Will the Detroit Lions take a quarterback in April or will they continue on with Jared Goff? It’s a debate in which I’ve spent some time on both sides of. Initially, I was simply all about seeing where things go with Jared Goff. While I’m still on that side of the fence, I have my other leg over the fence and planted on the side that’s really intrigued by Liberty’s Malik Willis. This is a very uncomfortable position to be standing, in by the way. Maybe the fence was a bad idea.
It’s long been believed that this year’s draft class was short on quarterback talent. I always took that as meaning there are no potential superstars, but just guys with “average NFL quarterback” ceilings. It turns out this is beginning to look more like an E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith type of draft. The type of draft where the quarterbacks aren’t high in value and teams can afford to wait until Day 2 to draft one.
Matt Corral was at one point the lead dog, but after suffering an ankle injury in the Sugar Bowl, his value seems to have dropped. Kenny Pickett reportedly has the smallest hands in draft history. Sam Howell had a rough 2021 season after losing a lot of talent around him. Carson Strong has has health concerns about his knee, and Desmond Ridder’s arm strength doesn’t seem to be there in a world where the deep ball is becoming more important.
Wills sticks out among the rest. There’s a ceiling there for him that seems to be pretty high. That ceiling—plus a pretty good week in Alabama for the Senior Bowl—has moved him apart from his counterparts and up into the top-10 conversation, in my opinion.
So if you’re the Lions, what do you do? You don’t really need a quarterback that badly right now. At the same time, if you have a shot at the best guy on the board, you have good situation in Detroit where you can sit him and let Goff play out the year while he develops.
Taking Willis at two seems too high. It doesn’t make sense to pass one the draft’s top two pass rushers for a quarterback who will likely have to sit a year if you have the second pick. If the Lions trade down from two and stay in the top 10, it makes a little bit more sense to shoot your shot with Willis. I’ve already made that argument here.
Now that we have that thought out of the way, let’s jump to another crucial one. If the Lions don’t take Mailk Willis is this year’s draft, should they take a quarterback at all? Last week, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah answered that with a conclusive, “NO!”
Daniel Jeremiah repeating something I've been saying about this QB class, which is it doesn't make sense to draft a guy whose ceiling is Goff, which is a lot of these QBs not named Malik. "If your ultimate upside is Jared Goff, well, you've already got him. Don't waste the pick."— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) February 25, 2022
That really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? If nearly everyone can agree that Jared Goff isn’t good enough, then why would you want to draft a quarterback who will only ever be as good as the one you’re currently thinking about replacing?
The Lions should not take a quarterback at all in 2022 if they miss on Willis, even if they don’t have to use the No. 2 pick on him.
But if the Lions kick the can down the road at quarterback, where will that leave them?
Jared Goff is currently under contract through 2024, but they could realistically move on from him with a tolerable dead cap number after the 2022 season. This upcoming season would be the perfect situation to install their future quarterback under Goff, as Ryan Mathews outlined here. However, no need to force it if the player is not there.
But if the Lions miss out on Willis and pass on everyone else, do they still drop Goff after 2022 if he doesn’t play well? If that’s the case, the Lions could have themselves in a predicament early on in their rebuild. They’ll have no choice but to find themselves a new quarterback, and you never really want to be locked into a need like that.
The good news is that we still don't really know what Jared Goff can do after his first season with the Lions. Last season was a tale of two halves with polar opposite results. With that in mind, it seems like the better gamble for the Lions would be to see where this Goff thing goes and use their assets to build around him.