Lions mailbag, Part 1: What if Joe Burrow fell to Detroit?
Allen Park — Santa's gift bag might be empty, but the mailbag is full. Welcome to another Detroit Lions Q&A. Make sure to check back later today for Part 2.
► Q: How about the Lions drafting the next franchise quarterback and becoming quarterback rich? - @evangecube
► A: When you're about to be 3-12-1, how can you afford to be rich at a position where only one player sees the field at a time (unless you're the New Orleans Saints with Taysom Hill)? The Patriots, Packers, Chiefs and Ravens all had established cultures with long-term head coaches when they selected their future quarterbacks to be groomed behind their current starters.
The Lions, on the other hand, have no stability at the top of the franchise, with everyone entering the year on the hot seat. And what fuels that flame is the lack of winning, which is directly related to a lack of talent, across the board. You can't unnecessarily stock one cupboard when the others are bare.
► Q: Why doesn't Patricia fight the myriad of bad calls made against the Lions in nearly every game like most NFL coaches? - @DetroitOutkast
► A: First of all, I reject the premise. The Lions have plenty of bad calls go against them, but so does everyone else. Officiating is a problem for the league, not the Lions.
That said, I remember hearing this complaint often with Jim Caldwell, but this is the first time I recall someone mentioning it with Matt Patricia. I think a lot of this stuff is nitpicking. I always ask, if the Lions were winning, would anyone care?
Honestly, I don't really pay too much attention to Patricia's demeanor on the sideline during game day. I have too much going on with the game itself to see how Patricia is reacting to a holding call in the second quarter. And I don't think throwing a fit ever solves anything. How many calls have you seen overturned in the NFL because of coaches screaming at official.
Calm conversations, alerting officials of perceived issues, is the way to go. Just ask Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga.
The Lions, like many teams, do much of their complaining to the league after the fact, hoping those researched submissions lead to overall improvements to officiating, particularly in regards to their players.
► Q: Let's say things fall into place, and the Lions land the second pick in the draft, but after a dazzling combine, Cincinnati goes with Chase Young. Tell me the Lions wouldn't pass on Joe Burrow for a 30-something QB who's never won anything and has back issues? - @WingsLions
► A: Well, Burrow is the obvious No. 2 pick in this scenario, but I would expect it would be someone else making it, with the Lions taking advantage of the good fortune of the LSU quarterback driving up the market and asking price for the selection.
Passing on Burrow would be a tough pill to swallow, especially if he goes on to have a career filled with Pro Bowl appearances. But the only way I can see the Lions drafting a QB in the first round is if they plan on burning everything to the ground and trading Stafford. That's not congruent with a win-now edict from ownership.
► Q: Is Senior Bowl worth going to from a fan perspective? - @longhornlion
► A: If you're already in the area, it could be an OK day trip, but I wouldn't fly in for the event or anything. Most reporters don't even attend the game. The more important thing for us is the week of practices, where we get a closer look at the prospects in a high-rep environment, while also having the opportunity to chat with an occasional NFL executive, coach or agent that fill up the stadium's stands each day.
► Q: Let's say the Lions stay in the No. 3 spot, who would be the best trade partners in the teens? - FrontDeskIssues
► A: The teens? That's a long drop, into the second- or even third-tier of talent. The haul, in this instance, would involved getting, at the very least, a future first-rounder in the return package.
In this instance, you're looking for a team that feels they are one piece away from being a contender. Maybe the best bet would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are reportedly bringing back quarterback Jameis Winston, but could certainly stand to upgrade the mistake-prone former No. 1 pick who is on the brink of a 30-interception season.
► Q: Is it just me or did it appear Quinn’s 2019 offseason was more about building a foundation rather than winning? - @iconsilk713
► A: It's just you.
You're trying to fit something into a box based on hindsight. The Lions thought they could win in 2019 and drafted and signed free agents with that in mind. Bob Quinn filled major holes with big-ticket items in free agency, signing Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman and Jesse James to huge multi-year deals, while plugging another need with a culture-changing fit in Danny Amendola.
The draft was slightly more about foundation building, but that should be all drafts. It was expected T.J. Hockenson would play right away, and he did, and it was expected Jahlani Tavai would have a rotational role immediately, and he did.
The cherry against you argument is Mike Daniels. You don't sign a 30-year-old defensive tackle to a big-money, one-year deal if you're thinking about the future. That was a win-now move.
► Q: Who have been Quinn’s best unexpected draft picks? - @DirtyJerzFinest
► A: It's difficult to say Tracy Walker doesn't fill that top spot. A little-known prospect to outside observers, there was jubilation among Lions leadership when they pulled the trigger on the selection. Thus far, it's been easy to see why. The third-round pick was groomed a year behind established veterans before being handed a starting job where he's thriving and set himself up as one of the roster's view building blocks.
Other picks who have performed above and beyond their draft slot include Jamal Agnew, Graham Glasgow, Kenny Golladay and Da'Shawn Hand. Golladay, like Walker, is a building block. Hand should be, too, if only he could stay healthy.
► Q: Why can the Lions never seem to find the right first year head coach that brings them to a division title or a winning record? - @kurtcoG
► A: I mean, Jim Caldwell went 11-5 in his first season. How far back do you want to go when looking for reasons? Most of the coaches the Lions hired took over terrible rosters. What did you expect from Jim Schwartz when he inherited an 0-16 team? And Matt Millen set up all his hires for failure with terrible roster construction.
Bobby Ross won and went to the playoffs his first year. Is that doing it for you?
► Q: What kind of year did Ed Oliver have? Would he have been a good fit on the Lions defensive line? - @CKKHW
► A: Forgive me, but I haven't watched much Buffalo Bills football. Not that they haven't been worthy of viewing this year, but I don't get much time to watch anyone outside of my responsibilities covering the Lions. So we're going to have to lean on Pro Football Focus. That's not ideal, but it's what we've got.
The first thing I did was sort out all defensive rookies who have played at least 400. Overall, Oliver ranks 15th out of 42. Among rookie defenders, he's 13th in run stop percentage, 19th in tackling efficiency and 13th in pass rush efficiency.
Summarizing, he was solid all the way around, but wasn't dominant in one specific area.
Oliver might not have the prototypical build the Lions like up front, but the fact they signed Daniels tells me Oliver could have worked here just fine.
► Q: What is the situation with our defensive line? Who stays, who goes? - @TTebo66
► A: The situation is the unit under-delivered, in a big way, at least in part due to injuries. Trey Flowers is here to stay, as is oft-injured Hand. Romeo Okwara is probably back, as well, given his relatively low price tag.
The rest is up in the air. A'Shawn Robinson and Daniels are both free agents and it's easy to see neither being brought back. Robinson is too one-dimensional and is coming off a disappointing season, while Daniels' durability can no longer be trusted.
Speaking of disappointing seasons, the Lions have a tough decision to make with Damon Harrison after extending him last offseason. At his best, he's one of the league's most-dominant interior players, but after taking off the offseason program to net his extension, he was never able to reach that level this year.
Is it worth an $11.75 million cap hit to see if Harrison can reach that level again, at the age of 31, or do you take the nearly $7 million in cap space by cutting him?
► Q: Lots of people talk about trading down from the top first-round picks. But we've seen very few such trades in recent years. Why? - @jkhuggins
► A: I don't agree. We see more trades at the top of the draft now than we did a decade ago, when rookie contracts of the first few picks were considered toxic. In 2018, there were two trades in the top-10. Same with 2017. And in 2016, there were four deals within those first 10 selections, including No. 1 and No. 2 being moved.
► Q: Do you want Sloter to start in Week 17 to finish the tank or to avoid the tank? - @SifferMichael
► A: Neither. It's not the job to care whether the Lions win or lose. Where I think the merit lies in playing Kyle Sloter in the finale is it provides an opportunity to get a more thorough evaluation on an intriguing backup quarterback option.
Sloter's preseason stats, established over three seasons, are ridiculous. He's completed 74 percent of his throws with 11 touchdowns to a single interception. I want to see how that translates against a real NFL defense to determine whether he's a guy who could be the backup in 2020 or if that needs to remain near the top of Detroit's offseason shopping list.
► Q: All I want to know is where are my Berry Sanders tennis shoes? - @beverlygmorse1
► A: This is neither Nike's nor Smucker's customer service department, sorry.