Rebuilding Detroit Lions appear to be kicking QB decision to future
Free Press sports reporter Dave Birkett takes a look at the Detroit Lions’ best prospects and greatest needs in the 2021 NFL Draft. This is the fifth in an eight-part series.
The Lions are in a strange position with Quarterback. You are clearly in the early stages of rebuilding and have a top 10 pick (for the third year in a row) on a deep quarterback draft, but don’t seem inclined to take the position after trading with Jared Goff and signing up by Tim Boyle to address free agency. It is possible that they are keeping the extent of their quarterback interest under wraps, but it seems more likely that the real decision will be made with the quarterback – Goff or someone else – down the street.
The Lions bought cheap from Goff, who will only turn 27 in October and played in a Super Bowl 27 months ago. He likely has a two year window to prove he can be the long-term starter in Detroit after the Lions restructured his contract for cap purposes. Goff is unaware of Matthew Stafford’s poor talent, and his time at the Los Angeles Rams was doomed by his relationship coach, Sean McVay. But the former number 1 overall is at least one viable bridge quarterback that the organization could hope to be a little more.
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Boyle was a camp star with the Green Bay Packers two years ago, though that organization didn’t believe in his future enough to take over Jordan Love in the first round as Aaron Rodgers’ heir last spring. David Blough will fight for the backup job but looks more like number 3 after the Lions’ off-season maneuvers. If the Lions don’t hand out a first-round selection for the position, there is no reason for them to pick a young quarterback in the first place.
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On the roster:: QB: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle and David Blough.
Top 3 QB perspectives:: 1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson; 2. Justin Fields, State of Ohio; 3. Zach Wilson, BYU.
Other players with Michigan ties:: None.
Day 3 sleeper:: Sam Ehlinger, Texas.
Current draft Lions selection at QB:: 2020-None. 2019-None. 2018-None. 2017 Brad Kaaya (6th round). 2016-Jake Rudock (6th round).
Lawrence is the kind of once-in-a-generation perspective, just like Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and John Elway. He has been the putative number 1 on that draft since he led Clemson to a national championship as a true freshman. Four more quarterbacks are considered potential top 10 picks, each with their own warts and risks.
I included Field # 2 in my ranking for its dual threat ability and track record. He started two seasons in the state of Ohio and played well in big games even though the teams have taken his mechanics apart. Wilson, the alleged number 2 draft, had a phenomenal year at BYU after struggling with injuries for most of the 2019 season, but like Trey Lance of North Dakota, he held up against inferior competition. He’s a tad ahead of Lance on my list because he’s deep in the ball.
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Lance has more advantages than anyone in this class outside of Lawrence, but he’s a year away from being an NFL starter and needs to go to a team that will develop him the right way. At just 20, he started his career 17 times, one in 2020 after NDSU moved the fall season to spring. He threw a career interception and ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns while leading the bison to a national title in 2019.
Alabama’s Mac Jones is a more polished passer-by than Lance, despite having made 17 college starts too. The expected number 3 in San Francisco, Jones is less of an athlete than Fields, Wilson and Lance, but gets high marks for the way he handles information on the field. Florida’s Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond from Texas A&M and Davis Mills from Stanford are possible picks for Day 2, but the position quickly thins after the top flight.
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Contact Dave Birkett at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.