- The Detroit Lions did not send scouts to see Liberty quarterback Malik Willis and Ole Miss star Matt Corral square off on Saturday, Nov. 6
- Detroit is on pace to have the 2022 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick
- The Lions are sending mixed signals about starting quarterback Jared Goff’s long-term future
With respect to Goff, who has played well at times in his first season with the Lions, he hasn’t looked at all like the man who can finally turn the long-suffering franchise into a contender again. Considering the Lions are apace to have the 2022 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick, one would believe they’d want to start using as many resources as possible to find the next starting quarterback.
Wait, who are we kidding? We’re talking about the Lions here.
The Lions did not have scouts attending a Nov. 6 showdown between top draft prospects Malik Willis and Matt Corral
Once we start getting into late October and early November, we really have an idea of which teams are playoff-bound and which teams need to start thinking about the upcoming NFL Draft. The Lions, just as they’ve been for much of your existence, fall into the latter group.
Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels hosted the Liberty Flames on Saturday, Nov. 7, in a fun matchup for NFL draft fans. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral and Liberty quarterback Malik Willis are widely viewed as two of the 2022 NFL Draft’s top prospects at their position. Corral is also an early candidate to go No. 1 overall.
Sixteen teams, several of which are likely to pursue quarterbacks in next spring’s draft, attended the Rebels’ 27-14 victory. The Houston Texans were there, the New Orleans Saints sent three scouts, and the Denver Broncos had five scouts in the building. Curiously, the Lions reportedly didn’t send a single person.
Corral, a dynamic fourth-year junior, completed 20 of 27 passes for 324 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions. Willis, who began his career at Auburn, threw three interceptions and ran for a score.
One would reasonably believe the Lions should scout both players as much possible if they intend to replace Goff
Let’s think practically for a second. The Lions traded Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Goff, who has completed 66.9% of his passes for 1,995 yards, eight touchdowns, and six interceptions in the team’s first eight games. By the way, Detroit lost all eight games and is headed for a fourth straight losing season.
At this stage in the game, Goff probably isn’t the Lions’ long-term answer at quarterback. Although the team likely wouldn’t be able to cut him until 2023 for cap reasons, he hasn’t done enough to make the organization say they’ll focus this latest rebuild around him.
Part of thinking practically involves putting two and two together. The Lions should not have reason at this point to feel comfortable about Goff as the franchise quarterback. The Lions are also on track to have the top overall pick or, depending on how the final nine games go, at least own a top-5 selection.
Why, then, wouldn’t the Lions want to start doing as much research on the quarterbacks as possible? The football gods gifted teams a perfect opportunity to see Corral and Willis up close in the same game. Where were the Lions’ scouts? Did they get stuck in the parking lot trying to find a spot? Did one of Kiffin’s visors strike the scout in the face?
The Lions’ lack of presence at a highly-anticipated matchup between two top quarterback prospects immediately creates the impression that Detroit doesn’t intend to draft a quarterback at No. 1 overall. That can’t mean the Lions are really thinking about sticking with Goff … can it?
What other quarterbacks could the Lions pursue in the 2022 NFL Draft?
We have good news, Lions fans. Remember when we said the team traded Stafford to the Rams earlier this year? Detroit also acquired the Rams’ first-round pick, which, if the season ended today, would be No. 28 overall.
If the Lions don’t go quarterback at No. 1, they’ll still have a second early pick to use on Goff’s potential replacement. As of publication, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett were each considered in the group of quarterbacks right below Corral and Willis. They’re the ones who could go anywhere from top-10 to late first-round or even early in the second round.
Those two aren’t the only possible options. Nevada’s Carson Strong has earned rave reviews for his arm strength, and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder is an intriguing dual-threat prospect. Although the easy knock on both is they play at mid-major programs, let the likes of Derek Carr (Fresno State) and Josh Allen (Wyoming) remind you that not every successful starting quarterback needs to come from the SEC or Big 12.
Then again, we’re talking about the Lions. They can draft a quarterback in 2022 and still be looking for a new one in 2024.