The time has come. It’s draft day. At some point today, the Detroit Lions will bring a new player into the fold, the first of new general manager Bob Quinn’s tenure, the pick that will define his tenure. No pressure, though, right? This has been a crazy draft period where we’ve had huge, blockbuster trades involving top picks and rumors floating about nearly every player at every possible pick in the first few rounds. Most of my work during this period has been data driven, but I’m going to cut loose with some draft observations that affect the Detroit Lions based on what I believe may happen on one of the craziest nights in football.
Detroit Lions Shopping from Picks 12-25
No one truly knows what Bob Quinn will do, and though many point to his time with the Patriots as proof that he’s going to be looking to trade that isn’t the reason he will. Martin Mayhew was a middling GM, but he was always shopping, too. The 2016 NFL draft is a weak one, but even so I believe that Quinn will be looking at the possibility of drafting up a few picks. I don’t think he will pull the trigger, as I think he’s looking at that option only as a ‘best case’ draft scenario if one of the best talents slides. Lacking a 3rd round pick to trade, I don’t think more than 4 picks is realistic, and even then it’s not likely. A trade down is more possible, but you still have to have a trade partner and a player available worth trading up for, both of which are not easy to find. If the Detroit Lions stand pat at 16, it won’t be for lack of trying.
Fan Favorites Vs. Team Swooning
Since the talent in this draft is so spread out (little difference between 15th overall and 35th), there are a lot of players that have been linked to the 16th overall pick. Several fan favorites have emerged such as Andrew Billings out of Baylor, Reggie Ragland from Alabama, and Michigan State’s own Jack Conklin. I could probably throw in Kevin Dodd, the DE from Clemson, and even Ohio State’s Taylor Decker. Some of those guys may be gone by the time the Detroit Lions are on the clock, but let’s say for sake of argument they are all there. I’ve become fairly confident that none of them will be the pick. With that glut of talent (though you may disagree with a few), won’t faze the Lions in sticking to their board and I feel they’ve got that board fleshed out enough that they have each of them ranked lower than several of ‘their guys’. As it is, I believe those guys to be Vernon Butler, the defensive tackle from Louisiana Tech and the most recent quick riser, Ryan Kelly, Center from Alabama. Ideally, the team would like to trade down, believing that one or both will still be there a few picks later, but if they fail to trade down I think one of them are still the pick.
Lions Will Draft a Safety in the 2nd
This isn’t really a shocking revelation as it is the Detroit Lions’ biggest draft need. They have looked at no less than 14 defensive backs, most of whom are safeties. Even further, two of the 3 linebackers they’ve looked at are potential hybrid types. So who do they pick? My personal guess would be Boston College’s Justin Simmons. I know some outlets have him ranked lower, in fact our own Jeff Risdon pegged Simmons a round later in the 3rd. My opinion is that he’s their guy and they’re going to make sure they get him, only way to do that is by making absolutely sure you can. Would a move down in the 2nd round be possible? It’s surely more possible than a move down in the 1st, but that’s who I think the pick is. If not him, it could be Su’a Cravens out of USC, who profiles in both play and athleticism like Thomas Davis and Cato June. It’s a pick I didn’t like at first (his RAS is below average, AAARGHMATH!!!), but the more I researched players like him I grew fond of it. For Teryl Austin’s defense, you can bet it will be a strong safety type who can either cover in the nickel OR play linebacker against the run.
Lions Will Trade AT LEAST one player
It has been no secret that the Detroit Lions are moving on from Stephen Tulloch. What has been kept secret is why in the blue blazes is he still on the roster? There is no rush to cut him, as it is unlikely he would be signed by any team before the draft anyway. Much like Jason Jones, teams are banking some players will still be on the market and don’t want them counting against the comp pick formula. A trade would also help Tulloch, since he’ll get paid more. Still, someone would have to pony up a late round pick for him. Maybe even a conditional, late round, future pick. Something is better than nothing. Tulloch isn’t the only player I think could be on the block, though. Shaq Lawson, the talented defensive end from Clemson, impressed the most important person on the Detroit Lions he could have, Kris Kocurek. If Kocurek is pounding the table for Lawson at 16 (and he’s there), he could be the pick. While the Lions would probably like to keep him around, you can bet there would be a ton of interest for versatile, athletic defensive end Devin Taylor. It isn’t something I’d be personally happy to see, but it’s a possibility. Another possibility is embattled linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Allegedly, he has the short track to the Sam linebacker spot, but if the team isn’t convinced he can hold onto it, they could be shopping the former 2nd round pick who might benefit from the change of scenery. Caraun Reid is loved by his coaches, but with back to back hyped up but disappointing seasons, and no ties to the present front office, he may be moved as well. And hey, can anyone truly say for certain that Tim Wright won’t see himself traded for the 11th time?
Lions Will Trade FOR a Player
The team acquired Manny Ramirez as part of their move back in the 1st round of the 2015 draft, and I think Bob Quinn will be similarly scouring opposing teams’ rosters to find someone he thinks he can nab for a bargain. Despite the underwhelming signings of Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush, if the Detroit Lions are unable to find a starting safety in the 2nd round like they hope to I feel they will use a mid round pick trying to find a more talented option to pair with Glover Quin. This player probably won’t be a starter to be excited for, but rather a better stop-gap option than what they presently have on the roster. It’s also possible that the team could be looking to find an actual, starting caliber player by using either their 2nd round pick or a combination of their 4th rounder and a higher pick in 2017. Disgruntled Miami Dolphins safety Reshad Jones is a target I feel they’d consider, though a new contract would likely be a requirement to keep him happy. I wouldn’t count out a late rounder or two being spent to acquire some depth for the defensive line if the team ends up rolling with Devin Taylor for closed end in 2016.
The QB They Draft Will Not Be a Developmental Starter
That seems like an odd thing to say, doesn’t it? I’ve been mulling this idea around for weeks, after it first being discussed with Mike Rothstein at ESPN. We always like to think of a backup QB as being someone you can groom to replace your QB should they go down, or to flip for a higher pick somewhere down the line. But what if that isn’t the point at all? What if the point of a backup QB is to simply do the game day duties that backups always do, watching the defenses and providing input to the starter between drives, acting as a second set of eyes? What if that’s the point, and the idea of them actually stepping in to play or even be developed to do so long-term is not? It’s not as crazy as it sounds when you dig into it. Just look at who the Detroit Lions have been looking at for potential backups:
Kevin Hogan: A smart, cerebral player with horrible mechanics
Blake Frohnapfel: A smart player with good football intelligence but poor mechanics, arm strength, and accuracy
Jake Rudock: A smart, quick learning QB who swiftly picked up 2 different pro style offenses but has bad mechanics and poor arm strength
Cody Kessler: Tons of experience, but undersized with a weak arm and accuracy
These aren’t the type of guys you’re going to hand the keys to even in the short-term confidently. These are, however, the type of guys you want on your team if you’re looking for someone who can learn an offense completely, adapt to a changing flow of the game, and provide insight on how to adjust your present offensive calling during game day situations. The quarterback the Detroit Lions draft will not be a good fill in if Stafford goes down. They will be a good option to keep on the roster to help Matthew Stafford all the other times he isn’t.