Lions NFL draft preview: Quarterbacks

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.).