Wojo: Lions got what they needed, including Rudock
Allen Park — Bob Quinn plowed through his first draft like a guy pushing a cart through the hardware store, going down aisles as if he knew what he wanted. He grabbed lots of big, bulky items off the lower shelves, and then on the way out, reached up for a couple curious purchases.
In his inaugural draft as Lions GM, Quinn loaded up on players with size, toughness and pedigree, which is good. He got three offensive linemen, including Ohio State’s 6-foot-7 Taylor Decker and Michigan’s 6-6 Graham Glasgow, and landed a beefy defensive lineman, Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson. The logic behind the Lions’ haul was sound, and because I’m legally required to assign a draft grade, I’ll give Quinn a solid B.
Of course, just when you thought we’d escape drama free, the sixth round arrived. Quinn took Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock, and later added Baylor’s Jimmy Landes, a long snapper who definitely qualifies as a strange choice. Fans will focus on Rudock, who had a modest career before improving remarkably in one season at Michigan. With only Matthew Stafford and Dan Orlovsky on the roster, Rudock is a good developmental option, something the Lions needed.
Quinn said he thinks it’s wise to draft a quarterback every other year, so this wasn’t a surprise move and shouldn’t be a controversial one. The Lions didn’t spend a high pick on Rudock, and there’s no guarantee they could’ve gotten him as a free-agent. It isn’t a gamble. It’s what most NFL teams do, stash a young guy in the quarterback room, like the Lions did for a while with Kellen Moore.
“I thought the value at that pick was right for Jake,” Quinn said. “When I sat down with Jake, I really saw a passionate football guy that is very smart, very attentive. I think the bottom line is, when we worked him out, I came away impressed with how he threw the ball.”
It’ll be an intriguing story to see if the local college guy can stick with the local pro team, but it’s not any larger than that right now. And the next person who makes the Rudock-Tom Brady comparison will be forced to wear a muzzle mask like Hannibal Lecter.
Follow the trend
In case you missed it, Rudock and Brady were drafted in the sixth round, 16 years apart, and both were overlooked until their senior years, when both won 10 games, including a bowl game in Florida. Oh, and Quinn was in New England when Brady was drafted, although he’d just gotten there.
Now we can stop with the coincidental parallels, unless you want to know why Quinn drafted a long snapper when the Lions already have a fine one in Don Muhlbach. The last time a team was wacky enough to draft a long snapper was last year, by the Patriots, where Quinn was the director of pro scouting.
OK, I’m done with the Patriot connections, until we uncover another one. Quinn declared his intention to build from the trenches outward and then backed it with his picks, far more heft than hype. The Lions didn’t make any trades, and of their 10 selections, five were offensive or defensive linemen. Later choices, such as Washington State guard Joe Dahl and Penn State defensive tackle Anthony Zettel, are versatile enough to play multiple spots on the lines.
“We talk about it a lot — we’re not building an indoor football team,” Quinn said. “I mean, I know we’re playing 13 of our 16 games inside this year, but that’s not how we’re building our team. This team goes through the NFC North and we’re going to have to play in cold weather against good teams late in the season.”
Quinn inherited a team that couldn’t run the ball and couldn’t protect Stafford, and he immediately went to work on constructing something sturdier. That’s the newsy impact of the draft, no matter how stridently people will debate Rudock, or why Michigan State’s Connor Cook dropped to the fourth round.
To follow my hardware analogy, follow the trend. The common theme in Quinn’s draft is that he prefers durable, multi-purpose tools, as long as they’re not tools in the negative sense. Hard-hitting Southern Utah safety Miles Killebrew, the Lions’ fourth-round pick, certainly grasped the concept.
“I would much rather be the hammer than the nail, and I love it,” Killebrew said. “I mean, it’s football, and in its purest sense, football is a collision sport. As long as I’m doing it safely and legally, I enjoy it.”
Picking with a purpose
Finesse isn’t the rule, at least not yet. Quinn didn’t pick a skill-position player — running back, receiver or tight end — until taking a flyer on a flyer, speedy Washington running back Dwayne Washington in the seventh round. The Lions need more receivers in Calvin Johnson’s absence but I give Quinn credit for this — he didn’t grab for the sake of grabbing, and already signed free agent Marvin Jones.
Quinn emphasizes football passion and intelligence, and it was evident talking to the Lions’ draftees. It was one of the selling points on Rudock, who was taken with the 191st pick, shortly before two more quarterbacks — Arkansas’ Brandon Allen and Louisiana Tech’s Jeff Driskel — were selected.
Rudock snickered at the draft comparisons between him and Brady, but said Jim Harbaugh’s NFL-type system at Michigan was the ideal grooming ground.
“Coach (Jedd) Fisch, Coach (Jim) Harbaugh, Coach (Tim) Drevno, those guys really train us like NFL players,” Rudock said. “They really preach that and have us study what the NFL guys do and how well they do it. I think that was the biggest thing, getting to live it without actually being thrust into it.”
Could Rudock begin by beating out Orlovsky for the backup spot? It sure sounds like competition will crank up all across the roster, which just got deeper and heavier. Quinn didn’t pull many surprises, and did pretty much what he said he’d do. If the biggest debate is about his sixth-round picks, I’d say he’s off to a decent start.