Lions 2020 draft preview: Throwing early pick at quarterback unlikely
Allen Park — Over the next several days, leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions’ roster and evaluating how the team might address each unit. Today: Quarterback.
► Current roster: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel, David Blough
► Short-term need: Two out of 10
► Long-term need: Four out of 10
► Top prospects: Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love
► Mid-round options: Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm
► Late-round fits: Jake Luton, Steven Montez, Cole McDonald
► Analysis: Trying to figure out whether quarterback is a long-term need for the Lions hinges on Stafford's health. Both he and the team have repeatedly said there are no lingering concerns about the back injuries that have plagued him the past two seasons, but at least some of that feels like wishful thinking.
What we can definitively say is Stafford will go unchallenged as Detroit's starter in 2020 and the $5 million in guarantees the team awarded Chase Daniel in free agency all but locks him into the backup job this season and likely next.
So does drafting a quarterback make sense with the current roster construction? Sure, the team rolled three deep at the position last year. But if the Lions are considering bolstering the depth with a developmental option, it probably isn't going to happen in the first two rounds. So for the handful of fans out there still holding out hope the team grabs Tagovailoa, you should brace for disappointment.
Since taking Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009, the Lions haven't invested more than a sixth-round pick in a backup. General manager Bob Quinn took a pair of low-risk swings in that round on Jake Rudock and Brad Kaaya, with neither developing into a permanent solution.
While acknowledging Tom Brady, arguably the greatest to ever play the position, was taken in the sixth round, the draft's third day is usually a wasteland when it comes to scoring viable quarterbacking talent. For every player who develops into a capable starter, such as Kirk Cousins, there are more than 20 guys who flame out.
If the Lions want to find a better option, they'll likely need to invest a Day 2 pick in the pursuit. Obviously, if a guy like Love were to inexplicably fall out of the first round, the Lions would have a lot to think about at pick No. 35. But the more realistic conversation would be about Fromm or Hurts in Round 3.
Fromm, a Georgia product like Stafford, has a high-level football IQ like Detroit's signal-caller, but nowhere near the arm strength. It's that lack of a top-tier physical tool set that is keeping Fromm from being in the conversation as a first-round talent.
Hurts is a dual-threat who thrived his one season running Oklahoma's offense, but he isn't anywhere close to the polished passer the school's past two quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, were. But if you squint, Hurts' film kind of looks like the poor man's version of Russell Wilson.
What's interesting about that comparison is Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell played a key role in Wilson's early development, crafting an offense around the young quarterback at the start of his career. Plus, as the Lions saw last season, there is value in having a stylistically different backup.
But if Hurts and Fromm prove too rich for Quinn's liking, the GM could always go for another scratch-off ticket on Day 3.
Luton is a big-framed pocket passer who models his game after Stafford and has a track record for taking care of the football. He threw just three interceptions as a senior, compared to 28 touchdowns.
Montez and McDonald are more athletic options, with dual-threat potential. Montez has the NFL frame at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, while the 6-foot-3 McDonald ran a sub-4.6 40-yard dash at the combine.