New Lions GM Bob Quinn made it a priority to upgrade the trenches through the draft, spending five of the team’s ten picks on offensive and defensive lineman. The shift in philosophy has been a breath of fresh air to Lions fans, who had gotten sick of former GM Martin Mayhew’s tendency to take the flashy pick over team need.
While Mayhew had some good picks, he rarely hit on more than the first-rounder. Other than a great 2013 Draft, he’s missed on far too many early-round picks, creating a roster devoid of depth.
One of the first things Quinn said when he took over was how much he wanted to create depth and competition at each position. He also stated he believed you win and lose games in the trenches. After his first draft, fans can see that wasn’t just lip-service.
The Lions could start next season with potentially three different starters on the offensive line. Their first-round pick was spent on talented Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker. Decker played left tackle in college, but projects as a right tackle in the NFL.
The team’s incumbent left tackle Riley Reiff, hasn’t progressed into the line anchor that the team hoped when they took him in the first round. He has been rumored to be getting moved to the right side, but the Lions will let the battle play itself out.
Even if Reiff does end up back on the left side, the fact that he will have to earn it should make him a better player. The past few seasons, the starters struggled but the team simply didn’t have alternative options. Reiff got to keep his job as a result of the Lions not having good enough depth.
The same can be said for second-year center Travis Swanson, who was basically given the job after Dominic Raiola retired. Swanson struggled mightily last season, contributing to the team’s putrid run game. He had a tough time picking up the line calls as well.
Due to Mayhew’s poor drafting, guys like Swanson and Reiff could get away with mediocre play without any repercussions. Quinn drafted Michigan center Graham Glasgow in the third-round of the draft, who should instantly push Swanson for the starting spot.
In the fourth, he added Washington State’s Joe Dahl, who can play tackle but projects as a guard in the NFL. At worst, Dahl is a versatile lineman that gives the team more depth.
Both starting guards Laken Tomlinson and Larry Warford struggled last season as well. Tomlinson was a first-round pick in 2015, but like Reiff and Swanson, he was essentially given the starting job without earning it.
The team was unable to pass-protect or run-block, which was a key contributor to the Lions’ 1-7 start last year. There’s no guarantee they will be better than last year, but at least we know they won’t be pigeonholed into accepting mediocrity due to a lack of options.