There’s proof of concept we’ve just seen, and the Detroit Lions take their shot at a quarterback with upside in Pro Football Focus’ latest 2023 mock draft.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles just competed in Super Bowl LVII. They’ve both generally been good teams in the last handful-plus years. When they drafted Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts respectively, in 2017 and 2020, they could have been content with the quarterbacks they had (Alex Smith and Carson Wentz).
But both recognized the opportunity to raise their ceiling to a Super Bowl-winning level, and took it. There’s a lesson there for plenty of other teams to heed, including the Detroit Lions.
Jared Goff is locked in as the Lions’ starting quarterback for next season, but 2024 is an open question. The ceiling with Goff is limited, as the Rams found out. Playoff berths are nice, and the Lions may get there next season. But Goff is not going to win a Super Bowl in this day and age (so park your, “Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl” stuff).
Detroit Lions take their shot on a quarterback with upside in PFF mock draft
Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner put out a post-Super Bowl mock draft on Monday. The Lions go with a player who’s becoming mock draft chalk at No. 6 overall.
"6. DETROIT LIONS (VIA RAMS): CB DEVON WITHERSPOON, ILLINOISHead coach Dan Campbell is going to take one look at Witherspoon’s tape and demand he be a Detroit Lion. Witherspoon is the feistiest cornerback in the draft, and he got after it in press coverage last season. He allowed only one yard from a press alignment all year. The Lions ran the fourth-most press snaps on defense last season, meaning Witherspoon should feel at home right away."
At No. 18, that’s where it gets more interesting.
"18. DETROIT LIONS: QB ANTHONY RICHARDSON, FLORIDAThe first round couldn’t shake out too much better for Detroit if this is how it goes. They get a defensive cornerstone with their first pick and a special developmental prospect to be the quarterback of the future with their second. Oh, and Richardson is so special athletically that offensive coordinator Ben Johnson can get him involved in certain packages without him being the starter."
Richardson is not ready to start in the NFL right away, with just one full season as the starter at Florida (and a sub-54 percent completion rate last season). The Lions don’t need him to start right away. But his athletic tools, as Renner hinted, may make him useful in some situations immediately while he learns behind Goff.
I saw a quote recently that may apply here for the Lions, from writer/poet William Butler Yeats.
“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”
The idea of drafting a quarterback this year, let alone in the first round, is a non-starter for some Lions fans. But those fans are used to low expectations, and being resigned to failure.
A quarterback upgrade will be necessary at some point if the Lions are going to legitimately compete for a Super Bowl. The first round of this draft might be the time to strike, and heat that iron up.