Lions' Quinn pumps brakes on defining rookie roles, but expects Okudah to start
Now that the 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, speculation naturally shifts to how the Detroit Lions' rookie class will be able to contribute in their first season.
But in an uncertain world stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing professional sports from establishing concrete timetables for resuming business as usual, general manager Bob Quinn is even more cautious than normal when trying to project roles for his rookies.
"We're not going to put the cart before the horse and say this guy is going to start and this guy is going to do that," Quinn said. "Let's take it day-by-day and week-by-week through the offseason and see what we're dealing with from a world perspective before we start anointing anybody to our positions on the team.
"I appreciate the question," Quinn continued. "I want to see these guys in person first. I want to shake their hands. I want them to sign their contracts and I want to get on the practice field. If we can take baby steps, that would be great for me."
But there is an exception to Quinn's reluctance to peer into the crystal ball. When it comes to first-round pick Jeff Okudah, there's an expectation for instant impact, regardless of what the offseason program ends up looking like.
"I would hope that Jeff Okudah would come in and start day one," Quinn said. "I sure hope so. But listen, if we don't have an offseason program, could it take him a couple weeks? Maybe. You never know. But I think he's a very mature kid, very smart football-wise. I'm very confident even if we do a virtual offseason program for six weeks, he'll know enough of our defense to be a very capable player very, very early in his rookie season."
As for running back D'Andre Swift, who the Lions selected early in the second round (35th overall), Quinn envisions the Lions will have a talented backfield committee, rather than a clear lead dog.
"The whole starter word, especially for the running backs and receivers, it really depends on what package you're in," Quinn said. "We're going to use multiple running backs. We like Kerryon Johnson. We like Ty Johnson. We like Bo (Scarbrough).
"We're going to put D'Andre in there. D'Andre is not going to carry the ball 35 times per game. We know that. We're going to use our backs. We're going to use all of them. That's why we drafted D'Andre. He's going to be part of that package."