LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Bob Quinn has climbed to the top of an NFL front office, leading the Detroit Lions after having a variety of roles for the New England Patriots.READ MORE: ACLU Sues Michigan State Police, Claims Racial Profiling, Black Drivers Pulled Over More
Quinn worked under Bill Belichick for the previous 16 seasons, learning how one of the league’s best prepared for the NFL draft and made decisions when New England was on the clock.
Now, it is the rookie general manager’s turn to make the final calls for a franchise desperately hoping it has found the right man for the job.
“There’s more pressure, of course,” Quinn said Thursday, a week before the three-day draft begins. “I’m making the pick.”
The Lions are scheduled to make the No. 16 selection overall, one of 10 picks they had accumulated to help Quinn assemble his first roster. The Motor City hopes Quinn hits more than he misses on picks, coming off a 7-9 season that was the franchise’s 13th losing record in 15 years.
Here are some things to watch during Quinn’s first draft in Detroit:
CHANGE IN PHILOSOPHY: The Lions strictly followed their draft board with previous general managers, Martin Mayhew and Matt Millen, even if they ended up drafting a tight end or wide receiver that didn’t fill a void.
Quinn plans to strike a balance between taking the best players available and addressing needs.
“You’ve got to kind of mesh those two together and really take the best player for the Lions,” he said.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND: Clearly, the Lions need to improve their offensive line, especially at tackle, to keep Matthew Stafford upright more often and to establish a running game. Stafford was sacked 89 times the past two years, a total that trails just three quarterbacks since 2014.
Detroit doesn’t have a great option opposite left tackle Riley Reiff, a 2012 first-round pick, entering the last year of his contract. Quinn, though, said there are not a lot of capable candidates coming out of college.
“Just go by their height and their weight,” Quinn said. “Like, how many 6-7, 6-5 320-pound guys are walking around Earth? Not that many, right? … There’s many more skill players — receivers, corners, running backs — walking around than there are guys that are 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 that can move their feet.”
RED MAY MEAN GO: The Lions, like all teams, try to find out as much as they can about prospects off the field to protect their potential investments.
“There will be a fair number of guys that we will not consider for character concerns and off-the-field reasons,” Quinn said.READ MORE: Woman Finds 95-Year-Old Message In A Bottle In Michigan
Quinn acknowledged Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is a red-flag player, meaning he appears to have some off-field issues. He was charged with possession of marijuana in December after falling out of a hotel room window in Atlanta. That will not, however, necessarily mean Detroit will not draft the 6-foot-3, 294-pound Nkemdiche to play next to re-signed veteran Haloti Ngata.
“You’ve just got to manage the risk and the reward of taking a guy like that,” Quinn said.
MISSING MEGATRON: Detroit won’t have to add a wide receiver early in the draft because Calvin Johnson retired in part because it signed free agent Marvin Jones, who had career highs with 65 receptions and 816 yards receiving last season with the Cincinnati Bengals, to start with Golden Tate.
“It’s not easy to have every need filled this time of year,” Quinn said. “That’s why the draft happens in April.”
STICKING WITH STAFFORD: Quinn was coy as if he was a savvy GM, a week before his first draft in charge. He danced around some questions and even walked off the podium as reporters attempted to ask more questions.
Quinn did, though, shut down any talk of trading Stafford to potentially stockpile picks.
“I haven’t thought about that and I have no interest in trading Matthew,” he said.
Stafford, whom Detroit drafted No. 1 overall in 2009, is coming off one of the best stretches of his career. He threw 19 touchdown and just two interceptions as the Lions won six of their final eight games last season.
“Hopefully, I still have the hot hand,” he said.
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