For Lions, it's Matthew Stafford vs. promise of draft's QB field

How long will it be before the team makes a change at quarterback?

A new regime in the front office and, potentially, at head coach will put every player on the roster under the light of a fresh evaluation, including Lions veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford's future with the team is very much in doubt, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

If Detroit's new brass puts a quarterback at the top of its draft wish list, it could have some very promising options. The field of QBs will include Michigan State senior Connor Cook and might also have underclassmen Jared Goff of Cal or Paxton Lynch of Memphis. Ohio State's Cardale Jones and Penn State's Christian Hackenberg are two more possibilities for early draft entry. Underclassmen have until the Jan. 18 deadline to apply for draft eligibility.

NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein said Cook and Goff, if he decides to make the NFL jump, would have the best chance to help a team win immediately, but he sn't convinced immediate readiness would be the club's working criteria during draft preparation next spring.

"The two guys most ready to play are Connor Cook and Jared Goff, if you want someone to step in and play right away," Zierlein said. "But I don't know that (the Lions will) be as concerned about next year as much as they would look at it as, 'Who is our guy over the next seven years?' If they want to get a bridge (veteran) quarterback to give a rookie time to develop, a lot of teams are doing that. With no bridge quarterback, it's Cook, who would also be a local guy, if that matters, or Goff."

The Lions (1-7) have struggled to protect Stafford this season, a contributing factor in his midseason pace for a career-high 22 interceptions. Stafford is under contract for 2016 and 2017 after signing a five-year, $76.5 million deal in 2013. His salary cap number for 2016 is set to be $22.5 million.

Is making the commitment necessary to keep Stafford a bigger risk than replacing him? That might be the most important question for new Lions executives.

"I think they're going to look toward the future especially considering all the money they have locked up in Megatron," Zierlein said. "Paxton Lynch has great upside, but his level of competition is much lower than what Cook and Goff are facing. Cardale Jones is totally a project, and Hackenberg is way too inaccurate to be considered (if he's available)."

With one win on the season and midseason changes both in the front office and on the coaching staff, the Lions already figure to have one of the earliest picks in the 2016 draft.

And if the commitment to Stafford isn't there, you can add the Lions to the mix of teams that will take an awfully close look in the spring at the draft's QB options.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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