Quinn’s draft to ‘mesh’ best player available with need

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn answers reporters' questions after being introduced during a news conference Monday in Allen Park.

Former general manager Martin Mayhew regularly received criticism for his desire to draft the best player available when the Lions were on the clock.

In 2015, the Lions seemingly targeted need over best player available in filling holes at positions like left guard (Laken Tomlinson), running back (Ameer Abdullah), defensive tackle (Gabe Wright) and fullback (Michael Burton). But after the draft, Mayhew explained that his approach didn’t change.

“It was best player available,” Mayhew said after the draft in May. “I think I would say this, though. When you trade up, obviously you’re not waiting for the best player available, you know? So, when you trade up, you see a player who fills a need, and you go in and get that player. But my philosophy hasn’t changed.”

Now, after seven seasons of Mayhew running the Lions draft, new GM Bob Quinn takes over, and his plan from the onset is to consider both need and best player available with his selections.

“Everyone says, ‘Is it best available or is it need?’ ” Quinn said Monday. “And for me it’s a mesh, OK? You can’t just say I’m going to take the best available player because if you have a starting-level, let’s say, running back, why would you take a running back in the first round?”

Whether intentional or not, Quinn’s note about the running backs was in direct contrast in Mayhew, who drafted three backs — Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure and Abdullah — in the first two rounds during his seven drafts.

Another issue Mayhew had at times was ignoring the input of scouts, and Quinn said his plan is to have a team effort involved in each pick. Quinn said he would never take credit for bringing player to New England because there were typically at least 10 people involved in the selection process, and he plans to use the same method in Detroit, even though he’ll be making the final call instead of Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“In New England, Coach Belichick took the cards off the board when we selected,” Quinn said. “Here, I’m going to be taking the cards off the board, but it’s going to be a group decision. It’s going to be the best decision for the Detroit Lions.”

The Lions have eight draft picks in 2016, and they’ll likely add at least two more compensatory picks after losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency. In limiting big free-agent signings last offseason, Mayhew planned to receive compensatory picks, and Quinn said he’ll work to add some each year, which is another Patriots draft method.

“Absolutely, the more compensatory picks we have, the more picks we have, which helps us out,” he said.

Although Quinn has not yet made changes to the Lions scouting department, he said his plan is to surround himself with good people and trust what he sees to make the best decisions for the Lions. And he knows many of the most important decisions will come in the draft.

“The draft is the most important,” he said.