Dan Campbell wants an immediate starter with the No. 2 pick in April’s NFL draft, but that isn’t stopping the Detroit Lions from hosting one of this year’s top quarterback prospects on a pre-draft visit.
The Lions will host Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett at their Allen Park practice facility next week, NFL Network reported.
Pickett is a potential top-10 pick and considered the most pro-ready signal caller in a draft with no clear-cut No. 1 quarterback.
The Lions return starting quarterback Jared Goff and backups Tim Boyle and David Blough, but have an uncertain future at the position beyond 2022.
THE COACH: I thought Dan Campbell was being dumb, but maybe he’s a genius
A VISIT: Roger Goodell brings spirit of 2024 NFL draft to Detroit with a speedy exit
Goff had a choppy first season in Detroit and is considered by most a bridge at the position. The Lions can get out of his contract with limited salary cap ramifications after this season.
Both Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes have expressed confidence in Goff, 27, but neither has committed to him as their long-term future at the position.
Though the Lions appear unlikely to take a quarterback at No. 2 based on Campbell’s comments, the second-year coach left the door open for that possibility when he met with beat reporters last week.
“If you really love a guy and you know people are going to be all over him, and the only way to acquire that guy is pick them where they’re at, it’s something worth thinking about, especially if you think you can develop those guys,” he said.
[ How Detroit Lions figure into competitive QB market in 2023 NFL draft ]
The Lions have a relatively young offensive staff with no track record of developing quarterbacks, though Campbell insisted he has “all the faith in the world (we have) what we need to develop a quarterback.”
New offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was a walk-on quarterback at North Carolina and a coaching assistant at the position with the Miami Dolphins. Quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell, who attended Pitt pro day, played 18 NFL seasons at the position. And receivers coach Antwaan Randle El played quarterback in college at Indiana.
The Lions worked extensively with quarterbacks Malik Willis and Sam Howell at the Senior Bowl, and spent time off the field at the game with Pickett and Desmond Ridder.
Both Willis and Ridder are potential first-round picks, and Willis is considered the highest-upside quarterback in this year’s draft because of his unique blend of arm strength, athletic ability and leadership.
The Lions could be tempted to take a quarterback high in this year’s draft to find their future at the position. Campbell has espoused the value of having a rookie quarterback sit behind a veteran in the past, and a number of NFL teams have enjoyed success in recent seasons by building deep rosters around a quarterback on a rookie contract.
The Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes), Philadelphia Eagles (Carson Wentz), Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson) and Baltimore Ravens (Joe Flacco) have all won Super Bowls in the past decade with quarterbacks on rookie deals, and the Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow) and Los Angeles Rams (Goff) have reached the game.
KENNY KOOL: Kenny Pickett draws Joe Burrow comparisons
DAVE BIRKETT: Dan Campbell avoids specifics, but drops a few hints, about draft plans
Beyond their potential interest in drafting a quarterback at No. 2, the Lions could be using their visit with Pickett to prepare for trade scenarios, both involving teams that want to move up for a signal caller and in the event Picket falls into the mid to later portion of the first round.
The Lions own the Nos. 32 and 34 picks in the draft, which they could use to move up and grab a top prospect. If they draft a quarterback at 32, they would get the benefit of having a fifth-year option on that player’s rookie contract.
Pickett, a four-year starter at Pitt, had his best season with the Panthers last fall, when he threw for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Carolina Panthers (at No. 6) and New Orleans Saints (Nos. 16 and 19) are among the NFL teams who have been linked to Pickett in mock drafts.
[ Mel Kiper breaks down edge options for Lions at No. 2 pick ]
The Lions have hosted most other players thought to be in the mix for the No. 2 pick on pre-draft visits, including Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, Georgia’s Travon Walker, Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton and Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner.
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.