General managers and head coaches are pretty quiet this time of year when the subject of roster needs or the NFL Draft comes up. Silence is golden in that regard.
It's something Lions head coach Matt Patricia admitted last week. He also said it was something that helped them land guard Frank Ragnow in the first round of last year's draft. Detroit never visited with Ragnow or even worked him out. Ragnow himself was surprised Detroit selected him when talking to the media on draft night because he'd never really had any contact with the team.
There were other teams interested in Ragnow around where the Lions were selecting (No. 20), and their silence on their interest in him, in part, helped them land their man.
Don't expect any clues from Patricia or anyone else in Allen Park over the next few weeks in terms of specific players or position groups they have their eyes on. Patricia did, however, offer some insight into some of the individual traits he and general manager Bob Quinn are looking for in draft prospects.
"It may sound cliché, but it's really not, because we're going to teach them the other stuff," Patricia said. "We're gonna teach them scheme, we're gonna teach them fundamentals, we're gonna teach them some of those things, so you start basically with, alright, what does his speed look like on film? What does his pad level look like? Can he come downhill or can he get open? Is the fundamental skill set that he needs – quickness in and out of breaks, whether it's football instincts and how smart he is as a player, does he makes checks and adjustments? Is he a guy that sees the whole field?"
"You know, vision is a big thing with a football player, obviously, because when you're out on the field and 22 guys are trying to orchestrate themselves in the same direction, there's feel, there's vision, there's people working off of each other and you can at least get that sense of 'alright, this guy, he may not know what he's looking at but he feels this over here.'
"And then that's what's great about getting in a room with them and sitting down and going over the tape, like 'what was the call here? What were you supposed to do? Did you see this over here or did you feel this? Were you looking in this direction?' And if they can talk football and really understand from a conceptual standpoint, that's where you know you can really build."
Sitting in a room with those players and listening to them talk about football, there's something else Patricia is looking for. Is this player passionate about the game, and does he have the kind of toughness Patricia and Quinn are trying to stock the roster with?
"I think you always want to find toughness, that's fundamental, and you want to find that 'never quit' attitude," Patricia said. "The guys that are always going to go compete. But first and foremost, you want to feel the love, you want to feel the passion.
"When you're passionate about something like we all are, we love this game and we're passionate about this game, you want to be surrounded by people that have that same energy, that same feeling because it means something."
Patricia is very passionate about the game and the work ethic that goes into playing it at the highest level. It's a trait that was important in the players the Lions targeted in free agency this offseason.
When it comes to this year's draft, and the players that could interest the Lions, it will be just as important. It's not just about big, fast and strong. It's also about mental toughness, passion and coachability. A player either has those traits or he doesn't, and the later won't be a player Patricia targets later this month, no matter the physical gifts.
"If somebody is a little bit lesser or is not as passionate as you are, then those wedges you'll find out what they are," Patricia said. "Doesn't mean they don't work, just means that you really always want to surround yourself with like-minded people that want to achieve the highest level."