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Why the Lions should draft Dorian Thompson-Robinson

The Detroit Lions have a quarterback need, but rather than fill it at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft, they should take a chance on QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a high-ceiling developmental option.

NCAA Football: Sun Bowl-Pittsburgh at UCLA Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL Draft is just a few short weeks away. That means you, the Detroit Lions fan, only have to wonder or hear about quarterbacks for just a little bit longer. Today we’re going to change it up a bit though.

The majority of the quarterback conversation around the Lions has been about whether or not the Lions will take a quarterback with the sixth pick and who that quarterback could be. We’ve rarely heard about what the Lions could do at quarterback later in the draft. Today I want to talk about an option that the Lions could take a look at late in the draft. UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Every year I find myself a draft crush and I become a stage three clinger with them. Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika was that guy until I found Thompson-Robinson. I think the moment that it all happened for me was precisely this moment here.

That’s some fun stuff right there. Thompson-Robinson did more than just that at UCLA in 2022. He also threw for 3,169 yards and 27 touchdowns on a very impressive 69.6 completion percentage. That’s pretty nice. Oh yeah, he also ran for 645 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thompson-Robinson is everything you theoretically want in a quarterback in today’s NFL. He can sling the ball with accuracy and he can be mobile.

I’m sure you’re wondering what the problem with him is, I was too. After digging through his tape, I just couldn’t figure out why Thompson-Robinson wasn’t one of the most desired quarterbacks out there. Right now he’s slated to go on day three and there’s even a slim chance that he could go undrafted. What gives? I needed to know, so I asked my friend, former Pride of Detroit co-worker Kent Lee Platte, and the master of RAS what the scoop his. He said this:

“DTR is a talented quarterback, but there is worry that he doesn’t do anything especially well. He’s athletic, but lacks the kind of short area quickness that really sets apart the best athletes at the QB position in the NFL. Considering he’s not particularly big, that could be a liability. His arm is good, but not so notable as to set him apart from the rest of the class. UCLA relied very heavily on Zach Charbonnet to drive their offense, letting DTR stand in a pretty favorable pocket much of the time, leading to more noticeable drop off when he is pressured. There’s certainly a lot to like from a developmental standpoint, but he’s firmly a day three guy at best.”

Okay, that makes sense. Thompson-Robinson is small compared to some of the other quarterbacks in the draft. He’s 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds. For comparison’s sake, Anthony Richardson is 6-foot-4 and 231 pounds, CJ Stroud is 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds and Will Levis is 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds.

Size is usually a big factor in the quarterback world, but it’s not always the biggest indication of success or not. Kyler Murray is 5-foot-10 and 207 pounds and he went first overall in his draft. Bryce Young is 5-foot-10 and 194 pounds and there’s a solid chance that he could go first overall in this year’s draft. Compared to those guys, Thompson-Robinson isn’t so small.

There are obviously other concerns, too. I think the biggest thing I took from Kent is that Thompson-Robinson took advantage of good protection and a good run game. That’s two things the Lions have right now and should have in the future. The Lions run game ranked 11th in rushing yards last season and they have one of the better offensive lines in the league—perfect for a guy like Thompson-Robinson.

Then there’s this like from Kent:

“There’s certainly a lot to like from a developmental standpoint.”

That’s what this pick is all about. The Lions aren’t pressed to the point of needing a quarterback right now. This is a good team that should compete for big things in the next few years with the quarterback they already have.

That’s why the Lions should take a guy like Thompson-Robinson and have him spend time with coach Dan Campbell, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and most of all, quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell. Take the time to improve upon a skillset that is already pretty decent.

I’m not saying that by doing this you magically get Patrick Mahomes, but the floor is you have a developmental piece who could be your long-term backup. The ceiling is you get a dual-threat quarterback who showed some development in his five years as a starter at UCLA and could surprise people at the next level. And this way, you add to the quarterback room without risking it on a high draft pick. Instead, you can use that draft capital to ensure you build around your current quarterback with whatever talent you can get your hands on.

Take a look at why he can do.

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