Detroit Lions: Logan Thomas

The NFL draft is less than two weeks away, which means soon enough the Detroit Lions will have to reveal whether all of their Sammy Watkins attention and visits from Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack had substance or were designed to throw everyone off.

But the draft will be more than just one round for the Lions, who will need to use the three days in May to build depth on a roster that is big on stars but small on those players beyond the big names who can turn the Lions into a playoff team.

Every day up until the first day of the draft, we’ll look at a different position grouping and see what Detroit has and what the team could end up looking for during the 2014 draft.

Today starts with quarterbacks.

Players Lost: Shaun Hill (signed with St. Louis)

Players Signed: Dan Orlovsky (from Tampa Bay)

Players on the roster: Matthew Stafford; Orlovsky; Kellen Moore.

Draft priority: Medium

Potential Rounds: 4-7

Players who have visited or the Lions have met with: Zach Mettenberger, LSU; Aaron Murray, Georgia (per NFL Network)

Analysis: Since Lions general manager Martin Mayhew met with reporters at the NFL combine in February, one of the things he has been most steadfast about is potentially drafting a quarterback to develop. That wasn’t going to change if the Lions had brought back Hill.

It isn’t going to change now that the Lions have signed Orlovsky.

The Lions have a new coaching staff, a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterbacks coach – so it would be logical to think they would want to have their own young quarterback to mentor. Coaches love having players they can mold, no more so than quarterbacks, who end up being so key to any franchise.

Considering the players Detroit has worked out, it is obvious the team is looking for more of a project quarterback as well. Both Mettenberger and Murray are coming off of injuries sustained last season, so there would be little pressure on either one of them to play in 2014 unless it became an emergency situation.

Even then, Detroit would probably look for a veteran on the market before going to either one of those two players.

Of course, the Lions could end up drafting another quarterback, depending who falls where and the value of round compared to where a player stands on their board, but both Mettenberger and Murray would be sensible selections for Detroit.

The only reasons the Lions likely wouldn’t pick a quarterback next month would either fall with players they want no longer being around or a sudden resurgence in the belief that Moore can play in the NFL.

Unless new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter take a similar liking to Moore that former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan did, Moore could have a difficult path to a roster spot this fall.

If Mayhew had any confidence in him as anything other than a No. 3 quarterback, he likely would not have brought in an experienced backup like Orlovsky to help out Stafford. And at this point, having a No. 3 quarterback you don’t necessarily believe in entering his third season is probably not what Detroit has in mind at the position.

Of all reasonable options, I’d take: Mettenberger on the third day if he’s there. He has a strong arm, prototypical size for a quarterback and can learn from both Stafford and Orlovsky for at least a season before being potentially needed in the No. 2 role. The size and arm strength make him an interesting project quarterback for Lombardi, Cooter and head coach Jim Caldwell, probably more so than Murray. If Detroit really wanted to take a chance, Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech has a bunch of the tools as well, but has less experience than Mettenberger. Mettenberger and Thomas would be the best two options of the likely third-day candidates.

Possible targets: Mettenberger; Murray; Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech; Tajh Boyd, Clemson; Bryn Renner, North Carolina; Connor Shaw, South Carolina; Stephen Morris, Miami (Fla.).
This is perhaps the biggest loss for the Detroit Lions this free agency period and it has nothing to do with a starter.

Hill
Shaun Hill has decided to sign a one-year deal with St. Louis, meaning after four years with Detroit the team will have a new backup quarterback this year. If it wants a veteran, though, the team might have waited too long to get a viable one.

Luke McCown, the player who would have been the best fit had Hill gone elsewhere, re-signed Wednesday with New Orleans. Ryan Fitzpatrick is signed up in Houston. Jason Campbell went to Cincinnati. Kellen Clemens is unavailable, now in San Diego.

And while Detroit appears fine with drafting a quarterback as a backup and the team still has Kellen Moore on the roster, it would be somewhat surprising to see Jim Caldwell enter his first season as the Lions' coach without an experienced backup.

Especially since the lack of a competent backup quarterback helped get him fired in Indianapolis after the 2011 season.

So where could Detroit go from here? Let's look at some options.

Kellen Moore: He has yet to take an NFL snap but is already in the locker room and under contract. This could be the opportunity he needs to prove he is a capable NFL player, but so far there is little evidence to support that. If the team doesn't feel like he can be the No. 2 quarterback, it might be time to see him leave the roster altogether. This is their big question with him.

Matt Flynn: Of the quarterbacks left, he might be the most cost-efficient considering the experience. Flynn is a former starter and the Lions know him well from his time in Green Bay. He isn't as strong of an option as Hill or, say, a Brandon Weeden, but he has proven he can win games for teams if necessary and that's what Detroit is seeking.

Mark Sanchez: Likely too expensive and still in the hunt to be a starting quarterback somewhere, he would seem unlikely because he'll have less than zero chance to replace Matthew Stafford. It would appear Sanchez would want to be somewhere he could at least compete to be a starter.

Josh Freeman: He would be an intriguing option for Detroit because he has the talent to be a starter but needs a place to resurrect his career after fiascos in Tampa Bay and Minnesota in 2013. He could be a one-year stopgap option, especially if the Lions drafted a rookie to be a third quarterback and eventual developmental replacement.

Brady Quinn: He is a step below Flynn and Sanchez, but Quinn has a strong arm and has started 12 games in his career. His 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his career are not good numbers, but considering the Lions are hoping to never have to use this player, he could be a good short-term option.

Kevin Kolb: He has started at least one game in four of the past five seasons between Philadelphia and Arizona. He has thrown 28 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in his career, which isn't bad for a backup. If he is willing to take a completely backup role, he could be a strong option.

A rookie: The Lions have draft picks and could use a mid-round selection on a quarterback now if they are committed to developing one. Considering Moore is under contract for one more year, they could use him as the immediate backup for a season while they bring along a rookie. Among the potential candidates there could be Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech); Zach Mettenberger (LSU) and Aaron Murray (Georgia). Tom Savage (Pittsburgh); Stephen Morris (Miami, Fla.) and Connor Shaw (South Carolina) would also be intriguing developmental options.
Two of the major college all-star games took place last Saturday. The Senior Bowl happens this Saturday with practices all week.

Many of the players selected in May’s draft will come from these three games or from underclassmen who decided the time was right to turn professional. Over the next two weeks, pairing with our position outlook series, we’ll take a quick preview look and look back at some names to become familiar with over the next four months as the NFL draft process crawls along.

Today starts with quarterbacks. (Position outlook: Quarterbacks)

NFLPA game: Connor Shaw (6-1, 209, South Carolina) was 5-of-6 for 70 yards and an interception. Shaw completed 180 of 284 passes for 2,447 yards, 24 touchdowns and one interception last season. He also rushed for 558 yards and six scores. Rated as the No. 14 quarterback by ESPN. Sean Schroeder (6-3, 200, Hawai’i) was 13-of-17 for 138 yards and a touchdown. Schroeder completed 233 of 376 passes for 2,960 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season.

Shrine Game: Keith Wenning (6-2 1/8, 220, Ball State) was 12 of 19 for 82 yards and an interception. He completed 319 of 498 passes for 4,148 yards, 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. Rated as the No. 18 quarterback by ESPN. Jimmy Garoppolo (6-2 1/4, 222, Eastern Illinois) was 9-of-14 for 100 yards and a touchdown. He is rated as the No. 8 quarterback and No. 91 prospect overall. Completed 375 of 568 passes this season for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Also earned a Senior Bowl invite after AJ McCarron pulled out of the game. Jeff Mathews (6-3 1/8, 224, Cornell) was 4-of-5 for 37 yards and an interception. Was 228-of-360 for 2,953 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season. Rated as the No. 17 quarterback.

Senior Bowl prospects: Logan Thomas (6-5 5/8, 254, Virginia Tech, No. 3 North) was 227-of-402 for 2,907 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Rated as the No. 7 quarterback. Stephen Morris (6-2, 218, Miami (Fla.), No. 17 North) was 198-of -344 for 3,028 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season. Rated as the No. 10 quarterback. David Fales (6-1 3/8, 220, San Jose State, No. 12 South) was 312-of-487 for 4,189 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season. Garoppolo will wear No. 10 for the South in this game.

Others not in major all-star games: Brett Smith (6-3, 206, Wyoming) was 293-of-467 for 3,375 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions his junior season before declaring for the draft. He is the No. 11 quarterback as ranked by ESPN. Tom Savage (6-3 3/4, 230, Pittsburgh) was 238-of-389 for 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. Bryn Renner (6-2 1/4, 219, North Carolina) completed 152 of 231 passes for 1,765 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions before missing the last five games of the season with a left shoulder injury. He is the No. 16 quarterback according to ESPN.

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