Over the next five weeks, FishDuck.com Feature Writer Caleb Couturie will be analyzing the 25 teams in the NFL Draft that may look to select Marcus Mariota.
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No 21: The Detroit Lions
DET’s Draft Pick: Twenty Third
DET’s 2015 Cap Space: $21,044,354
DET’s Top Needs: DB, OL, K/QB
Matthew Stafford puts up some pretty insane numbers. The six year veteran, a starter for his last four years, has thrown for at least 4,250 yards each season he’s been a starter as well as at least twenty touchdowns. Pretty great, right? Wrong. Stafford is a product of a system that allows for hugely inflated numbers, and he also has one of the best receivers of all time to throw to. Even though Stafford has ranked in the top ten in yards passing each of the last four years, he’s only ranked in the top ten QBR’s once. That year, his first year as a starter, was a clear outlier in his career and ever since he’s continued to regress into an average at best starting QB.
A lot of QBs can throw for over 4,000 yards when given 600+ passing attempts (see Connor Halliday), but very few can do it efficiently. Stafford is not one of those few. Detroit, especially its offense, has talent pouring out of its ears but if they ever stand a chance at a title Stafford needs to go. So what do they do? They bring in Marcus Mariota.
HOW IT CAN HAPPEN:
You want to talk about assets? Detroit has assets, and lots of em’. Since Detroit is so good, their late draft picks alone won’t be enough to sway Tampa Bay for the No. 1 pick. So instead, here’s the trade:
Detroit Trades: Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Joique Bell, and 2015 first round pick
Tampa Bay Trades: No. 1 pick
For both teams, this is a huge win-win.
The obvious addition for the Bucs would be Stafford, a prototypical QB who can make some big throws. Stafford’s proven he has the ability to be a talented QB, but for whatever reason he struggled in Detroit. A location change might help him a lot, and working with one of the all time greats, Lovie Smith, should help him develop.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a rookie tight end in TB with huge promise, and Pettigrew’s experience could really help him progress. TB is desperately in need of a TE that can help stretch the field and open up space for Mike Evans, and Pettigrew can also help with that. The sixth year TE caught a career high 83 passes just four years ago, but Detroit’s offense moved in a different direction and Pettigrew saw less and less targets. A change of scenery might be just what Pettigrew needs, and TB’s vertical offense would benefit him greatly. The addition of Bell would also finally give TB a solid rushing offense, since the once promising Doug Martin appears to be a one-trick pony. Bell runs with both power and speed, traits that helped him rush for 860 yards this season while splitting time with Reggie Bush in the back field. Given full time duties, many (including myself) believe Bell could do serious damage.
For Detroit, they not only allow for Eric Ebron to receive more snaps at TE, but they also move up to get a QB who can really boost their offense’s productivity. Mariota’s unique skill set is one that plays really well into this offense, and combining his ability to make plays with Calvin Johnson‘s will cause Detroit to give opposing DCs nightmares. The loss of Bell hurts, but Detroit can always draft another RB later in one of the later rounds since this year appears to be loaded with talent at the RB position.
HOW MARIOTA WOULD DO IN DET:
Honestly, it’d be pretty hard to do badly. If a QB like Stafford could produce the numbers he could, imagine what Mariota could do. Stafford had one gift, and that was a cannon of an arm. What Mariota lacks (slightly) in arm strength, he makes up for in agility, play extension, roll-out ability and leadership. Detroit is a playoff team, but Stafford was never going to take them deep enough.
With an offensive minded coach like Jim Caldwell, Detroit could revamp their offense to play to Mariota’s skill sets and truly do some damage out in the NFC North. Play actions with Mariota throwing to Johnson on verticals, jet sweeps with Bush, and bubble screens with Golden Tate would stretch out opposing defenses and constantly keep the other team guessing. Although it would take a lot of work, Caldwell might need to take a page out of Chip Kelly‘s book. It’s hard to argue with the results, at least.
WOULD HE START?:
Probably, yes. Once Stafford is out of the picture Detroit’s best option is Dan Orlovsky, which isn’t really an option at all. Hopefully Detroit’s front office would sign a veteran QB to a two year deal so Mariota could develop for a year, but it’s not worth betting on.
DET’s Projected Record with Mariota: 12-4
DET’s Projected Record W/O Mariota: 9-7
Mariota’s first year stats: 4,300 yards passing/31 pass TDS/14 Ints/6 Rushing TDs
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