Here in Indianapolis, two of the early available figures were Lions head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn. A team that showed some spurts last season but generally struggled, they've recently seen the departure of franchise stalwarts like Golden Tate, Glover Quin, and likely Ziggy Ansah.
Owners of the 8th overall pick and with more than few holes to fill, they fielded a ton of questions about the things they look for in early prospects, and how evaluations have changed over their time in the NFL.
Both Quinn and Patricia fielded a heavy number of questions about second-year running back Kerryon Johnson, and his potential role as a bellcow in Year 2. Quinn shied from the usage of the word bellcow and refused to give a certain number of touches he had in mind for Kerryon's year two usage. He emphasized the importance of having complementary backs, such as Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner, who established situational roles by the end of the year.
The hope for Lions fans will be new offensive coordinator Darrel Bevell, who will have big input on how the running back room is deployed. Head coach Matt Patricia lauded the commitment the team made to Kerryon last year, and cited the team's ability to run the football as one of the most promising building blocks he hopes to carry over into Year 2
Teez Tabor was also a big point of discussion for Quinn, who thinks he developed nicely over the course of his second season. Quinn affirmed that Tabor is still a corner, and thought a move to the slot did wonders for his confidence, citing the second Green Bay game as tape that stood out.
On offensive guard T.J. Lang, Quinn admits that they're still working through the process of deciding how to approach his free agency -- a process obviously delayed by the health issues Lang experienced over the past season. Quinn also said on Ziggy Ansah that his impending free agency is heavily conditional on his medical state, though that rings a little empty.
On Patricia's side of the house, he took less questions and offered less input on roster moves, but he thinks Tracy Walker has a chance to start this season, and likes where Kenny Golladay in his development to take on a bigger role next season.
Quinn was asked a good question about the potential of doubling or even tripling up at a position of dire need -- EDGE, being the random example given. While he grimaced at the idea of tripling up, Quinn made it clear that holding nine picks across the seven rounds helps the team free up space to double on a position if the board falls that way. It's all about depth and value, though -- they don't want to go hunting for need.
That's part of the discussion around the pick at 8, where Quinn made some waves earlier this offseason for not taking QB totally out of the discussion. But that goes back to the age-old caution of scouts and general managers: never outlaw anything.
Quinn was pressed on the possibility of taking a TE at 8 -- a move that's rather unprecedented, given the scant history of TEs in the Top 10. Again, he made it clear that they would be willing to take any player in the Top 10, if that's how his talent was evaluated by their scouts. In tight ends, Quinn says he looks for players who can do it all, in terms of Round 1 targets -- and he heavily emphasized pass protection as a focus for college tight ends, as only the elite players at the CFB level can take on that task.
Patricia remarked, like Quinn, on the fact that teams are regularly flexing tight ends out wide as college offenses increasingly adopt the spread. Asked many times about the similarities between his system and other Patriot-inspired defenses (Vrabel, Flores, Belichick), Patricia brought up how his system has changed into a "sub" defense to respond to the new style of NFL offenses.
He isn't a 3-4 or a 4-3. He runs subpackages as his base system.
As such, some of the prototypes for prospects' positions have changed on defense. It's important for linebackers to be faster, for interior defensive linemen to generate quick pressure, and for corners to be able to take away the quick game.