If you ask most Lions fans and even most draft analysts what position they think the Lions will address with the 16th overall pick they will probably mention one of three positions. Defensive Tackle, Offensive Tackle or Wide Receiver. A position you are unlikely to hear many say is Center.
All four positions need to be address at some point in this draft and undoubtedly will be in some form between now and the start of the season. Though not as flashy as a new WR or DT or as coveted as OT, the C position is in my opinion as important as any of those positions. Popular picks at WR and DT tackle have ranged from Laquon Treadwell to Michael Thomas and Sheldon Rankins to Chris Jones but this is a surprisingly deep class at positions of need for the Lions. A DT of similar talent could be taken as low as the 3rd or possibly 4th rounds while most of the top WRs look like they may fall to the 2nd round, and there are even some gems in the later rounds that could potentially be stars at the position.
When it comes to OT I just don’t see the talent available at #16 warranting that high of a pick. Jack Conklin, while talented, isn’t skilled enough to be taken that high. There are some suggestions that Ronnie Stanley could fall far enough for the Lions to make a play but I don’t like that idea; he isn’t an elite talent worthy of giving up multiple picks to take. There are some players like Germain Ifedi or Taylor Decker who might be options in the 2nd that with some teaching could become smart pickups for the Lions.
The guy I think the Lions should take at #16 is Alabama Center Ryan Kelly. He’s a tough and smart player who would easily step into the starting line-up from day one and be big upgrade over what is already there. He’s proficient in the run and pass game. He will help give Stafford more time in the pocket as well as open up running lanes for Abdullah who had a mixed rookie season largely due to bad offensive line play.
The center position more so than other offensive line positions requires the player to be highly intelligent as well as athletic. Centers have to be able to read defense somewhat, communicate with the other linemen and also snap the ball correctly for the quarterback. Not an easy assignment for rookie players, but Kelly is intelligent as well as disciplined. He committed no penalties all season which is a very notable achievement and is a big help to offenses as they don’t get bogged down due to penalties. Add in the fact that he didn’t give up a sack last year and only allowed his QB to be hurried 4 times, an impressive stat line at any level.
On top of that he graded out very well athletically with his only bench press being somewhat low at 26 reps. It has always been the knock on him. He needs to bulk up but that is a requirement of most players transitioning to the NFL and one that is more easily fixed than other issues.
I would be surprised if the Lions take a C in the 1st round but Kelly is the best player available at a position of need and one that also warrants being picked that high. With Seattle in my opinion being the most likely suitor for Kelly in the 1st round the possibility for the Lions to trade down to the mid-20s and pick up an extra 2nd or 3rd round pick while also taking Ryan Kelly would be an added bonus to what would already be a smart pick.