Dan Campbell wants an immediate start to the No. 2 pick in the April NFL Draft, but that doesn’t stop the Detroit Lions from hosting one of this year’s best quarterback prospects on a pre-draft visit.
Lions will host Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett at their training facility in Allen Park next week, NFL Network reported.
Pickett is a potential top-10 pick and is considered the most pro-clear caller in a draft without a clear No. 1 quarterback.
Lions return, starting quarterback Jared Goff and backups Tim Boyle and David Blough, but have an uncertain future at the position after 2022.
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Goff had a choppy first season in Detroit and is considered by most to be a bridge to the position. The Lions can get out of his contract with limited consequences for the salary cap after this season.
Both Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes have expressed confidence in Goff, 27, but neither of them has committed to him as their long-term future in the position.
While it is unlikely the Lions will take a No. 2 quarterback based on Campbell’s comments, the second-year coach left the door open for that opportunity when he met with beat reporters last week.
“If you really love a guy and you know people want to be over him, and the only way to get that guy is to pick them where they are, it’s something worth thinking about, especially if “You think you can develop them. Guys,” he said.
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The Lions have a relatively young offensive staff with no track record in developing quarterbacks, though Campbell insisted he has “all the faith in the world (we have) what we need to develop a quarterback.”
New offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was a walk-on quarterback in North Carolina and a coaching assistant on the position at the Miami Dolphins. Quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell, who participated in Pitt pro day, played 18 NFL seasons at the position. And receivers coach Antwaan Randle El played quarterback at college in Indiana.
The Lions worked a lot with quarterbacks Malik Willis and Sam Howell at the Senior Bowl, and spent time off the field in the fight with Pickett and Desmond Knight.
Both Willis and Knight are potential first-round picks, and Willis is considered the highest upside quarterback in this year’s draft because of his unique blend of arm strength, athletic ability and leadership.
The Lions could be tempted to take a quarterback high in this year’s draft to find their future at the position. Campbell has previously talked about the value of having a rookie quarterback behind a veteran, and a number of NFL teams have been successful in recent seasons by building deep lists around a quarterback on a rookie contract.
The Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes), Philadelphia Eagles (Carson Wentz), Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson) and Baltimore Ravens (Joe Flacco) have all won the Super Bowls in the past decade with quarterbacks on rookie deals, and the Cincinnati Bengals (Joe) Burrow) and the Los Angeles Rams (Goff) have reached the match.
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In addition to their potential interest in drawing a No. 2 quarterback, the Lions can use their visit to Pickett to prepare for trade scenarios, both involving teams wishing to move up after a signal caller, and in the event that Picket falls into middle of later part of first round.
Lions own selections 32 and 34 in the draft, which they could use to advance and grab a top prospect. If they draft a 32-year-old quarterback, they would benefit from having a fifth-year option on that player’s rookie contract.
Pickett, a four-year-old starter at Pitt, had his best season with the Panthers last fall when he threw for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Carolina Panthers (No. 6) and New Orleans Saints (Nos. 16 and 19) are among the NFL teams that have been linked with Pickett in mock drafts.
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The Lions have hosted most other players believed to be in the No. 2 pick on pre-draft visits, including Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, Florida States’ Jermaine Johnson, Georgia’s Travon Walker, Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton and Cincinnatis Ahmad Gardner.
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.