We’ve covered the defensive needs in depth, and with every position demanding some kind of attention I thought I’d kick off the offense a little lighter. The quarterback position isn’t one the Detroit Lions need to put much thought into coming into 2017, but that doesn’t mean it will be ignored altogether. General manager Bob Quinn has said that it’s good football business to draft a quarterback every season, and while they picked up a young Jake Rudock out of Michigan in the late rounds last year, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see another pick spent on a QB.
Under Contract 2017: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock
Pending Free Agents: Dan Orlovsky
Not much going on in terms of team stability. Matthew Stafford’s confidant and repeat backup, Dan Orlovsky, is poised to leave in free agency and most signs point to that being more certain than not. Jake Rudock was only drafted a year ago and while his rookie contract is no longer the long-term deal it was since he was cut, he was re-signed to the practice squad and eventually elevated to the active roster so he is under contract for at least 2017. The only big ticket item for the present roster makeup is whether or not Matthew Stafford receives the extension he is likely due.
Free Agents Available
Case Keenum, E.J. Manuel, Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, Kellen Moore
I’m assuming, of course, that the team would only look in FA to find a veteran backup for Stafford, so I’m ignoring players like Kirk Cousins who is unlikely to leave or sign as a backup. I’m also assuming a certain age range, as it doesn’t seem likely the team would find a 30+ year old vet to just take up space, instead looking at the 23-28 range to pick up someone who may still have potential. The market isn’t great whether you’re looking for an Orlovsky type who has little on-field value but is important between plays or if you’re looking for a developmental guy who maybe had a raw deal like Geno Smith or E.J. Manuel. With the market as poor as it is, I’m not certain they’d go this route, but I haven’t ruled it out since it’s also possible they go four deep in training camp.
Cooper Rush, Zach Terrell, Josh Dobbs, Antonio Pipkin, Alek Torgersen, Austin Appleby
There’s a lot of interesting late-round options in this year’s draft at quarterback, much more so than last season’s class that somehow saw fifteen QBs find a draft slot. Michigan products Cooper Rush (Central Michigan) and Zach Terrell (Western Michigan) are both intriguing prospects to bring in due to their accuracy in college (both career percentages above 60 percent) and experience (both are four-year seniors), as well as being local. Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs has a lot of work to put in before he’d ever see an NFL field, but he’s an interesting athlete with enough positive traits to develop. Alek Torgersen out of Penn was the first name added to my Rothstein Scale for backup QBs (I went into brief detail about that last season) as an Ivy League champion and scholar athlete. It doesn’t hurt that he completed less than 60 percent of his passes only twice last season (his first two games) and only five times in his four year career. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Torgersen has the size you want at the position, too. If you can’t tell, he’s my favorite to be a surprise late=round pick by the Lions, but the cat may be out of the bag at this point. He’s drawing tremendous praise at the East-West Shrine Game, both for his top tier arm strength and in interviews (which matters the most for my scale).
It’s also possible the team goes the undrafted route. Austin Appleby of Florida (formerly of Purdue) has great size at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. Antonio Pipkin is our yearly ‘small school QB who suddenly gets hype,’ but I don’t expect him to be drafted higher than the sixth, and he’s likely to go undrafted. Any of these guys could be used to challenge Jake Rudock in training camp, and only Dobbs is rated lower by my comparison to where Rudock was at this point last year.
Level of Need
Relatively low. The team doesn’t even really need to bring in a quarterback, though they undoubtedly will want another one for training camp due to how the practices are structured. When it became possible that Jake Rudock could be poached by the rival Chicago Bears, the Lions were quick to bring him up to the regular roster to protect his spot, so they clearly like where Rudock is in his development. Still, Rudock was unable to beat Dan Orlovsky in preseason and was often criticized for being behind schedule early in the year. Another young option who could unseat Rudock or push for a practice squad spot is not only possible, but probable in 2017.
Previously covered needs: