Lions GM Brad Holmes said Tuesday the team got a "great head start" on evaluating the top quarterbacks in this year's draft at the Senior Bowl, where Detroit coached Malik Willis, Sam Howell and Bailey Zappe and studied Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ritter and Carson Strong from the other side. He said they gained "a lot of clarity" on those prospects entering the combine, where they will "follow up" this week.
"You’ve gotta be just as diligent and thorough in your process with those guys," he said. "And that’s what we’ll do."
And that was as much as Holmes would say on the matter of quarterbacks, with the Lions holding two first-round picks ahead of a draft where they could be searching for the successor to Jared Goff. Dan Campbell was a little more forthcoming, noting the Lions "interviewed a couple" quarterbacks Monday night and will "continue to interview" in the coming days.
“There’s still a lot of this left," he said, "but I know there’s guys in here that can play football, just like any other year."
The Lions seem certain to draft a defensive player at No. 2, the general consensus being Aidan Hutchinson. But they've been linked to several quarterbacks at No. 32, at least by way of mock drafts. That includes Matt Corral from Ole Miss, who didn't participate in the Senior Bowl and won't throw at the combine as he recovers from an ankle injury.
Corral is cut from the mold of the modern QB, dangerous with his arm and his legs. So is Howell, who threw for over 3,000 yards and rushed for nearly 1,000 last season at UNC. So is Willis, the Liberty product who has arguably the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the draft. Any one of them would shake up an offense that's built for a traditional pocket passer in Goff.
If that means an entirely new playbook, Campbell's cool with it. Just so long as the Lions unanimously believe in the newcomer as the face of their future.
"I think it's about finding the best player for us," Campbell said. "That's what I'm all about (and) what we're all about. So if the right player is sitting there, I'm not worried about scheme. Man, if we love a guy and you get him and he's going to be your starter, then we'll build it around him. We'll do what he does best. We'll change the whole damn thing if we have to. I'm not worried about that. But it is about finding the right guy that you really believe in."
For now, the Lions seem to believe in Goff. He played at an elite level toward the end of last season after Campbell took over the offense and then-tight ends coach Ben Johnson took over the passing game. The emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown and the arrival of Josh Reynolds, helped too.
But the feeling remains that Goff is just a placeholder. He has a career passer rating of 91.5 and the Lions can move on from him in 2023 at little cost. His potential successor could arrive as soon as next month, with a skillset that could bring Detroit's offense up to speed -- but only if the Lions size him up and see a winner.
"If you believe in him and you think he can grow and he can develop and he's smart and he's got moxie and he can command a huddle, he can do a lot of different jobs and he can do those things (on the ground)? That's awesome," said Campbell.
"But if the guy isn't able to think or you can only put a very small amount on him and he doesn't have the ability to grow, it doesn't matter if you're mobile or not," he went on. "You still have to be able to function an offense and have a commanding presence with those guys. I just believe that. I think there's a lot of things that go into it."