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2023 Combine preview: Quarterback

The quarterback class usually drives the top of the NFL Draft and it shouldn't be any different this year with some quarterback-needy teams at the top.

Lions veteran quarterback Jared Goff, 28, is coming off a Pro Bowl season and is under contract for two more seasons. Goff is in a terrific spot with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson back next season after the two paired to lead a top five offense last season in both total offense and points scored.

But that doesn't mean general manager Brad Holmes won't do his homework on this year's class. The Lions are in the market for a backup behind Goff and could opt to develop a youngster.

Top 5 quarterbacks to watch at the Combine:

1. Bryce Young, Alabama, 5-10, 192

The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner has the production, savvy and efficiency NFL teams love. His size will be criticized some in the pre-draft process, but there are multiple examples of quarterbacks less than 6-foot tall being highly productive in the NFL. Young was a two-year starter at Alabama and completed nearly 66 percent of his passes with 80 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.

View photos of the quarterback prospects who were invited to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.

2. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State, 6-3, 207

When coaches, scouts and front-office personnel went to Ohio State's pro day last year to evaluate the receivers for last year's draft, most came away more impressed with Stroud. Stroud backed it up by leading Ohio State to the college playoff with 41 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He's a big, natural thrower, and has the ability to use his legs, though that wasn't a big part of his game in college.

3. Will Levis, Kentucky, 6-4, 230

There are some inconsistencies in his game he'll certainly have to shore up, but there's no denying teams will love the physical traits and high ceiling. There are some technique things NFL teams will be able to work with him on in hopes of making him a more consistent and accurate passer.

4. Anthony Richardson, Florida, 6-4, 232

Richardson has a ton of upside but could really benefit from going somewhere where he can develop and learn behind a veteran. The playmaking and athleticism jump off the tape, but so do the eight games this season in which he completed less than 60 percent of his passes.

5. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee, 6-4, 222

Hooker, 25, was likely on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy this past year if not for an ACL injury. Hooker might be the second best pure passer in this class behind Young after completing nearly 70 percent of his passes with 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions before the knee injury.

Combine sleeper to watch: Jake Haener, Fresno State, 6-1, 201

He was clearly the best quarterback at the Senior Bowl and earned MVP honors in the all-star game. He missed a chunk of games due to injury this year, which is why his numbers aren't as good as his junior campaign. Haener has a good arm and is really accurate, completing 72 percent of his passes this past season with 20 touchdowns and only three picks.

Lions' need at the position: Moderate

Goff is the guy in Detroit in 2023 after leading one of the best offensive units in the NFL last season. He's taken ownership of the offense and is arguably coming off his best season as a professional in 2022.

The Lions are one Goff injury away from being in a world of trouble, however. Holmes has to decide if he wants to take the veteran free agent route to secure Goff's backup or look to the draft and start developing a young player. With five picks in the top 81 selections, Holmes has the ammunition to select a young player and let them learn behind Goff and under Johnson.

It's always good business in the NFL for teams to keep their options open at quarterback, even if they have one they like. It's such a premium position.

Key stat: Goff went nine straight games to end the season without an interception. He attempted 324 consecutive passes the last nine weeks of the season between his last interception, which ranks as the fifth longest streak in NFL history. He established new franchise records in TD/INT ratio (4.14) and interception rate (1.2 percent) while tying for the best passer rating in team history (99.3).

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