After months of speculation, Lions fans will see what plans new general manager Bob Quinn has for the draft.
Quinn, hired in January, will run a draft room for the first time tonight after spending the last 16 years in the Patriots room assisting coach Bill Belichick.
And last week, Quinn said there’s definitely more pressure on him now than in the past.
He has provided little indication of what he plans to do, but when asked to list the team’s biggest needs, he simply said, “To pick the best players for the Lions.”
Although Quinn has said Detroit’s operation won’t be exactly like New England, there’s a chance the Patriots draft tendencies could impact Quinn’s actions.
Obviously, the Patriots have the luxury of being a top-tier team entering the draft each year, which gives them freedom the Lions don’t have. But, it’s still worthwhile to project how New England’s plans could impact how Detroit operates.
Few teams compare to the Patriots in terms of draft-day activity. Since Belichick started running the personnel department in 2000, the Patriots have averaged 31/2 draft-day trades per year — 56 total.
The most glaring tendency for the Patriots is a confounding ability to take advantage of a team’s desire to trade up.
In 2009, they turned one third-round pick into a second-round pick in 2010. They also flipped another third-round pick into a 2010 second-rounder and a 2009 seventh-rounder.
In 2008, they acquired a 2009 second-round pick and a 2008 fifth-rounder for a 2008 third-round pick.
There are examples that show the Patriots believe a third-round pick in a given year is as valuable of an asset the following year. So, if there’s a chance to trade a current pick for a better pick next year, don’t be surprised if the Lions do so, even if it’s dealing a seventh for a future sixth.
The most trades New England made under Belichick during a single draft was seven, which happened in 2003, 2009 and 2010. The only draft in the past 16 years in which the Patriots didn’t make a trade was 2004.
Although the goal of most of their draft trades was to acquire more picks, the Patriots also have traded multiple picks to move up, traded veterans (quarterback Drew Bledsoe) and acquired veterans (Randy Moss).
As much as the Patriots like trading during the draft, though, it’s worth noting Belichick’s first season in charge included one draft-day trade before he made six in 2001.
Number of picks
The past 16 years, New England peaked at 12 picks in a draft, in 2009 and 2010. But, in 2002, they had six picks, and had seven in four of the 16 — which is the average.
The Patriots have averaged nine picks a year during Belichick’s tenure, so the expectation should be for the Lions to have an above-average number each year. One of Quinn’s former co-workers, Titans general manager Jon Robinson, already traded the No. 1 pick this year to acquire more picks, giving his team nine.
Of course, this is one area Quinn can thank the past personnel department — the Lions have 10 picks this year.
Players like Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler — from West Alabama — have helped New England earn the perception the team excels at finding small-school players.
But there’s no evidence to show Belichick is successful at finding such players in the draft.
Since 2000, the Patriots have taken six players not at Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Four never played an NFL game. Zach Moore (Concordia, Minn.) was with the Patriots one year, and the jury is still out on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois).
Still, the Lions have done their due diligence on some small-school prospects. Cornerbacks coach Tony Oden ran drills at N.C. Central cornerback Ryan Smith’s pro day. Eastern Washington offensive lineman Clay DeBord had a visit or workout, according to NFL Network. Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum had a workout, according to NFL Draft Diamonds, and Campbell defensive tackle Greg Milhouse had a visit, according to National Football Post.
Looking at some of the past Patriots trades, it’d be easy to second-guess a few moves.
For instance, late first-round picks they traded to the Packers and 49ers became linebacker Clay Matthews (2009) and left tackle Joe Staley (2007), respectively.
Despite all the trading, the Patriots have managed to have at least one first-round pick in 13 of the past 15 drafts. When they didn’t have a first-round pick (2009), they managed with four second-rounders and two third-rounders. In 2013, they had a pair of picks in the second and third rounds.
While many people believe Quinn could trade the Lions pick at No. 16, it’d be hard to see him moving out of the first round with so many needs.
The good people at NESN.com evaluated all of Belichick’s drafts to identify the traits the Patriots look for at each position.
At quarterback, size is appealing. For running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, agility and lateral quickness are key, and speed and leaping ability also are important for receivers and tight ends.
Along the offensive line, they look for good vertical and broad jumps at tackle and agility and lateral quickness for guards.
Explosiveness is a critical trait for defensive ends, making the jumps and 20-yard short shuttles are important measurements. Length is the top trait for defensive tackles.
Size and length are important for linebackers. For cornerbacks, speed, agility, strength and explosiveness are all important. At safety, speed and vertical jumps were top traits.
So, if there’s a certain prospect fans have in mind that doesn’t check off these qualifications — like 5-foot-11 Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams — there’s a chance the Lions look elsewhere.
Patriots first-round picks since 2000
Defensive tackles – 3
Defensive ends – 3
Defensive backs – 2
Tight ends – 2
Offensive tackles – 1
Guard – 1
Linebacker – 1
Running back – 1
Source: Pro Football Reference
Patriots total picks since 2000
Linebackers – 19
Cornerbacks – 15
Offensive tackles – 13
Defensive ends – 13
Wide receivers – 13
Safeties – 13
Defensive tackles - 12
Tight ends – 11
Quarterbacks – 8
Running backs – 8
Guards – 7
Centers – 5
Fullbacks – 3
Kickers – 2
Punters – 1
Long snappers – 1
Source: Pro Football Reference
When: Thursday-Saturday, Auditorium Theatre, Chicago.
TV: ESPN, NFL — Thursday, 8 p.m.; Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, noon.
Lions picks: No. 16 (first round), No. 46 (second), No. 95 (third, compensatory), No. 111 (fourth), Nos. 151 and 169 (fifth), Nos. 191, 202 and 210 (sixth, compensatory), No. 236 (seventh).