2023 or 2024), but it’s time to let him be a veteran mentor.
The Lions have been too bad for too long to not go after a franchise cornerstone who can carry the team for a decade, and an opportunity to draft in the top-ten likely won’t be happening again for years. Pull the trigger. Don’t play it safe. Draft the Goff replacement.