Teams made for long-term success in the NFL are typically built through the draft. Free agency is a way to hang on to a team's own core players first and foremost, and then fill in gaps along the way in the unrestricted market.
It's a strategy Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn has stated as his preferred roster-building method on many occasions. This must be an exciting time for Quinn then.
Quinn used free agency this offseason to sign some of his core players – defensive end Ziggy Ansah (franchise tag) chief among them – and then had to turn his attention to revamping a linebacking corps, adding depth at tight end and interior offensive line, signing a run-stopping defensive tackle and getting a veteran to add to the running back room. Those are all things he was able to accomplish, and it's allowed him to now have a very clear strategy heading into the NFL Draft later this month.
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"I'd say best player available is kind of what we're looking at," Quinn said earlier this week of his current draft strategy. "I don't think we have to reach for anybody or are dying to have one position or another.
"We have wants and we have needs, absolutely. I don't think it's a desperation that we're going to have to move up in the draft to get a certain guy or certain player, so that really opens up the draft board for you. I think we're in a really good place."
Most of the heavy lifting ahead of the draft in Dallas (April 26-28) has been done, according to Quinn, and he and his staff are in the "fine-tuning" stage of finalizing their draft board.
The Lions have started hosting their 30 allotted pre-draft visitors, and Quinn and Co. are in the process of talking to coaches and digging a little deeper on the prospects they project will be available to them at No. 20.
"I'd say this year we're in a very similar situation to last year," Quinn said. "Last year, we were drafting at 21. This year, we're at 20. Right around the same point in the draft board. We kind of have our scenarios of who may or may not be there.
"I can probably narrow it down to five or six guys right now. All that could change tomorrow, but as we're sitting here now I could probably rattle off a few, which I won't."
This is a draft particularly deep at quarterback, linebacker, interior offensive line and running back. The Lions could look to bolster their ranks in the last three areas.
There's also a good mix of defensive linemen available at the top of the draft, though analysts don't consider this a very deep draft for defensive line, especially on the edge.
There's a lot of ways Quinn could decide to go at No. 21, but the approach he took to free agency in filling a number of holes on the roster has allowed him to keep his options open.