DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions have not drafted a quarterback since Matthew Stafford in 2009, and other than Kellen Moore the franchise has not really brought in a serious contender to groom as a backup since.
The team has primarily had veterans behind Stafford throughout his career, something that is likely to continue this season since the franchise re-signed Dan Orlovsky. New general manager Bob Quinn comes from a different system of thinking, though, so it would not be surprising to see the Lions look to a quarterback late in this year’s NFL draft.
"It’s really good football business to acquire a young quarterback every year or every other year," Quinn said at a team event for season-ticket holders at Ford Field on Thursday night. "They're such a valuable position and nowadays in college football, there’s a lot of spread offenses, which means it’s a lot different than pro football. So it takes these young quarterbacks time to develop.
"So if you can add a young quarterback every year or every other year to your roster, it’s good football business in my mind so you have time to develop them, either on the practice squad or as a backup before eventually them having to play in a game."
The Lions are likely to take one to groom as an eventual replacement as the No. 2 behind Orlovsky at some point in the future. Being a backup quarterback takes a certain quality as well, especially when a starter is as entrenched as Stafford.
He needs to be able to pick up playbooks quickly and offer something during film studies during the week as his primary job will be to help Stafford prepare for Sundays and then be his eyes and ears on the sidelines. This is a role Shaun Hill, Orlovsky and Moore fit well over the past few years.
And the Lions have an idea of what they are looking for in a potential drafted quarterback.
"You look at certainly the physical tools, height, weight, speed, ability to throw the ball accurately," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said at the member summit. "The intelligence portion of it because they have to be certainly able to handle a lot from an intellectual standpoint, particularly in our offense. It’s not only just dropping back, throwing the ball, turning and handing the ball off.
"You also have to make checks at the line of scrimmage, adjust the projections and not only do that methodically but in a nanosecond. And so it takes a special individual. So we’re searching the kind of people who can come in and compete."
Those things are why former Michigan and Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock could be a good fit for the Lions late in the draft or as a priority undrafted free agent. Rudock is one of the quarterbacks the Lions have been linked to in the pre-draft process as he said he had meetings set up with Detroit.
Rudock could be an attractive option because of what he showed last season at Michigan. He picked up an NFL playbook quickly and earned the starting job a few months after stepping on campus. He also learned from NFL minds in Jim Harbaugh and passing-game coordinator Jedd Fisch and watched film of pro quarterbacks to help install his college plays last season.
He showed decent speed at his pro day, running the 40 in 4.85 seconds. He also had an accurate throwing session, according to NFL.com. The media was not allowed into Michigan’s workout, but Rudock might have put himself in position to be drafted.
Fisch, the former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator, said as Rudock became more comfortable with Michigan’s offense, he showed he could make almost any throw necessary with increased accuracy and efficiency. Rudock completed at least 60 percent of passes in all but one of his final eight games (59.4 percent against Ohio State) and completed 64 percent of his passes in 2015. He ended up completing 249 of 389 passes for 3,017 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. A third of those turnovers came in the season opener against Utah.
His 3,017 passing yards were the second-best single season in Michigan history, behind John Navarre’s 3,331 yards in 2003. His 20 touchdowns tied for ninth in Michigan history for a single season with Tom Brady (1999) and Denard Robinson (2011).
“Whatever team takes him will be happy they take him, through the draft or free agency,” Fisch told ESPN.com. “He’s going to go in there and he’s going to pick up the offense. He’s not going to ruffle feathers. He’s going to work really hard. He’s going to listen to coaching. He’s going to do what he’s told, and what else do you want?”
Rudock is one of a few quarterbacks who have been looked at so far during the pre-draft process for Detroit. The Lions met with UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel prior to his pro day, according to National Football Post. They’ve shown interest in Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. They are likely to investigate many others as well before the draft at the end of April.
It shows the Lions are doing homework on players they believe could become developmental quarterbacks for the future.