Detroit Lions didn’t need to gamble on QB in NFL draft. Defense picks on Day 2 were smart

Detroit Free Press

No, the Detroit Lions should not have taken a quarterback Friday night. I know what you’re thinking: Who said anything about wanting them to take a quarterback?

I didn’t. Maybe you didn’t.

A solitary voice did, and he knows who he is. Give him kudos for taking a stand, I guess?

Also, give him a computer and Wi-Fi and Google and the patience to take a quick perusal of NFL draft history to see that some years don’t produce a single reliable starter, and that some years only produce one.

One!

Not only that, quarterbacks drafted after the first round hit at a much lower rate. For the second round, quarterbacks become starters about 50% of the time. For the third round, that falls to 30%.

THE THIRD-ROUNDER: Kerby Joseph ranked No. 1 by PFF experts

THE SECOND-ROUNDER: Why Josh Paschal is ‘a guy that can change locker rooms’

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Which means the Lions would’ve been throwing darts blindfolded if they’d taken a quarterback in the second or third round. And the Lions have too many needs to take that chance, especially in a year when quarterback prospects are few.

One quarterback was taken in the first round this year. That would be Kenny Pickett, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pickett went at No. 20; it’s the first time the first quarterback of the draft has gone that late since 1997.

So maybe the rest of the NFL knows something. Maybe the Lions do, too.

It’s possible that Malik Willis, the quarterback from Liberty University who was taken by Tennessee at No. 86, becomes a starter — or better. Maybe Pickett will, too. Or maybe Desmond Ridder will be this year’s Russell Wilson, who famously was drafted at No. 75 out of Wisconsin.

Ridder played at Cincinnati. Atlanta took him at No. 74.

CARLOS MONARREZ: Why are Detroit Lions afraid to draft a QB? Brad Holmes missed chance to make a splash

The problem is, the third round doesn’t produce quarterbacks like Wilson every year. Or every other year. Or even every five years.

I mean, it’s hard enough to find future Hall of Famers in the first round. Yet the Lions were supposed to take a 50-50 (or 30-70) chance when they need help in so many other places? Places that offer better odds of finding contributors.

Great quarterbacks can be found anywhere. Tom Brady, right?

Right.

Also: No team since has found the greatest of all time — or even the greatest of a single year — in the sixth round.

So, let’s forget about Brady. And remember that the Lions already have a solid quarterback in Jared Goff.

Yes, I mentioned their names in the same short paragraph, separated by just 11 words. Forgive me. But I needed a transition to Brad Holmes, the Lions’ general manager, who traded up 20 spots Thursday to draft Alabama receiver Jameson Williams at No. 12.

A bold move by any measure — Williams tore his ACL in the College Football Playoff title game. But not an outrageously risky move.

Williams, when he was healthy, graded as the best downfield threat in the draft. This should help Goff. This should also help whoever the Lions decide is their quarterback of the future.

Yet Friday night showed the Lions think that future isn’t quite here.

Which is why Holmes drafted another defensive lineman with the Lions’ second-round pick. Josh Paschal played on the edge and in the middle of the line at Kentucky. He was a three-time captain.

Though this isn’t about his character and want-to and leadership possibilities. Nor is it about the Lions’ plan to stuff their locker room full of players like Paschal.

Paschal told reporters, “I’m a guy that can change locker rooms.” 

So there is that. That should play well with biting kneecaps and bearhugs.

Paschal is here, however, because he has the talent to get to the quarterback. Holmes noted that his newest defensive lineman beat some really good tackles in the vaunted SEC.

He can also play in the interior — or anywhere, really. The versatility was important.

Think of it as building a team. And that Holmes is betting Paschal — along with third-round pick Kerby Joseph, a safety from Illinois — will help the defense more than Willis or Ridder or Matt Corral (the QB from Ole Miss taken by Carolina at No. 94) would help the offense.

Essentially, by drafting any of them, the Lions would be banking they’d be better than Goff. I’d say that’s not a smart bet.

When asked why he didn’t take a quarterback, and why he thought it took so long before the quarterbacks were taken, Holmes thought for a second and then said he wanted to think about how to answer the question.

He didn’t want to disparage any of them.

“I looked at the quarterbacks and thought they were taken where we thought they should be taken,” he said. “They weren’t mistreated.”

How could they be? They surely understand they play the position that’s hardest to project.

Holmes didn’t want to risk betting on a quarterback the first three rounds. He chose to keep building the rest of the roster first.

Sensible, I’d say. Go with the odds when you can.

Two days into the draft and the Lions have shown guts and smarts. There’s no reason for them to be foolish.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.   

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