Lions 2021 draft preview: Can't rule out taking a quarterback in first round

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Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
·3 min read
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Apr. 12—Over the next several days, leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, we're taking a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions' roster and evaluating how the team might address each unit. Today: Quarterback. — Current roster: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough — Short-term need: Five out of 10 — Long-term need: Eight out of 10 — Top prospects: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones, Trey Lance — Mid-round options: Kellen Mond, Kyle Trask, Davis Mills — Late-round considerations: Jamie Newman, Feleipe Franks — Analysis: We're weeks away from the draft and we still can't dismiss the Lions addressing the quarterback position in the first round. Sure, the team has verbally committed to Goff after acquiring him in a trade from the Los Angeles Rams, but a good general manager should always be looking for long-term upgrades, particularly at the most important position.

The expectation is the first three picks of the opening round will be quarterbacks, with Lawrence, Wilson and Jones the projected trio coming off the board. Depending on the trade market ahead of Detroit, it's possible Fields, Lance or both could still be there when the Lions are on the clock at No. 7.

Fields, who unfairly faces the stigma of being an Ohio State quarterback, has talent that transcends his predecessors. Over the past two seasons with the Buckeyes, he completed 68.4% of his throws with 63 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He also has plus mobility, rushing for 867 yards during that same stretch. He rubber-stamped his speed with a 4.44-second 40-yard dash, among the fastest ever recorded at the position.

Lance, meanwhile, is one of the draft's great mysteries. Only 20 years old with a single year of starting experience under his belt, he tore apart FCS competition, throwing 28 touchdowns without an interception, while adding another 14 scores and 1,100 yards on the ground.

With his skill set and size (6-foot-4, 224 pounds), Lance offers a tantalizing ceiling but also a terrifying floor.

If the Lions wait, they're far less likely to find a prospect who will eventually unseat Goff, but there's still room for a developmental backup given Boyle's contract only runs through the 2021 season and the new regime isn't tied to Blough.

On the dual-threat front, both Mond and Newman carry intrigue.

Mond, this year's Senior Bowl MVP, showed steady improvement during his four seasons at Texas A&M. As a senior, he completed a personal best 63.3% of his throws, while trimming his interceptions to three across 10 games.

As a runner, Mond racked up more than 1,600 yards and scored 22 times during his college career. Then, at his pro day, he clocked in at 4.56 seconds in his 40, which is well above average for the position.

Newman didn't play in 2020, opting out after transferring to Georgia. While at Wake Forest, he showed an intriguing skill set worthy of development at the professional level. In 2019, he threw for 2,868 yards, 26 scores and 11 picks, adding another 574 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

Another option with potential is Franks, a former top recruit who lost his starting job at Florida due to injury, transferred to Arkansas, and put together an impressive 2020 season for the Razorbacks.

While he primarily played from the pocket during his college career, his pro day measurements highlight untapped athleticism. In addition to his 4.61-second 40-yard time, Franks also showed impressive explosion and change-of-direction quickness during drill work.

A good coaching staff can find ways to better incorporate the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder's movement skills and pair it with his big arm.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers