Detroit Lions: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Quarterback

Brandon AlisogluCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2017

Detroit Lions: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Quarterback

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    There is palpable buzz surrounding the quarterback position. For once, the Detroit Lions have a legitimate battle between two candidates for a spot.

    Granted, it's a competition for the final spot on the depth chart, but it's the most enticing battle the Lions have had since Matthew Stafford put the final nail in Daunte Culpepper's coffin.

    Yes, that means I'm overlooking last year's pitched contest between Thad Lewis and Kellen Moore. It wasn't an accident.

    This year fans will get a chance to see what an undrafted free agent from Missouri can do against the former Boise State standout. 

    It's possible Detroit could find another competitor before the start of minicamp in June or even training camp in July. It just seems unlikely anyone available would be able to knock off either James Franklin or Moore considering their advantage in terms of time with the system.

    So what does the depth chart at quarterback actually look like today? Click through to find out. 

No. 4: James Franklin

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    RIC TAPIA/Associated Press

    The Lions passed on a quarterback in all seven rounds of the draft, ultimately settling on James Franklin from Missouri once the draft dust had settled. 

    Now, he's trying to kick up dirt to wrest the developmental quarterback title from Kellen Moore.

    Franklin is the only true dual-threat quarterback on the roster. It's unclear if that will give him an advantage as it would appear the emphasis will be on pocket passing in Joe Lombardi's offense. However, nobody has ever viewed athleticism in a negative light. 

    During Missouri's final season in the Big 12, Franklin accounted for an impressive 36 total touchdowns and completed 63.3 percent of his passes. He also tossed 11 interceptions and posted over 1,000 combined rushing and receiving yards. 

    Franklin never put up another season on that level. Injuries forced him to miss eight games over the next two years, but he did raise his completion percentage to 62.1 and tossed 19 touchdowns during his senior campaign, leading the Tigers to a 12-2 record. 

    In addition to his athleticism, Franklin brings a bigger gun to this fight than Moore. Franklin's big arm gives him a high ceiling since he could be a guy who could hurt you with his arm or his legs, which has increasingly become the norm in today's NFL

    There hasn't been much of a review regarding Franklin's performance at early OTAs. The only real news has been blanket information that highlights every quarterback's struggle with the new offense. 

    Franklin will be given a fair shake at knocking off Moore. If he can wrap his mind about the pro game, Franklin can and very well may cash in on that shot. 

No. 3: Kellen Moore

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    We've already established that Kellen Moore doesn't have the arm strength James Franklin does. In fact, he would struggle to match up with any quarterbacks in the league.

    He also doesn't have the safety of a coaching staff that went out of their way to bring him in. Head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan have moved on, leaving the winningest college quarterback on his own for the first time in his career. 

    The Linehan system Moore spent two years studying has also been given the boot. Moore won't just miss the support of familiar faces that signed him, he'll also miss the inherent advantage of understanding the ins and outs of a complicated NFL offense. 

    However, his experience isn't completely wasted. While Franklin struggles to adjust from a simplified spread offense that didn't huddle to the extensive verbiage he's required to remember now, Moore is taking a much more lateral step rather than a leap.

    That alone won't be enough to keep Moore on the roster, but the advantage will give him the current leg up on the depth chart. Although, favorite might be too significant of a title to give Moore moving forward.

    The elephant in the room is that a third-string quarterback isn't about finding a serviceable backup. The Lions have the next guy on this slideshow to handle that responsibility. 

    No, the third-stringer is more of a developmental role. That's why you see so many teams only carrying two quarterbacks because they feel a roster spot spent on another position holds more value than bringing a young quarterback along. 

    That could be the case in Detroit, meaning Moore doesn't have a chance. However, if Detroit goes the developmental third-string route, Moore might not have the upside to land that coveted third spot.

No. 2: Dan Orlovsky

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Dan Orlovsky conjures up plenty of feelings in Lions fans.

    First, there is that wave of disappointment and regret that washes over any mention to the 2008 season. The sting of an 0-16 campaign never fully goes away.

    Orlovsky was at the helm for seven of those losses, including the infamous loss to the Minnesota Vikings when Orlovsky ran out of the back of the end zone for the losing margin. 

    If you're too young to remember, it would be understandable if you think that last sentence didn't make any sense. Unfortunately for those 17 and older, the memory is all too vivid. Orlovsky was attempting to run away from defensive end Jared Allen, took too deep of an angle and Detroit lost by two. 

    The next emotion Orlovsky should evoke is surprise. Somehow, Orlovsky will be 31 years old by opening weekend of the 2014 season. It's hard to believe he has been able to hang on that long.

    But that is exactly why Orlovsky should also evoke a bit of relief. This is a veteran who understands what it takes to grind out a season. He understands his role as a backup. He's comfortable with that job.

    Even if he hasn't been instrumental in any team success, he proved he was capable of putting on at least one impressive performance with a 113.2 quarterback rating against the New England Patriots in 2011 that included 353 yards and an 81.1 completion percentage.

    That's probably more than Detroit would ask of him should Orlovsky see the field. The truth is, if the Lions need him to log more than a handful of snaps, Detroit is in trouble.

No. 1: Matthew Stafford

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    None of the other guys in this slideshow will have a material impact on the success of the 2014 Detroit Lions. The season unequivocally rests in the hands of the former top overall pick who is just 26 years old. 

    Despite his young age, Stafford is facing an immense amount of pressure to immediately propel Detroit back to the playoffs. And those forces are absolutely right.

    Obviously, assuming Stafford doesn't have a mental breakdown and start sleeping in cellular phone stores, he'll be the unquestioned starter in 2015 regardless of his performance. You don't give up on a guy who has averaged 30 touchdowns a year for the past three seasons and already has one 5,000-yard season under his belt while falling just 33 yards short of another one.

    So please ignore the message boards and comment sections that have seen an increase in the mentions of a once insane topic—the idea of trading Stafford. Somehow, having a young signal-caller endure a tough stretch is now a reason to dump him.

    Just to be clear, such discussion is still insane. How long has Detroit been looking for a franchise quarterback? 57 years?

    Now, you want to give up on a guy who slid into a turnover-heavy funk over the last eight weeks of the season from a top-five perch? Don't forget how sharp Stafford was in piloting that 6-3 start. He was occupying the space just behind some guy named Peyton Manning

    And don't forget, despite that horrific ending to the season, Stafford still finished the year as the ninth-highest-graded quarterback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    That's not too shabby for a 25-year-old. Plus, the Lions spent the offseason getting him help on the field (Golden Tate, Eric Ebron) and on the sideline (Caldwell, Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter).

    That all means Stafford might not be running out of time, but he is running out of excuses.  

     

    Brandon Alisoglu is a Detroit Lions featured columnist who has written about the Lions on multiple sites. He also co-hosts a Lions-centric podcast, Lions Central Radio. Yell at him on Twitter about how wrong he is @BrandonAlisoglu.