Jared Goff has silenced many of his critics by playing the best football of his career over the past six weeks to win the Detroit Lions in playoff contention, but Goff’s hot streak hasn’t clouded prospects that the Lions will be a quarterback-high in next spring’s draft, according to a prominent analyst.
ESPN analyst Todd McShay released his first mock draft of the season on Tuesday, letting the Lions take over Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud at No. 4.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young went No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans in McShay’s mock, followed by Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter to the Seattle Seahawks and Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson to the Chicago Bears.
“Everything fell perfectly for the Lions here, allowing them to line up their signaler of the future without going up,” McShay wrote. “Jared Goff has been playing well under center lately, but he’s not the long-term answer. Stroud – who makes good decisions with the football, shows great ball control and has a big arm – could learn a season behind Goff before Detroit moves on. and builds around a talented passer on a rookie deal. Detroit currently has a top-five offense (26.2 points per game) and already has a very good supporting cast in place.”
The Lions seemed destined to field a quarterback during their 1-6 start, as Goff piled up turnovers (nine) and struggled at times to move an offense that dealt with injuries in the skill positions.
But the Lions have been getting healthy at wide receiver and running back in recent weeks, and Goff’s game has steadily improved.
He has thrown for 670 yards and five touchdowns in Lions wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings over the past two weeks and completes 67.2% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and one interception as the Lions hit 5 in their past six games. -1 have gone.
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“He’s done a great job, man, getting us in the right game,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Monday. “Decision making, his ball accuracy, he made about three or four throws (against the Vikings) with pressure right to his face. We got beaten quickly a few times inside and he just stood there and just made throws that were on the money and that’s – listen, that’s a credit to him.
“They blocked well up front, but the couple of times it came through, man, he really – he made a conscious effort to sit here. He trusts those guys, and mans the follow up around the pitches. So I got it greatest confidence in the man at the moment.”
Of course, Campbell’s confidence in Goff is only part of the draft equation as the Lions try to build a sustainable championship contender.
Goff, 28, has two years left on contract with cap hits of $30.65 million next season and $31.65 million in 2024. He will receive a $5 million roster bonus in March that the Lions will almost certainly pick up.
If the Lions really believe in Goff – and Goff continues to play at a high level – they will have to give him a contract extension sometime in the next 20 months, which could make him one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL.
If the Lions still doubt Goff’s stamina — Goff was considered a system quarterback before his trade from the Los Angeles Rams in 2021 — this could be their last, best chance to get a quarterback high in the draft for the foreseeable future .
The Lions received the No. 4 draft from the Rams as part of the Goff trade and sit at No. 16 in the draft with their own first-round pick. If they continue to compete in the playoffs in future seasons, they will pick the teens or lower, beyond where most elite quarterback prospects go.
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McShay lets the Lions take Penn State cornerback Joey Porter with their second pick in the first round. His description of that selection included a reference to the Lions taking Kentucky quarterback Will Levis at number 4.
“OK, time to tackle the Lions’ defense,” McShay wrote of the Porter roster. “We’re all excited about Will Levis’ potential on that offense, but if they keep giving up 6.2 yards per game (last in the NFL), it won’t matter too much. Jeff Okudah has been up and down after being number one 3 overall pick in 2020, and Amani Oruwariye and Mike Hughes are both expected to be on a free transfer in the spring. Porter – the son of former Steelers edge rusher Joey Porter – is my best cornerback, with high-level recognition skills, and he would give that defense more flexibility. He had no choice this season, but he did have 11 pass-breaks. Detroit walks out of Round 1 with two tough, physical playmakers on either side of the ball.”
The Lions have significant needs on the defensive side of the ball, and while that unit has improved a lot recently, they could devote their best draft resources to defense if they’re willing to drive forward with Goff at quarterback.
Oruwariye is no longer in the playing rotation at cornerback and starters Hughes, Will Harris, Alex Anzalone and DeShon Elliott are awaiting free agents. The Lions rank 31st overall in the NFL in scoring defensively, though they have only allowed 20.3 points per game during their current hot streak.
Carter and Anderson are considered the top non-quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and the Lions could be tempted to pick either one if they are available with their first pick in the first round. Carter would give the Lions the pass rushing presence they currently lack, while Anderson would be a pass rusher to pair with this year’s No. 2 Aidan Hutchinson.
McShay has four quarterbacks in the top 11 of his mock: Young, Stroud, Levis (No. 6 of the Atlanta Falcons) and Anthony Richardson of Florida (No. 11 of the Carolina Panthers).
If the Lions believe one of those players has star potential, they can go the draft-and-develop route as the San Francisco 49ers (with Trey Lance) and Kansas City Chiefs (with Patrick Machomes) have done in recent years, despite the fact that they have established quarterbacks on their roster.
Lance, the No. 3 draft pick, has barely played in his two seasons with the 49ers due to injuries, but San Francisco remains one of the top teams in the NFC. Jimmy Garoppolo, a quarterback sometimes compared to Goff for his perceived ceiling, helped the 49ers reach the NFC championship game last season, and rookie Brock Purdy now starts in place of an injured Garoppolo.
Mahomes, the No. 10 of the 2017 draft, was one season behind Alex Smith, a former No. 1 on his second team, like Goff, and has gone on to become the NFL’s top quarterback in the five years since.
Ultimately, that’s what the Lions’ decision should come down to: because Goff has played so well over the past six weeks, and for whatever cap benefits they could get from having a rookie quarterback on their roster, if the Lions think they have a chance. to reel in a Mahomes-type top-of-the-NFL signal caller with their first pick, they can’t pass that up.
If they have more reservations about Stroud, Young, Levis, or anyone else in this year’s quarterback class than any defensive player stares them in the face, passing the QB is the right play.
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions take QB CJ Stroud in Todd McShay’s first mock draft