Lions 2023 NFL draft: A quarterback for every round

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The Detroit Lions will be selecting a quarterback at some point in the 2023 NFL draft. General manager Brad Holmes has effectively told us that in both words and actions, though never explicitly. The question is, when in the draft?

There are options across the draft spectrum, from potential future starters to long-term backups that would upgrade the No. 2 position.

Here is one quarterback prospect that fits the Lions from each round of the draft. Detroit doesn’t currently have any picks in the fourth or seventh rounds, but players from those ranges are included because trades happen all the time during the draft weekend.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just one from each range, in an effort to show the relative level of talent that should be available in those rounds. Note that the projections here are based on where the players are expected to be drafted as of publication time.

1st round: Anthony Richardson, Florida

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Richardson is the most physically gifted QB prospect ever, based on his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s translated that to the field for Florida with mixed results.

In just one year as a starter in the SEC, Richardson showed he was capable of greatness (Utah and Vanderbilt games) but also in need of radical improvement (Kentucky and Florida State games). Drafting Richardson at No. 6–if he lasts that long in the draft–is a gamble that the frustrating inconsistencies and spotty accuracy are more an indication of inexperience than lack of talent.

I omitted both C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young from the list because they are almost universally projected to be the top two picks in the draft.

2nd round: Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

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I’ll say it right off the top–I don’t expect Hooker to be available in the second round. I’m not sold he lasts until the Lions own first-round pick at No. 18, though falling into the bottom of the first certainly makes sense for Hooker and his unique status.

Yet Hooker is the only quarterback who credibly projects anywhere close to the Lions picks at 48 and 55 overall. Using at least one of those picks to acquire Hooker is well within reason, though it might not actually happen in the official second round.

He’s an admittedly difficult sell due to his injury status; Hooker will almost certainly miss the vast majority of his rookie season as he recovers from a torn ACL. At 25, he’s overaged too. But his skills are an undeniable fit for the Lions offense.

Hooker is accurate to all levels of the field, protects the ball exceptionally well (58 TDs, 5 INTs in the last two seasons) and smartly identifies his best option pre-snap very well. He’s a confident leader and quick to adapt his style to the opposing defense if stymied early. If that sounds like Jared Goff, it should — just add in Hooker’s impressive ability to run. And with Goff firmly ensconced through at least 2023, there’s no reason to rush Hooker back from his injury.

3rd round: Jaren Hall, BYU

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Hall is something of a smaller, healthy version of Hooker. He’s an accurate, smart passer who thrives on hitting his initial read and offers some mobility. He’s also 25 and takes care of the ball very well. Hall just does it all in a less dynamic way with lower athletic upside. That was never clearer than during Senior Bowl week. To borrow from golf, Hall was the one QB (of 6) who consistently hit his driver 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. Doglegs, par-3s, water hazards, didn’t matter; Hall did his steady, reliable things and seemed almost physically incapable of deviation.

The third round is a little generous for Hall based on current projections, but if the Lions want him, he’s unlikely to be there for their next pick.

4th: Aidan O'Connell, Purdue

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O’Connell is one tough cookie. He has proven he can take a pounding and keep on producing accurate throws with impressive velocity. At Purdue, O’Connell was a very effective pocket passer who could thrive when the trains were kept on time.

Alas, he struggled when pressured. A lot of the pounding O’Connell took was a function of his deer-in-headlights response to pressure and athletic inability to protect himself when forced to flee the pocket. There was some promising improvement on those issues during Shrine Bowl week, but O’Connell would need to keep growing there quickly. He won’t fail from lack of effort.

5th: Clayton Tune, Houston

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I wrote this about Tune in my QB big board at Draft Wire, where the Houston gunslinger ranks No. 7 overall,

Tune put up huge numbers over five seasons for the go-go Cougars offense. He’s almost like a pitching machine from the pocket: crisp, consistent, confident delivery of an accurate and catchable ball to all levels of the field. Tune doesn’t have great arm strength but shouldn’t be underestimated by defenses. He doesn’t go off-script well with his eyes or accuracy, and Tune gets erratic with both his throws and his decisions under pressure. Bonus points for leadership and consistently coming through in late-game situations.

He is the most likely of the Day 3 quarterbacks here to become a long-term NFL starter.

6th: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA

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Thompson-Robinson elevated himself into draft-worthiness in 2022 thanks to quicker decision-making and more consistent accuracy on shorter throws. Spiking up his completion percentage from 60 in his first four years at UCLA to 69 in his last one is impressive, and he continues to be effective with his legs. His release is wonky and still often slow to trigger, and his lack of size could be problematic for a pocket-oriented passing attack.

7th: Max Duggan, TCU

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Duggan earned national prominence by leading TCU’s gritty run to the national championship game. The process isn’t always pretty, but Duggan’s will, his arm strength and confidence in his teammates worked very well for the Horned Frogs.

His coach in 2022 at TCU, Sonny Dykes, was Jared Goff’s college coach at Cal. Duggan is a very different style of player, however. He will risk ball security looking for the big play when safer options are present. As noted in his draft profile, there’s some Jeff Garcia to Duggan, for better and for worse.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire