INDIANAPOLIS -- The Detroit Lions are in the midst of planning for its first combination of free agency and the draft under first-year general manager Bob Quinn.
Quinn wouldn't say much during his meeting with the media Wednesday as part of the NFL combine, but there are some things that have become clearer after the yearly event in Indianapolis.
Here are some things picked up over the past week.
1. Defensive tackle is deep and a priority: This might be the deepest position in April's draft and that's good news for the Lions. Detroit is thin at defensive tackle with Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker as free agents along with the recently-released C.J. Wilson. Ngata and Walker could end up back with the Lions, but depth is still going to be a concern. The first round is still a possibility for Detroit. A'Shawn Robinson from Alabama met with Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and would be a strong possibility if he is still available at No. 16. Expect the Lions to focus on tackle over the next couple months.
2. The Patriots' system will influence the draft: The addition of former Patriots staffers in the front office and scouting department will mean more of a shift to how New England scouts players and aligns the draft board. Expect more of an emphasis on roles a potential free agent will play. That also holds true for the draft, where role and fit in Detroit's offensive and defensive schemes will weigh heavier than round projection. I went into more depth on this last week here but figure this will be the norm for Quinn and his staff the rest of the way. It will be a change, but it might create a more helpful draft board for Detroit.
3. Receivers are OK with replacing Calvin Johnson: By nature, receivers are a confident bunch. They believe they should win almost every ball and have strong opinions on their abilities. I spoke with a lot of receivers about the potential of replacing Johnson if he retires for a story later this week. While you'll have to wait on their exact opinions, the overwhelming majority relished the opportunity if it happens because it would mean potentially more work as rookies. They believe in themselves under pressure, something they'll have to be comfortable in if they were to replace Johnson.
4. Quinn won't mince words: While the general manager was light on detail in his meeting with the media, he made it clear the franchise needs improvement in roster depth. He wouldn't say what free agents the franchise was attempting to retain and who would no longer be a part of the team. He wouldn't go into detail about the releases of Joique Bell or Stephen Tulloch. But building depth is important and that is part of his plan for free agency. He also made clear that since the Lions missed the playoffs last season, the roster's talent level has to improve.
5. A complete linebacker will be tempting, but rare: Quinn just doesn't think three-down linebackers come around that often in the league. That's an interesting thought considering how often defensive coordinator Teryl Austin mixed-and-matched linebackers based on packages throughout the season. So what will Quinn look for? He wants run-heavy backers with instincts, power and good tackling on early downs. For third-down backers, he wants speed and coverage skills as main attributes. Now to find someone with all three? Those will likely come in the first round, where Reggie Ragland and Darron Lee would be possibilities at No. 16. The most complete linebacker in the draft, Jaylon Smith, is also the one with the most questions as he's coming back from a nasty knee injury with an uncertain timetable for return.