Phoenix — Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia isn't about to share his thoughts on the team's biggest remaining needs after a recent string of free-agent signings, certainly not with the NFL Draft on the horizon and other franchises scouring for information to craft their own plans for the event.
He noted that strategy proved instrumental last year, when the franchise concealed their interest in offensive lineman Frank Ragnow, helping ensure that they landed him in the first round.
But Patricia was willing to offer some insight into what he values in his evaluation process of college prospects. Topping the list are strong fundamentals and football IQ.
"It may sound cliche, but it's really not, because we're going to teach them the other stuff," Patricia said in a meeting with local beat writers Tuesday. "We're gonna teach them scheme, we're gonna teach them fundamentals, we're gonna teach them some of those things, so you start basically with, alright, what does his speed look like on film? What does his pad level look like? Can he come downhill or can he get open? Is the fundamental skill set that he needs — quickness in and out of breaks, whether it's football instincts and how smart he is as a player, does he makes checks and adjustments? Is he a guy that sees the whole field?
"You know, vision is a big thing with a football player, obviously, because when you're out on the field and 22 guys are trying to orchestrate themselves in the same direction, there's feel, there's vision, there's people working off of each other and you can at least get that sense of 'all right, this guy, he may not know what he's looking at, but he feels this over here.' And then that's what's great about getting in a room with them and sitting down and going over the tape, like 'what was the call here? What were you supposed to do? Did you see this over here or did you feel this? Were you looking in this direction?' And if they can talk football and really understand from a conceptual standpoint, that's where you know you can really build."
Additionally, Patricia seeks toughness and passion in prospects.
"I think you always want to find toughness, that's fundamental, and you want to find that 'never quit' attitude," he said. "The guys that are always going to go compete. But first and foremost, you want to feel the love, you want to feel the passion.
"When you're passionate about something, like we all are, we love this game and we're passionate about this game, you want to be surrounded by people that have that same energy, that same feeling because it means something."
Listing those traits doesn't tip the Lions' hand heading in the draft, but does add a layer to understanding the roster makeup Patricia envisions. While every coach desires athletes with elite physical gifts, the Lions coach puts a premium on intelligence, toughness and coach-ability.