Lions won’t automatically pass on red-flag players

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Robert Nkemdiche

Allen Park — General manager Bob Quinn didn’t provide many details of the Lions’ plans for next week’s draft, but he did say there will be some players the team won’t pick.

“There will be a fair number of guys that we will not consider for character concerns and off-the-field reasons, but I don’t have a firm number right now,” he said during his pre-draft news conference Thursday.

When the Lions hired Quinn, he said he’d have a zero-tolerance policy with regard to domestic violence and weapons. Coach Jim Caldwell has also said domestic violence is unacceptable for his players.

Quinn explained last month that the Lions will try to determine whether players have red flags or if they’re just “pink” and not quite as problematic. Meetings to solidify which players the Lions are most concerned about will happen in the next couple days, and Quinn noted that the team won’t actually have a red or pink flag on player cards, instead denoting issues another way.

One player who definitely is red flag, Quinn said, is former Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who was suspended for the Sugar Bowl after falling out of a hotel window. But Quinn added that the Lions would not necessarily pass on a red-flag player.

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“That’s just things that we have to consider the value of the player compared to the risk involved in taking him,” Quinn said, speaking generally. “So, it’s not like these guys are off the board. You’ve just got to manage the risk and the reward of taking a guy like that.”

To determine how risky a player might be, Quinn said the Lions send scouts to campuses to find information. Interviews with players also provide some answers.

Besides character concerns, Quinn will also have to consider players with health risks, like former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith. Before tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee in the Fiesta Bowl, Smith looked to be a top-10 pick.

“It’s kind of up to me and the doctors to decide the risk involved in taking a player like that,” he said.

And with some players retiring early due to concerns about brain injuries, the Lions also have to consider how long their potential draft picks want to play. Quinn said among the first questions the personnel staff asks players is how much they love football.

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