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Why the Lions must trade Matthew Stafford, draft QB

Jesse Reed
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. While most figure the team should build around Matthew Stafford, there’s another, more attractive long-term option. They should trade their franchise quarterback and start over.

The big picture: Matthew Stafford has been remarkably durable over the long haul, but recent health issues are troubling. The Lions, who haven’t gotten past the wild-card round of the playoffs since 1991, need to completely blow it up and start from scratch.

The concern: Stafford started just eight games last season due to a fracture in his back. This wasn’t his first back injury, either, as it was reported before the 2019 season that he played the 2018 season with a broken back.

  • Stafford turns 32 in February, so he’s not exactly old.
  • Though, with back injuries in each of the past two seasons, his body may be breaking down.

It’s worth pointing out that Stafford did play through the 2018 injury and racked up 136 consecutive starts over more than eight seasons. So, he’s been one of the league’s iron men over the course of his career.

Health isn’t the only issue: While Stafford’s health is a bit concerning, the real issue the Lions need to tackle is that they haven’t won anything with him on board.

  • Stafford was the No. 1 overall pick back in 2009.
  • The Lions have lost all three of their playoff games since then.
  • Though Stafford has put up amazing stats in his career with the Lions, he’s also gone 69-79-1 during the regular season.

Rebuild is key: The Lions have to continue assembling elite talent across the board. They have the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and could do a number of things with that selection.

But if they were to trade Stafford, who would garner a ton of draft capital in such a deal, they’d have significantly more ammunition with which to attack the rebuilding process.

The long view: If the Lions were to think outside the box and did trade Stafford, then they’d have some intriguing options at quarterback. They could potentially even try to convince the Cincinnati Bengals to part with the No. 1 overall pick with the kind of cache they’d have at their disposal with a Stafford trade.

In 2020, here’s who the Lions might consider drafting:

  • Joe Burrow, LSU
  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
  • Justin Herbert, Oregon
  • Jacob Eason, Washington
  • Jordan Love, Utah State

In 2021, the Lions could target some heavy hitters as well.

  • Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
  • Justin Fields, Ohio State

If the Lions were to take a longer view on this, they could opt to trade Stafford before the 2020 season, then tank next season to land the top pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. The reason that’s an attractive idea is that Lawrence is considered by many to be the best professional quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck.

The bottom line: The Lions are broken. Stafford isn’t going to fix them. They need to rethink their entire strategy anyway. Why not kick-start the process and stop the insanity?

There’s no reason not to do this. The Lions are perennially a joke. Stafford has put up amazing stats and is one of the league’s most prolific passers. But the NFL is a business predicated on winning.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. The Lions should stop the cycle.