I can’t believe I’m at this point right now. These are words that I never thought my phalanges would press on a keyboard to make. I think the Detroit Lions are about to draft a quarterback with the sixth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and I don’t completely hate it. Wow! I actually said it.
That might not seem like a big statement or anything. I’m sure there are plenty of Lions fans who would welcome that. Actually, I know there are because a lot of them were in the comment section of the article I wrote about the Lions setting their rebuild back by drafting a quarterback high in this year’s draft. That was literally written at the beginning of this month. The fact that I’ve been swayed to the point of not totally hating it is a mountain-moving type of miracle.
Here’s the thing: while I wouldn’t hate it, I still don’t think the Lions should do it. I still fully believe that they should commit their draft resources to bringing in defensive assets and maybe some offensive skill players. I have more good feelings about the Lions drafting a wide receiver at six than I do a quarterback. The thing is, the Lions free agency moves really points to why it could happen and why the table for it happening has been set.
Brad Holmes talked about needing a backup quarterback back at the combine. He didn’t really commit to how that backup would come in. It could be the draft and it could be free agency. Well, he didn’t grab one in free agency. At this point, there really aren’t a lot of great options in free agency. Holmes made note that sometimes quarterbacks like to wait till after the draft to see what their options are. Well, that didn’t happen. Unless the Lions decide to sign Carson Wentz or Teddy Bridgewater, they’re likely getting their backup in the draft.
Pre-free agency, the focus on the Lions’ first-round picks were at the cornerback position, but then Holmes went crazy on that area by bringing in Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Suddenly the secondary looks pretty good. If the Lions do want to add there, they can still do it with lower picks than their top two.
The Lions didn’t address the defensive line or linebacker in free agency. Maybe it’s because they plan to address that in the draft or maybe it’s because they feel comfortable with where they are at both positions. The defensive line, in particular, could use some interior help with a real burst, but they can get that without getting the tippy top lineman in this draft. The linebacker class is in this draft is not great. So we know there’s a very strong chance they won’t go linebacker at six because no linebacker is worth going that high this year, and this regime does not seem to value that position that highly.
So where does that leave things? It’s got to be quarterback, right? The big fear I had about them getting a quarterback was that it ties the rebuild to one player instead of the entire team. I still feel that way. The second fear I had was that the Lions roster wouldn’t be ready to draft a player for the future and ignore a player that could help immediately. But here’s the thing: they look pretty good for the immediacy. It may be time to start planning for the future.
That’s why I don’t completely hate it. The Lions have the ability to take this risk right now and there’s a good chance that they won’t be back drafting this high for a long while. So why not take a quarterback? The problem the Lions are probably going to run into is that there might not be a quarterback to take there. Just about every team ahead of the Lions needs a quarterback. The biggest exception is the Arizona Cardinals, who may trade their pick to a team that needs a quarterback.
The good news is that if all the top quarterbacks are gone by six, Detroit is in a fine position. They don’t need to force it. The Lions can then just go ahead draft one of the top defensive players that will fall to them or the best receiver in the draft. They could trade down and accumulate picks for the future. I think the Lions are in one of those win/win situations you only hear about in your dreams. It should be interesting to see what actually happens in just over a month.