The annual owners meetings are a gathering of NFL owners, team presidents, general managers, and coaches from across the league, but it’s typically not a hotbed of information, as most of the focus centers around potential rules changes. This year, things couldn’t be more different, as the Detroit Lions have been at the center of attention, after being selected for the 2022 season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and winning their bid to host the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit.
Beyond the national headlines, the members of the Lions organization in attendance talked with the media and were very open about things on the horizon. Principle owner Shelia Hamp talked about how she hoped landing the draft would help change the perspective for Detroit. Team president Rod Wood addressed attendance issues and provided updates on potential uniform alterations (possibly coming in 2023). General manager Brad Holmes explained his offseason strategy of re-signing players, acknowledged he was having preliminary trade possibility discussions, and noted that they were considering contract extensions for T.J. Hockenson and Amani Oruwariye.
But one of the most interesting storylines centers around the Lions' quarterback situation. On Tuesday, Holmes had a lengthy discussion with the media surrounding the Lions’ starting quarterback Jared Goff and some possibilities for the future.
“Well, Jared played good football for us late in the year so we have a lot of optimism about Jared going forward so we have a quarterback,” Holmes said in response to not getting involved in the offseason quarterback carousel of trades this offseason. “If you’re asking like why did not we not kind of hop into that world, we’re happy with where Jared’s at right now. We’re looking forward to him having a productive year for us.”
Holmes would go on to say that he believed that Goff could be “a starter that can be productive for us”, and the plan was to “make sure that he’s put in the best position to succeed” because with “the continuity we have coming back with not only the receivers but the coaching staff, offensive line, we’re very confident in Jared and what he can do.”
Holmes doubling down on Goff for this season isn’t surprising because that has always seemed like the plan, but the Lions are in a unique position to land a potential quarterback of the future, and that’s why it’s also not surprising that they have been doing their homework on this years‘s quarterback class.
“I’ve talked to Mark Brunnel, the (Lions’) quarterback coach who was on that pro day tour that I was on starting at Pittsburgh with Kenny Pickett,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said on the latest episode of the First Draft podcast, “then going to Lynchburg for Liberty’s pro day with Malik Willis and Matt Corral when I talked to him at Ole Miss last Wednesday. He said, ‘I’ve been to every one, I’m going to Desmond Ridder on Thursday. I’ll be at Sam Howell next Monday.’ So they’re doing their due diligence. He missed the Malik Willis one because he had a prior obligation, and, most importantly, they coached him at the Senior Bowl. So they know Malik as well, if not better, than any other quarterback in this class.”
Willis, Corral, Pickett, Ridder, and Howell are almost universally considered the top-five quarterbacks in this class (though the order they are ranked is anything but consistent), and with the Lions holding a very valuable No. 2 overall pick, it’s smart business to know every aspect of the best players at the position in this years class.
So, is quarterback in the mix with the Lions' No. 2 pick?
“I would say this at the No. 2 pick, there’s multiple players at multiple positions that if we turn the card in today we could turn that card in today and sleep well at night,” Holmes explained. “That’s a testament to everybody in our building, our personnel department. We’re so far ahead in the process. Our scouts. And there’s still some pro days left and all that. I don’t think pro days define a player, so we’ve done enough work where there’s multiple positions where we could turn it in and sleep good at night.”
When asked to clarify if quarterback was one of those positions being considered, Holmes reiterated: “there’s multiple positions.”
This draft class’ quarterback class isn’t as developed as typical draft classes, and most of the players listed above would likely need at least a year to improve their game before they’d be ready to take over a starting role. And if the Lions were to draft a quarterback, Holmes doesn't believe it would be a problem for team dynamics.
“Sure, I could see some advantage if there is a young quarterback that can learn under Jared,” Holmes continued. “I don’t think Jared would have any issues taking on that role. He’s had more younger guys with less experience behind him, so he’d be very comfortable with that.”
But there is no guarantee the Lions believe their quarterback of the future is even in this draft class, and they made a point to retain all three of their reserve quarterbacks from last season, re-signing Tim Boyle and David Blough, as well as extending a futures contract to Steven Montez.
So why are the Lions spending so much time studying the quarterbacks and sending Brunell on the pro day tour?
Well, quite simply, it’s about assessing the player's value. Whether it is for slotting quarterbacks on their draft board or to get a better understanding of the trade value their No. 2 pick holds.
“There’s 32 different draft boards,” Holmes explained. “We have our value of guys, including the quarterback position, but that doesn’t mean the other 31 teams have the same exact value. It just depends on how they value those quarterbacks in this year’s class.”
At the end of the day, Holmes made sure to do right by Goff and threw support behind him, while also leaving the door open for them to consider taking a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick—even if it’s just to increase its trade value.