Entering his third season as Detroit Lions general manager, and having previously played a key role in the New England Patriots’ front office, we can get a general idea of Bob Quinn’s player personnel tendencies. We’re going to look a bit deeper than just athletic tendencies to understand what Quinn has favored for each position before the 2018 NFL Draft.
From his time with the Patriots until now, Quinn hasn’t shown much preference for interior defensive linemen beyond size. Athletically, the group is all over the map, but the one repeating theme is he’s liked them heavy. Looking at both free agency and the draft, A’Shawn Robinson was one of the smallest defensive tackles Quinn added, at "only" 307 pounds, and he’s listed above 320 now.
It’s part of the reason Washington’s Vita Vea, at 347 pounds, or Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne (311), are two to watch in the first round. Fort Hays State tackle Nathan Shepherd (315) and North Carolina State’s B.J. Hill (311) are both possible second-round options where the team has shown interest.
While the 3-cone is usually the best individual drill to project pass-rushing success, and Quinn hasn’t ignored that fact, one thing he’s favored heavily are explosive edge rushers. Only one draft pick from Quinn’s tenure on either team had both a below-average vertical and broad jump. That was sixth-round selection Anthony Zettel. Like defensive tackle, pass rushers have tended to be on the heavier side, without regard to height.
Good size, a passable 3-cone time, but excellent explosion drills narrows down to only a few players in 2018. First-round prospect Marcus Davenport, who was coached by Lions defensive line coach Bo Davis at UTSA, is the most well known. Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis, a possible Day 2 pick, is another who fits the profile. An under-the-radar option would be South Florida’s Mike Love, who generated a ton of buzz after a strong pro day performance. He should come off the board in the later rounds.
Historically, the Patriots, with Quinn on staff and new Lions coach Matt Patricia as defensive coordinator, had favored larger linebackers. The Lions didn’t follow that trend the past couple of years, but the free-agency pickups of Devon Kennard and Christian Jones suggest a return to that preference.
Like pass rushers, Quinn and Patricia have both favored more explosive linebackers with strong marks in the vertical and broad jump. That trend continued for Quinn even without Patricia, as both Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin met those parameters last year.
If the trend continues, it would put Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter in play at No. 20 overall. Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson may also be an option in the second round, while Virginia’s Micah Kiser would be a more cost-effective option on Day 3.
Last year, Quinn threw a Teez Tabor-sized wrench at anyone who’s followed his previous tendencies at cornerback. In general, the GM has favored fast and agile corners, and in the latter regard, Tabor still qualified. While much has been made of the Patriots favoring larger cornerbacks, historically there hasn’t been a size trend.
Jaire Alexander of Louisville has been mentioned as a surprise first-round possibility for the Lions, but assuming Tabor was an exception to an existing trend, then it’s not as crazy as it sounds on the surface. Avonte Maddox, a chirpy but athletically gifted nickelback out of Pittsburgh, is a possible Day 2 option.
With a mainstay at safety like Patrick Chung, you would have thought the Patriots had it made at the position, but they’ve used three early-round picks trying to upgrade the situation, including eventual Lions starter Tavon Wilson in 2012. Aside from a strong 3-cone time, which you may have noticed is a trend among all positions, it has been a varied group athletically.
Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates or Stanford’s Justin Reid are options in the early rounds, if the team is looking for a versatile player who may be able to take over for Glover Quin in the coming years. With no hard and fast trends, the Lions could really go anywhere, even taking someone like former Ohio State safety and Detroit native Damon Webb.
Tendencies are observable patterns, occurrences and data points you can track and point to as more than just possibilities, but as likelihoods. Like observed with the selection of Tabor in 2017, however, tendencies are not universal predictors. It’s useful to review the selections a general manager has made and to try to find the fits, both in the numbers and schematically, but it’s important to keep it in context.
Whether Quinn and Patricia choose to play the odds and select those with proven athletic ability, or trust the tape and hope those who didn’t measure as well can overcome those liabilities in the NFL, is part of why we tune in every week.
The Relative Athletic Score (RAS) system was developed by Kent Lee Platte in 2012 to provide fans with a contextualized score on a 0-10 scale, making it easier to understand how athletic draft prospects are when compared to their position dating back to 1987.