With the San Francisco 49ers advancing to the NFC Championship, we have seen the importance of having a good backup quarterback. San Francisco likely never imagined seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy as their starter when his name was called back in the 2022 NFL Draft, but they are certainly glad they did. You can credit the 49ers coaching staff for adjusting to Purdy and the 49ers front office for building a talented team around the quarterback, but it still highlights the value of having a capable player to take over the reins in case of injury.
The Detroit Lions were fortunate to avoid injury at the quarterback position in 2022. The season prior, Jared Goff missed time with injury, and backup Tim Boyle did little to inspire the offense. The 2022 season featured a similar concern at quarterback, but it ended up being moot. Nate Sudfeld saw the field for a total of nine snaps, as Goff went the distance in a rebound campaign.
Sudfeld is an unrestricted free agent, while practice squader Steven Montez has joined an XFL franchise. Even if Sudfeld were to return, he is a massive unknown behind Goff. It’s less a question of if the Lions acquire a quarterback, but how the Lions acquire a quarterback.
The Lions can go a few directions in free agency. They can sign a high-profile backup with fringe starter ability, such as Baker Mayfield or Jacoby Brissett. This would be the most costly avenue, but it would also ensure that the Lions have a player with NFL experience under their belt. Should Goff get hurt, the Lions could theoretically tread water with a backup like this.
Alternatively, they could target a backup with a shorter resume. This could range from a Drew Lock to a Mike White to a Phillip Walker—they have starting experience, but were largely unimpressive. They could have some untapped potential, so it would be up to the coaching staff to rediscover it. Beyond that, they could fill the roster with players off the scrapheap again, but one would hope that general manager Brad Holmes learned from the previous years’ failings.
Another route that will be oft-discussed this offseason is via the draft. Each year, there are intriguing quarterback prospects throughout the draft, and 2023 is no different. If the Lions are eyeing a future upgrade over Goff, they could spend one (or both) of their first round picks to get the guy they want. Whether that is Bryce Young, C.J Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, or someone else, only time will tell. It would be an expensive move to make draft capital-wise, but there’s no denying the payoff that could come from it. You need look no further than the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that gambled on Patrick Mahomes despite a solid year from then-starter Alex Smith.
The Lions could also look for their own Brock Purdy, though late-round quarterbacks miss far more than they hit. Still, the Lions could use someone to develop behind Goff, even as a backup. They could target an athletic but raw prospect in hopes of unlocking their ceiling, or perhaps go after a player with lesser traits but game knowledge to make up for it. The former could possibly turn into a starter or a trade asset, while the latter could act like another quarterback coach. Both of these roles have benefits, but finding the right fit is never easy.
Aside from free agency and the draft, you could get wild with trades. Though extremely unlikely to happen, this would be an opportunity to sell-high on Goff after an arguably great year. I can’t begin to speculate on the return that Detroit would want or get, but it is technically an option. Equally out-there is a trade for another starter. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will be in the spotlight in the coming months as each party tries to decide their future. In the event a separation occurs, a star quarterback is suddenly on the trading block—would Detroit come calling?
The Lions have plenty of tough choices to make this offseason, and their quarterback position is not one to be ignored.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
What should the Lions do at quarterback in 2023?
My answer: I think the Lions should re-sign Sudfeld and draft a Day 3 prospect.
Sudfeld isn’t the hottest of names out there, but he did manage to stick around for the entire season—the Lions had every opportunity to poach a player from another practice squad or put in a waiver claim, yet never did. With backup quarterbacks, especially ones with such limited snaps, it’s extremely difficult to gauge their performance. Perhaps the coaching staff likes Sudfeld. He’ll likely be an inexpensive option, so I see no harm in bringing him back.
As for the draft pick, I think the Lions need someone with upside, even minor upside. I can’t convince myself that a first-round quarterback is the answer as of yet, especially with many other pressing needs. A quarterback in the second or third round is ill-advised, as they have a low hit rate relative to the draft capital invested—Kent Lee Platte had a fun thread on the issue. That leaves Day 3 of the draft (Rounds 4 to 7), and I think this is a decent time to address it. Keep an eye on Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) and Malik Cunningham (Louisville) as mobile quarterbacks later on in the draft. If you’re looking for more traditional projects, Clayton Tune (Houston) and Jake Haener (Fresno State) are candidates.
The draft is still months away, so plenty of shuffling will happen. That being said, keep an eye on the late-round prospects. For one, we could see some risers as the draft approaches. Yet more importantly, the Lions will likely be eyeing these very same players. Barring a stunning trade, Jared Goff will be the starter in 2023, but help is needed behind him.