Lions' Bob Quinn: Drafting T.J. Hockenson at No. 8 an 'easy decision'
Allen Park — Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn made a rare appearance on the local airwaves, joining 97.1 FM on Tuesday morning to discuss the team's draft haul.
Quinn was asked early in the interview if a tight end can provide value inside the top 10, after the Lions selected Iowa's T.J. Hockenson No. 8 overall.
There have been only four tight ends selected with a top-10 pick the past two decades, and the Lions are responsible for the last two.
"I think there’s value in any position you look at, across the league, if you use the guys correctly and they’re good players, which obviously we think T.J. is," Quinn said. "When we went into the draft process, we had a bunch of names that we kind of would have liked at that spot. As the weeks got narrowed down toward the draft, we kind of narrowed in on T.J. and were hoping he was going to be there at eight.
"At the end of the day, it was really an easy decision when we were on the clock. He’s someone we fully vetted and kind of put a lot of time and effort into making sure he was a good fit for us on the field, as well as off the field."
Although the general manager was unwilling to play out they hypothetical, he did acknowledge had Jacksonville passed on defensive end Josh Allen with the No. 7 pick, the Lions would have faced a more difficult decision at eight.
"It probably would have been a little more of a talking point, but I don’t want to get into who I might have taken if somebody else was on the board," Quinn said.
While the selection of Hockenson wasn't all that unexpected, the Lions caught nearly everyone off guard with their second-round choice, Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai.
If a draft pick's value is based on where analysts ranked them, Tavai would be a clear reach, but Quinn reiterated the Lions had reason to believe Tavai wouldn't be there much longer had the Lions passed on him with the No. 43 choice.
"I’m pretty convinced he probably wouldn’t have been there had we traded back say 15 spots," Quinn said. "I think he probably would have been gone. Can’t say that for sure, because you never know, but I think I talked about it in the post-draft press conference, we do a pretty in-depth study — what other teams like, what other teams need, what other teams, with Jahlani in particular, what other teams he visited with, what other teams he did private workouts with. I can never say for sure whether he’d be there or not, but I think our intelligence told us that if we traded back 10-15 spots, he probably never would have been there."
The addition of the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Tavai was representative of the continued overhaul of the front seven, to better match the personnel coach Matt Patricia and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni need to best run their scheme.
Quinn said it's been a challenging change because the types of players required for the current and past schemes are drastically different, in most cases.
"There are some players that are good enough players to play in any scheme, but some of the small, lighter guys that play sideline-to-sideline, those guys really don’t work in this defense," Quinn said. "You’ve got to kind of move on from those guys and reinvent what you’re doing up front when the coaching changes and the coaches want certain types of players to really execute the scheme."
Those comments seem to buck Detroit's reported interest in the linebackers at the top of this draft class, LSU's Devin White (No. 5 to Tampa Bay) and Michigan's Devin Bush (No. 10 to Pittsburgh). Quinn's description, lighter guys with sideline-to-sideline speed, overlaps with the scouting reports for both players.
One area the Lions didn't address in the draft was the offensive line, using none of the team's nine selections on the unit. That wasn't necessarily the plan, according to the GM. It was just how the board fell.
"We spent a lot of time on the offensive linemen, like we do with the other positions," Quinn said. "We just felt at the times we were picking, and the guys who were available, there just wasn’t great value."
Quinn continued to tout the options in the mix for the team's opening at right guard, including Tyrell Crosby.