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10 takeaways from Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn’s pre-draft press conference

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A look at the biggest points from Quinn’s pre-draft presser.

NFL Combine - Day 2

On Friday morning, Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn met with several members of the Detroit media on a zoom conference call for his annual pre-draft press conference. Topics ranged from how the COVID-19 virus has impacted him and his family, to the Darius Slay trade to potentially trading out of the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Quinn went nearly an hour with his conference, so here’s a quick recap of the 10 most important takeaways from the Lions general manager.

1. Quinn is confident in his virtual war room setup

Earlier this week, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was teased a bit online for his, let’s say “simplistic,” office setup.

Quinn didn’t show his setup to the Lions media, but he did break down what he’s got in front of him.

As for the virtual war room on draft day, Quinn said he’ll have 8-to-10 high-ranking members on a video conference while another call will be going on with everyone else that is normally in the physical war room.

He also says they’re protected in case of any internet, technology issues.

“We’ll have redundancies on everything,” Quinn said. “We’ll have at my house and coach Patricia’s house, we’ll have redundancies for internet, redundancies for power, redundancies for phones. So I would say our IT department, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, they’ve done an outstanding job of setting us up.”

2. Trade talks have occured... but they always do

Quinn admitted trade talks regarding their third overall pick started as far back as the NFL Combine and have occurred more frequently in recent weeks.

“We’re doing our normal pre-draft calls, like we do every year,” Quinn said. “We call every team in the league, see what they’re thinking. Obviously, I’ll handle the calls (with teams) that are a little bit closer to our pick, especially this year, since we’re drafting at three.”

But Quinn believes with the entire draft being virtual, the team will have a pretty good idea by the time the draft starts whether they will be moving the pick or not. That being said, he refused to say whether there was already an offer on the table or not.

“I never go into conversations I have with other teams.”

3. Ideally, Quinn doesn’t want to trade out of top seven(ish)

Back at the NFL Combine, Quinn said that he believed the top-tier of talent was around seven players deep in this draft class. When asked on Friday if he could see a scenario in which the Lions traded out of that top tier, here’s how Quinn answered:

“I could see a scenario, yes, but ideally, no.”

Sorry, Raiders fans wanting to upgrade at quarterback.

4. Quinn views the Senior Bowl as a big advantage

Because of the full NFL shutdown of facilities, individual meetings with NFL draft prospects were impossible. And while that is an equal disadvantage for the entire league, Detroit has a leg up on some other teams, seeing as they coached the entire North squad of the Senior Bowl back in January for a full week. Quinn explained why that gave Detroit such an advantage this offseason.

“In hindsight, it was a great benefit to us,” Quinn said. “I would say the majority of the players that were on our team at the Senior Bowl, I think we were comfortable with the evaluation of the player and the person and the character fit and the culture fit and the mental football capacities.”

And because they were confident in their scouting abilities there, it allowed them to spend the rest of the offseason resources on other players.

“I remember distinctly saying, ‘Hey, we spent time with all these guys on our team at the Senior Bowl, so unless we really have a question we need to answer, let’s use our resources elsewhere and go see other players.’”

5. Darius Slay trade appeared to be financially based

Quinn didn’t go into a lot of detail about the Slay trade. He noted that Slay is a very talented player and that it wasn’t an easy decision, but ultimately, the finances appeared to be the breaking point.

“Just with the parameters of what was going on with his contract and some of the things about the future, what the needs were from his end of things, and we thought the best thing to do was to move that, get the draft compensation and go out in free agency. Obviously, we added a couple of corners.”

6. Quinn thinks the defense has improved at all levels

Despite moving on from players like Slay, Damon Harrison Sr., and Devon Kennard, Quinn appears to be confident in the moves they made on defense—which was a focus in free agency.

“To say that the defense was a priority is correct,” Quinn said. “We feel like we upgraded at really each position group—I think we’ve added somebody or multiple players.”

Quinn also noted how grabbing players familiar with their defensive scheme was a specific strategy, knowing that the offseason schedule could be abbreviated due to the coronavirus.

“Some of the defensive players we picked up in free agency that had familiarity with our system made the most sense for us, because we didn’t know if we were going to have an offseason program,” Quinn said. “We just knew that something was really different about this offseason.”

7. The Lions don’t use the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart on draft day

A lot of times when analysts are trying to break down the value of draft pick trades, they use a chart developed by former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson in the 1980-90s. However, Quinn said that the chart has become outdated and they use their own value chart.

“We use our own. I think (Johnson’s chart) has been updated over and over again since that one came out. With the new rookie wage scale that came out a few years ago, that kind of threw a wrinkle into all the old trade charts,” Quinn said.

For reference, Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit developed a trade value chart with the rookie wage scale in mind. It’s unclear if the Lions use some variaton of that.

8. Don’t write Halapoulivaati Vaitai in as the starting RT quite yet

When discussing the state of the offensive line, Quinn left Vaitai’s position very much up for grabs. Though Vaitai spent almost his entire career with the Eagles at the tackle position, he was getting offseason reps at guard last year, and it’s clear Quinn believes he can play both positions well.

“Does he have the ability to play right tackle? Absolutely. Can he go inside and play guard at a high level? We think he can. That’s one of the reasons why he was a target for us.”

Where Vaitai ends up playing, Quinn says, could be dependent on the future moves this team makes, including in next week’s draft.

“Depending on what happens in the draft and the rest of free agency, we feel like we could plug him in either spot,” Quinn said. “Obviously he has more experience at tackle. This guy played left tackle in the Super Bowl. He’s played a bunch of games at tackle behind two outstanding tackles at the Eagles. So he has versatility to play both. So we’ll see how the roster shapes up here in another three, four weeks.”

9. Bob Quinn likes this cornerback class, and could take one early

Cornerbacks aren’t typically taken in the top five of the draft, but Quinn said he isn’t sure why.

“I think it’s a position that’s obviously critical and has high value in the league,” Quinn said. “When you look at corners, basically you have three corners that are starters in professional football now.”

And when it comes to this year’s draft class, Quinn sees both high-value players and a deep class.

“I think there’s a number of players this year that are really, really high-quality corners,” Quinn said. “I think it’s a deep class that you can get great value later on in the draft, too, for guys that can come in and contribute right away.”

10. The NFL hasn’t made clear if there will be a 2020 season yet

When asked to give his best guess, Bob Quinn said he believes there will be a 2020 NFL season, but he also made it clear that the NFL has not communicated with teams that there will be one for certain.

“That’s something that we’re waiting for the league to tell us about as we get further down the road.”