Indianapolis — As usual, the biggest crowds for the media portion of this week’s NFL scouting combine were reserved for the quarterbacks expected to go early in the first round of the draft.
Throngs gathered to listen to Bryce Young, C. J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson answer questions less than two months ahead of the draft. Young started Friday’s availability gracefully shrugging off concerns about his height and weight, which both check in well below the league’s desired standards for the position.
“Yeah, I’ve been this size, respectfully, my whole life,” he said. “I know who I am. I know what I can do. For me, it’s fair (the concerns). Everyone can speculate and ask, when the questions are necessary. I’m going to continue to control what I can control. I’m going to keep working my hardest to improve myself at the position. I’m confident in myself. I know what I can do.”
Similarly, Richardson faced questions about his subpar accuracy at Florida. He also shared personal stories about helping raise his younger brother while their mother worked two or three jobs at a time. But, when it came time to address expectations for himself, the Florida quarterback set the bar sky-high.
“I want to be a legend,” Richarson said. “I want to be like Patrick Mahomes. I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats. I will be one of the greats because I’m willing to work that hard to get to that point. So, to answer your question, I feel like I’m going to be one of the greats in the next few years.”
Although we’re still weeks away from the draft, it’s starting to feel increasingly likely at least two, and potentially all three, of those quarterbacks will be off the board before the Detroit Lions are set to be on the clock with the No. 6 pick. But, even if one, or inconceivably all three, were available, it’s tough to suggest the Lions would be interested.
To be clear, general manager Brad Holmes has not said he won’t draft a quarterback in the first round. He’ll happily tell you the plan is to select the best players for the Lions, which leaves the door open to all possibilities. But, he’s also continually thrown his support behind starter Jared Goff, doing so again this week.
“I’ve had these conversations with Jared,” Holmes said. “Look, we love Jared. He’s our starter, he’s our guy going (forward), but we don’t have anything behind him.”
Holmes hasn’t been shy about acknowledging the need to do a better job addressing the backup spot. He compared last year’s scramble to find a solution at the end of training camp to “sliding into home plate.” And while the team never needed that player, Nate Sudfeld, to play meaningful snaps during the season, the team wants to be better prepared if they were to experience something like they did 2021, when Goff was forced to miss three games.
“I gotta do a better job of making sure that we’re not in that position again,” Holmes said, specifically referring to last year. “So, that is something that we’re gonna need to address, whether it’s here in free agency or upcoming in the draft. That’s something that we’ve had a lot of conversations about. I gotta do a better job of making sure we get that rectified.”
As alluded to, there are different directions the team can go, in regard to adding a veteran or a rookie. On top of that, there are also options with playing styles. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was asked if it was better to have a backup who closely mirrored the starter’s skill set or one with different tools that could trouble an opponent if they were forced to enter the game. In Detroit’s case, that would mean pursuing a QB with more of a dual-threat skill set.
Johnson said there are merits to both ways of thinking, but there’s one overarching priority when attempting to fill the role.
“My personal philosophy has been to give us the best guy that can win a game for us,” Johnson said. “And so when I look at a backup quarterback, the two areas I start with are third down and two-minute (drill management), because that’s where they really have the most impact.”
Johnson said you can cover up many quarterback weaknesses in neutral situations with a running game and play-action passes, but what makes a backup stand out is the ability to extend drives on third downs and handle the pressure moments at the end of each half.
“There are a number of backups out there, the majority of the backups out there, where it’s just keep the train on the tracks and let’s manage this thing,” Johnson said. “The really good ones, the best backups, they’re the ones that can still win a ballgame for ya. I think if you look at the win-loss record for backups in the league, it’s hard to find ones who are over .500.
“The guy we had in Miami was Matt Moore, and I think Matt Moore was one of the best backup quarterbacks,” Johnson said. “He had a winning record as a starter, and we knew if the game was on the line, he could come in and we wouldn’t miss a beat. And the guys believed in him. And he was a great teammate. So there are all these different qualities that you need, probably more so than, ‘Hey, does he have the running ability, or this or that.’ It’s really, at the end of the day, does he fit the room, does he fit what we need, and can he help us win a game if it’s on the line?”