April 29, 2016
Lions optimistic heading into NFL Draft
under new General Manager Bob Quinn
By KEITH GAVE
Put yourself in the shoes, for a moment, of Bob Quinn, who holds perhaps the most unenviable job in Detroit sports as the new general manager of the Detroit Lions. And you’re on the clock in the NFL Draft, which begins tonight.
Teams choose in inverse order of their finish in the last regular season – a kind of Robin Hood system giving poorer teams a chance to select the better players first – and you have the No. 16 pick.
Do you start by rebuilding the flagging infrastructure and take an offensive lineman – if you’re lucky enough that one of the top four in that position falls to 16? Do you take a stud pass rusher to create the bookend with Ziggy Ansah and give your team a formidable defensive attack? Do you use the pick on a flashy wide receiver to try to fill the gaping hole left by the retirement of Calvin Johnson?
Or perhaps you spend some assets, use your second-round pick to move up to make absolutely sure you get one of those top four offensive linemen – considering all the time your quarterback spent on his back looking up from the turf last season. Or, since your team has so many needs, do you try trade down, adding to the 10 picks you carry into this year’s draft?
For Quinn, who spent 16 seasons with the New England Patriots before coming to Detroit in an off-season of sweeping front-office changes for the beleaguered franchise, all those options are on the table.
The draft starts tonight with the first round tonight, 8 p.m., in Chicago. It continues with Rounds 2-3 Friday, starting at 7 p.m., and concludes Saturday, with Rounds 4-7 beginning at noon.
During a news conference ahead of the draft, Quinn said he was confident about improving the Lions across the board considering the depth in this draft.
“With our 10 selections, we’ll be able to improve our team in the areas of offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “Obviously, you want to hit on all your picks. . . we have 10 picks today. We may have 10 picks at the end of the draft, we may have more, we may have less. We’ll see how it goes.”
There are four prominent offensive linemen in this draft. According the experts, any of them could step in and help protect Matthew Stafford, who was sacked 44 times last year
and endured too many more hits and hurries last season. An O-lineman would also help a running game that finished dead last among the league’s 32 teams.
Quinn believes offensive linemen are a premium for every team every year. Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers tend to rack up the stats and get all the headlines, but if the offensive line isn’t doing its job, those guys don’t survive long enough to compile the stats.
That’s why guys like Jake Long (Michigan, 2008) Eric Fisher (Central Michigan, 2013) were first-overall selections. They’re the insurance to protect the other high-priced assets. And there is no better insurance than dominant left tackle, whose primary job it is to protect the quarterback’s blind side.
“Those guys are hard to find, just by their height and weight,” Quinn said. “How many 6-7, 6-5, 320-pound guys are walking around Earth? Not that many, right? How many guys are there in college football that play that position at a high level? Really, when you look at it, there’s many more skill players, receivers, corners and running backs walking around than there are (offensive linemen) who can move their feet. So it’s just supply and demand.”
According to those with little else to do by throw darts at a board to create those meaningless mock drafts, the Lions probably need to get a little lucky to have either Michigan State’s Jack Conklin or Ohio State’s Taylor Decker fall to them. Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil is likely to be the third player selected after the first two teams – the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles – select quarterbacks. The fourth OL, Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley, could go as high as No. 7 to San Francisco.
If the Lions miss out on those four, they’re likely to draft a couple of interior linemen in the later rounds. Quinn still likes the depth at that position in this draft. Instead, he could spend the No. 16 overall pick on a defensive end like Clemson’s Shaq Lawson – a bit on the small side for a DE at just under 6-3, but still highly effective, with 25 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks, the most in Division I last season.
But many projections say Lawson could be long gone, too, by the time the Lions are on the clock.
If Quinn does decide to trade down to add a pick or two to his weekend arsenal, keep an eye on Laquon Treadwell, out of Mississippi. While not a speed demon, he’s still the highest-rated receiver on the board and expected to go in the early to mid-20s.
Quinn’s job is to somehow merge the Lions’ many needs with the best players available when the Lions get their pick – it’s a balancing act that, in the end, cost his predecessor Martin Mahew his job after too many sub-par performances at the draft table.
“The draft is very important,” Quinn said. “It’s the lifeline of your team. You have to do well in the draft, but it’s just one avenue to acquire players. You’ve got free agency.
You’ve got cut-downs, you’ve got waiver wires, trades. There are multiple avenues to acquire players. Is the draft the most important one? Probably, but not the only one.”
Bob Quinn is right, there are multiple avenues to build a team but with the horrible draft history the Lions have, Quinn can go a long way to gain the confidence of the skeptical Lions faithful by hitting on a number of the 10 picks they have over these next 3 important days.