Lions Projected to Land ‘Game Changer’ WR in Proposed Trade

Dan Campbell Brian Thomas Jr.

Getty AtoZ Sports' Mike Payton predicted Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions to trade up for LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr.

The Detroit Lions have worked hard to fill defensive needs in the early part of NFL free agency. While that should have a positive impact on the team’s defense, it will also allow the team to potentially target an offensive player in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft. AtoZ Sports’ Mike Payton argued that prospect could be LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr.

But not only did Payton predict the Lions to target Thomas with their first selection, Payton proposed the Lions trade up to land the star college wideout.

“With Josh Reynolds possibly moving on, the Lions now have a big spot to replace,” Payton wrote. “Thomas can come in and do what Reynolds could do plus a lot more.

“He can separate like Reynolds can’t and he can go up and get it like Reynolds can’t. Thomas is a game changer for the Lions.”

Thomas was certainly a game changer at LSU. During the 2023 season, he led the FBS with 17 receiving touchdowns.

He also averaged 17.3 yards per catch with 68 receptions and 1,177 receiving yards. Thomas finished his college career with 24 touchdowns in 38 games.

In the proposed trade, Payton had the Lions sending their No. 29 pick, the No. 201 overall pick, a 2025 fourth-rounder and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez to the Philadelphia Eagles. In exchange, the Lions received the No. 22 overall selection and the 172nd pick.

Could the Lions Depart with LB Malcolm Rodriguez in a Draft Trade?

In the mock draft, Payton wrote that his objective was to move the Lions up for a bit of a splash but do it without giving up too much in other draft capital.

Payton admitted that the trade up seven spots was a little on the expensive side. That’s why he included Rodriguez as part of the package.

“I knew a player would sweeten the deal for the Eagles and they were in need of a linebacker,” Payton wrote. “Since Rodriguez is sitting behind Alex Anzalone, Jack Campbell, Derrick Barnes and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, I saw this as an opportunity for him to get more playing time elsewhere.”

The Lions drafted Rodriguez in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft. He started 15 games as a rookie, but during his second season, he only made 3 starts.

Even though he isn’t a starter, Detroit would lose linebacker depth with this trade. But in the trade proposal, the team kept their two remaining Day 2 selections. The Lions would possess three draft picks on Day 3 as well that they could use to add linebacker depth.

NFL free agency is also an option. According to Spotrac, the Lions have about $27 million in salary cap space remaining.

LSU WR Brian Thomas Jr. One of the Best WR Prospects in 2024 Draft Class

With the Lions finishing 27th in pass defense last season, a lot of NFL mock drafts have had Detroit targeting a cornerback or edge rusher in the first round.

But in NFL free agency, the Lions signed cornerback Amik Robertson, defensive end Marcus Davenport and defensive tackle D.J. Reader. They also traded for cornerback Carlton Davis.

After Cameron Sutton’s release, the Lions could still use another cornerback addition. But veteran wideout Josh Reynolds is expected to depart in free agency. Reynolds was second among Detroit receivers in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns last season.’s Lance Zierlein seemed to imply Thomas is a bit of a raw prospect. But eventually, he could more than replace Reynolds in Detroit’s offense. And as a rookie, Thomas would be another deep threat for the Lions alongside former first-rounder Jameson Williams.

“Presents an appealing combination of size, length and speed with experience working inside and outside,” Zierlein wrote. “Thomas rarely has issues generating separation deep and could be counted on as an NFL team’s designated deep guy early in his career.

“Thomas is unpolished but has projectable talent to become a WR1/2 in time.”

The consensus draft rankings at ESPN, Pro Football Focus and Bleacher Report all have Thomas rated as a top-five wideout in the 2024 draft class. ESPN and Bleacher Report each have him ranked as the No. 21 overall prospect too.

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