The Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Rams made headlines a few weeks back. The Lions shipped their longtime face of the franchise, Matthew Stafford to the City of Angels for Jared Goff, who is coming off of two subpar seasons.
As the story goes, Goff’s relationship with Rams coach Sean McVay suffered after it looked like the two would become the NFL’s next dangerous coach slash quarterback duo.
But with Goff’s presence in the Motor City, are the Detroit Lions finally a viable futures bet?
Today’s post will break down whether one of the NFL’s least successful franchises will turn the corner after over 60 years of rebuilding.
Current Futures Outlook for the Detroit Lions
Before the Goff trade, we shared a post regarding whether the Detroit Lions would become a decent futures bet for 2021. Obviously, we weren’t high on the Lions. And why would we? They have done nothing but move backwards since they fired Jim Caldwell after back-to-back 9-7 seasons.
Only the Detroit Lions would fire a coach after back-to-back winning seasons, even if one of those seasons kept the team out of the playoffs.
And who could they have hired to replace Matt Patricia?
Eric Bieniemy was out there. Ditto for Jason Garrett and later, Doug Pederson.
But they got Dan Campbell, who has never even served time as a coordinator in the NFL. He has some experience as an interim head coach. No one’s seriously wagering their money on Campbell here.
Besides, the Lions’ historically bad defense in 2019 got even worse in 2020. It’s so bad that they allowed more points than the 2008 squad. You can’t make stuff like this up.
Then, they pulled off a blockbuster trade for Jared Goff.
And how badly did the Rams want to ship him out?
Along with Goff, they sent the Lions a third-round pick in 2021, plus a first-round pick in 2022 and 2023 for Stafford. Not bad if you’re the Lions, who got a young quarterback and a pair of first round picks in later drafts for an aging and injury-prone quarterback.
But does that mean the Lions are a solid futures bet in 2021?
Or do they still need a year?
What Goff Brings
Goff brings stability to an increasingly unstable position and organization. Stafford’s days as an NFL quarterback remain numbered. And even the Los Angeles Rams know that. But while the former are in rebuilding mode; they latter are in win-now mode.
So, it makes sense for the Rams to ship Goff to Detroit in exchange for the still-talented Stafford.
And yes, Stafford can still play if he’s not tending to an injury.
Goff is still young enough that the Lions can build a team around him. And better yet, they already have a plethora of talent on offense. Guys like DeAndre Swift, Kenny Golladay, and T.J. Hockenson, among others, will be back.
Note that Golladay at the time of this writing is an Unrestricted Free Agent. But conventional wisdom suggests he’ll return, given Goff’s presence in the Motor City. They also have a solid offensive line, with Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow manning the front.
So, even with a bad defense, Goff becomes a dangerous puzzle piece to an offense capable of scoring points at any time. The problem is if they can do so with Campbell, who has little experience managing an NFL game.
We must wait and find out.
What Goff Cannot Fix
The answer is obvious; Jared Goff won’t fix the league’s worst defense that appears to be getting worse by the season.
And while he’ll only be entering his second season, their 2020 first-round pick, Jeff Okudah, has been a bust. Okudah had 2 pass deflections and even a pick. However, opponents completed 77.4 of his 53 targets over nine games in 2020.
Given the high completion percentage, quarterbacks picked on Okudah often, and he averaged 8.5 targets against per game. Quarterbacks amassed a 118 quarterback rating when they targeted Okudah. Obviously, if Okudah doesn’t improve, he was one waste of a pick.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Guys like Jamie Collins, Trey Flowers, and Danny Shelton, among others, came to Detroit from New England. The latter of which held one of the best defenses in football for ages, only to falter like none other on one of the NFL’s least stable franchises.
Also, the Lions have a rookie defensive coordinator coming in Aaron Glenn. Glenn recently served as the defensive backs coach for the New Orleans Saints. But he has yet to manage an entire unit. So, expect a learning curve for the entire defense.
As you can see, for the Lions to win in 2021, it’s going to be more of the same. Goff can only drive his team down the field and score as many points as he can, masking the wreck of a defense that has allowed nearly 1,000 points over the past two seasons.
Verdict on 2021 Futures
If you’re looking to take a flyer on a team with a cheap bet, the Lions may be one of them. But you’d be wise not to wager too much on a team that remains in transition despite landing Jared Goff.
They’re one of those teams with long odds that you place a small Super Bowl bet (or even something like a division-winning bet) and hope you can capitalize on it. But they’re not a team you place a serious bet to win it all or even the division — not in 2021, anyway.
Sure, you can expect their offense to click a little more with Goff under center. And his presence continues to ironically give the Lions stability at the game’s most important position—or at least the most important position on offense.
Along with budding stars like Golladay, Hockenson, and Swift, the Lions have the foundation to perhaps find themselves as a decent over/under bet in 2021. But it’s still far-fetched to believe they will be anything more than that unless the Green Bay Packers for one reason or another let Aaron Rodgers go, and the Chicago Bears cannot find a viable replacement at quarterback for Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. That leaves the stagnant Minnesota Vikings.
But expect Rodgers to return to Green Bay. Expect the Bears to at least call up the Houston Texans and make the team—supposedly refusing to trade Deshaun Watson—a lucrative offer they can’t refuse. And expect the Vikings to once again threaten a playoff run.
Oh, and you can also expect the Lions to remain in the NFC North’s cellar unless their rivals’ rosters weaken.
Verdict on 2022 and 2023 Futures
Of course, it’s always murky to predict how well of a futures bet a team will be one or two seasons down the road. But the Lions deserve consideration here because of their multiple first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023.
Put it this way: If Stafford doesn’t work out in Los Angeles and the Rams suffer, the Lions will have a better futures outlook, at least in 2022. The worse the Rams play, the higher the Lions pick in the first round.
But the Lions need to hit it big on their first-round picks. Okudah, after a one-season sample size, has been a bust. That label can change since he’s only entering his second season in 2021.
For the Lions to become a serious futures bet in 2022 and 2023, they can’t afford any errors starting in 2021. Also, they need to hit a home run with defensive draft picks.
If there’s any good news for 2021, it’s that the Lions are already halfway there on offense. And better yet, they hired on Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator. Lynn spent the past few seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers as their head coach, so he brings valuable game managing experience.
Besides the offensive talent, they also have a fantastic coordinator who has proven during his time in Los Angeles that his team can put points on the board fast. His downfall rested in game management, especially on defense. It’s a good thing he’s only worrying about offense in Detroit.
So, if you like the Lions for 2022 and 2023, pay attention to how they build their defense, starting here in 2021. And if they can continue to build in 2022 and 2023, and if Goff succeeds, they may just become a good futures bet.
Write off the Lions this season unless you know something the rest of us don’t. Their defense remains historically bad and now they must deal with a rookie defensive coordinator managing one of the worst defensive units of all time.
It doesn’t bode well for this football team in 2021.
And having Jared Goff won’t magically turn this team around in one season. Although Goff can provide stability at quarterback for at least a decade if he continues to produce well. Plus, he can be the face of a winning franchise if the team somehow improves their defense.
What do you think about the Lions? Can Goff’s presence turn them into a viable futures option in 2021? Or, do they need at least another season?
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