Don't get it twisted ... the ex-Lions star tells TMZ Sports he thinks Tua's got a bright future -- but he says because of the Bama QB's hip injury, he won't be able to help Detroit this season.
And, considering Patricia NEEDS wins in 2020 to extend his tenure in the Motor City ... Avril's advising him to stick withMatt Stafford and draft someone who can help right away.
"If we don't start winning some ball games, do I want to go off a young player who is coming out of college that has been injured or do I keep the veteran player that I have, and surround him with other great players?" Avril says.
"I would do that personally. I would leave Stafford there and surround him with some good players."
Of course, Cliff says Stafford -- who he played with early in his career -- can still sling it ... so the choice between the two shouldn't be a terribly difficult one for Patricia when the Lions are on the clock at No. 3 overall next month.
"I've played against him, I've been on his team, I've broken down film -- the man can throw the ball," Avril says of Stafford. "He can still put it out there. He can still play some football."
By the way, Cliff's doing some amazing things while we all wait for the NFL draft to roll around ... the ex-Super Bowl champ just donated $50,000 to aid in coronavirus relief efforts -- and he told us all about the awesome gesture.