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The Detroit Lions need to avoid drafting a quarterback in 2021

The Lions must stay away from quarterbacks in the first round.

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have a chance to something special right now. With Matthew Stafford gone, and just about everyone else along with him, the Lions find themselves in the perfect position to rebuild in a completely different way.

For years, most teams have operated under the same old form. Let’s go out and draft a quarterback in the first round and build around him. Sometimes it works, but more often than not, it fails hard. Recent history shows that this form is dying on the vine frequently and at an accelerated rate.

First round quarterbacks 2010-2019

Year Team Quarterback Pick Years with team Games started Still with team? GM Result with QB
Year Team Quarterback Pick Years with team Games started Still with team? GM Result with QB
2010 Rams Sam Bradford 1 5 49 No Fired after 1 season
2010 Broncos Tim Tebow 25 2 14 No Fired after 2 seasons
2011 Panthers Cam Newton 1 9 124 No Fired in 2020
2011 Titans Jake Locker 8 4 23 No Fired after 1 season
2011 Jaguars Blaine Gabbert 10 3 27 No Fired after 1 season
2011 Vikings Christian Ponder 12 4 36 No Still with team
2012 Colts Andrew Luck 1 6 86 No Fired after 5 seasons
2012 Football Team Robert Griffen III 2 3 35 No Fired after 2 seasons
2012 Dolphins Ryan Tannehill 8 7 88 No Fired after 2 season
2012 Browns Brandon Weeden 22 2 20 No Fired after 1 season
2013 Bills EJ Manuel 16 4 17 No Fired after 3 seasons
2014 Jaguars Blake Bortles 3 5 73 No Fired in 2020
2014 Browns Johnny Manziel 22 2 8 No Fired after 2 seasons
2014 Vikings Teddy Bridgewater 32 3 28 No Still with team
2015 Buccaneers Jameis Winston 1 5 70 No Still with team
2015 Titans Marcus Mariotta 2 5 61 No Fired after 1 season
2016 Rams Jared Goff 1 5 69 No Still with team
2016 Eagles Carson Wentz 2 5 68 No Still with team
2016 Broncos Paxton Lynch 22 2 4 No Still with team
2017 Bears Mitchell Trubisky 2 4 50 No Still with team
2017 Chiefs Patrick Mahomes 10 4 46 Yes Still with team
2017 Texans Deshaun Watson 12 4 53 Yes Fired in 2020
2018 Browns Baker Mayfield 1 3 45 Yes Fired after 2 seasons
2018 Jets Sam Darnold 3 3 38 No Fired after 1 season
2018 Bills Josh Allen 7 3 43 Yes Still with team
2018 Cardinals Josh Rosen 10 1 13 No Still with team
2018 Ravens Lamar Jackson 32 3 37 Yes Still with team
2019 Cardinals Kyler Murray 1 2 32 Yes Still with team
2019 Giants Daniel Jones 6 2 26 Yes Still with team
2019 Football Team Dwayne Haskins 15 2 13 No Fired after 1 season

It’s hard to look at that chart and still feel like this is the most viable way to build a team. Out of 30 first-round quarterbacks drafted from 2010 to 2019, only seven still remain with the team that drafted them. On top of that, several general managers were fired shortly after drafting a quarterback, and there are even a couple of teams that appear on this list twice. Some of those teams, like the Jaguars and Jets, are now back in the same position again looking to draft a quarterback with a different GM.

So why do it? We’ve often heard things like “the draft is a crapshoot.” It’s really all about the luck of the draw. It’s like a going to a casino and sitting at a certain table because your friend won big there. Just because you sit at that table doesn’t mean you’re going to win. Even if you do the same exact thing your friend did. The next thing you know, you’re the Jaguars and you’re on your third ATM stop.

It seems counterproductive to draft a guy that might not work out and then draft and sign players to complement that player. When it doesn’t work out, you find yourself in the position that teams that are often in the top of the draft keep finding themselves in. Another rebuild with another quarterback. It just seems archaic at this point.

What the Lions should be doing is something I’ve spoke about here before. GM Brad Holmes and company should be building a team that’s built for a quarterback and not around one. Because, quite frankly, it would be nice to be a quarterback away instead of a roster away. The Lions have been a roster away for some time now.

Look at that list above. There’s something else to note there. While there are teams that are now going into full rebuilds, there are also teams like the Bears, Titans, Bucs and the Rams that were or are the right quarterback away from contending for championships. As much as we make fun of the Bears around here, they were a playoff team last year. They’ll probably be one again with Andy Dalton. It’s not going to be because of Dalton. It’s going to be because the Bears have spent years building a roster. They crawled before they walked. Man wouldn’t it be sweet to do some crawling around here?

The Rams are another great example. Yes it’s true the Lions now have the quarterback that the Rams couldn’t go all the way with, but the Rams still went pretty far with said quarterback. They made it to the Super Bowl. It’s not solely because of Goff. It’s because they built a team. Now the Rams have made the necessary upgrade with Matthew Stafford and there’s a good chance they could win it all in 2021.

The Lions have a chance to do that same thing. Jared Goff doesn’t have to be the forever answer here, and he probably won’t be. The Lions shouldn’t be building around him. They should be using all their assets to build a team that they can slot in the quarterback they feel can be best utilized within their system once the team is built. If it winds up being Goff, that’s just a bonus.

The Lions have at least three years with a quarterback that’s good enough to help them crawl towards what they want to do. Which is walk. There’s a reason guys like Brad Holmes and Ray Agnew are here. They have experience building teams that can compete.

For as much as everyone wants to bring up John Dorsey drafting the likes of Patrick Mahomes, you have to pay attention to a lot of his other picks like Eric Fisher, Travis Kelce, Dee Ford, Marcus Peters, Chris Jones and Tyreek Hill. All were drafted before the Chiefs picked Mahomes. The Chiefs were a great team that just needed the right quarterback and they found their guy. It paid off in spades. His drafts in Cleveland show that same theory.

Drafting a quarterback at seven takes a rebuild and makes it all about one player, even if the plan is to sit that quarterback until the team is competitive. But that also seems counterproductive. If you’re building a team that’s competitive without your first round quarterback, what was the point of drafting that quarterback?

It just seems as though the Lions have an opportunity to nail one of the best receivers or maybe one of the best tight ends the draft has seen in a while and they should do that. They may even have the opportunity to trade down in some circumstances and still walk out with a great receiver and more players that can contribute. There will be other drafts with quarterbacks as good or even better than these ones down the road. This isn't the last class to feature quarterbacks that everyone swears will be legit. They happen every year. Hopefully Brad Holmes and company know that. Judging from their pasts, they do.