Allen Park — There doesn't figure to be many days off between now and April's NFL draft for Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn and his staff. The past few weeks have been stuffed with draft and free-agency meetings, as well as preparation for next week's scouting combine.
There a record number of underclassmen in this draft class and the combine will be the Lions' first exposure to those players in an interview setting. They'll need to use their time wisely, as the league has reduced the number of official team interviews from 60 to 45 this year.
Quinn ranked the interviews as the most important part of the combine, then the medical evaluations, followed by the on-field drills.
"Obviously, as an organization, the medical information is crucial," Quinn said. "So our doctors and trainers, it’s kind of a behind-the-scenes things that not a lot of fans really realize what’s going on, but that’s the basis of all our medical grades and evaluations on all the draft prospects."
As for the reduction in official interviews, it's part of the reason the Lions are intending to fully staff the event, as opposed to some other teams that are transitioning to leaving a significant portion of their scouting and coaching staffs at home. Quinn continues to see value in the team's position coaches meeting informally with prospects.
On top of all the prep work, Quinn has also been having a number of conversations with Detroit's pending free agents with eyes on potentially re-signing some before they hit the open market in the middle of March.
"We’re talking to a lot of agents of our current guys, currently," Quinn said in a video interview posted on the team's website. "There’s a little bit of a stall with the uncertainty of the CBA. If there’s a new CBA, a lot of things can change, in terms of how you structure things. You see a couple deals going for a few teams, but I think we’re having some good conversations. Nothing is past the finish line yet, but we’re hoping to get a few things done here in the next week or so."
Quinn was also asked about cornerback Darius Slay, who remains under contract for the 2020 season, but has been subject to trade rumors since last year's deadline. Not surprisingly, the GM didn't reveal much about those negotiations, only noting the two sides continue to have positive conversations.
Speaking of the trade block, Quinn once again denied reports he has been exploring the possibility of moving quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“He’s here, he’s our quarterback," Quinn said. "All those rumors, not sure exactly where they came from, but they were, like I said before, 100 percent false."
As for what the Lions have in mind for the No. 3 pick in the draft, Quinn said he feels like he has a head start on the evaluation process after the team worked the Senior Bowl, but they're still leaving all options open heading to the combine.
"Way too early to narrow it down to any one position or any one player," Quinn said. "I think we’re going to the combine with an open mind, talk to a lot of prospects we haven’t talked to. All the underclassmen are brand new to us. Obviously, there are a lot of them this year that are going to be at the combine. It’s really going to be our first exposure to them in an interview setting, so a lot of things could change."
Among the underclassmen that could be on Detroit's radar in the first round are Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah and Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons.
Quinn also confirmed he's open to trading the team's first-round pick, but there have been no conversations on that front. At least not yet.
"Open to any trades," Quinn said. "Those are conversations that generally the higher you are in the draft, the sooner the conversations begin. I have not had any trade conversations with anybody, as of yet. Those usually tend to start at the combine, at the hallways we roll through. We’ll see how that goes."