After neglecting the offensive line in last year’s draft, it seems likely that the Detroit Lions will add to the unit this April. The question is, how early?
Every day in March brings us closer to the 2020 NFL Draft, and the answers to countless questions regarding the direction of the Detroit Lions. There are positional needs across the board in Motown, and addressing the offensive line should be near the top of their to-do list come draft day.
In general manager Bob Quinn’s first four offseasons in charge, the Lions made reshaping their offensive front a major priority. This included investing significant draft capital left tackle Taylor Decker, guard/center Graham Glasgow and center Frank Ragnow, as well as signing guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner to rich free-agent deals in 2017.
Aside from Ragnow, who turned in an excellent second season in 2019, the results of those transactions have been mixed. Decker has been a steady player, yet penalties have damaged his performance. After surprisingly not being offered a contract extension, the durable and reliable Glasgow seems like a sure bet to land a healthy free-agent deal elsewhere later this month.
Wagner and Lang simply haven’t paid off as expected, with Lang’s injury problems leading to his release and subsequent retirement last year, and Wagner not living up to his hefty pact with average play.
The Lions curiously did not draft an offensive lineman in 2019’s draft and filled the unit with low-wattage players in free agency. With Glasgow’s imminent departure and Wagner’s long-term future in question, the Lions seem certain to add at least one impact player to the group in the coming months.
Free agency is a possibility. However, considering the disappointing results of the Lang and Wagner deals, and top-level options such as New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney, Washington Redskins guard Brandon Scherff and Green Bay Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga likely out of the Lions’ price range, the draft seems like a more likely route to replenishing the group.
With many defensive holes to plug, the Lions won’t be adding to their offensive front with their current third overall selection. Additionally, top offensive linemen prospects Tristan Wirfs of Iowa, Mekhi Becton of Louisville, Jedrick Wills of Alabama and Andrew Thomas of Georgia all figure to be long gone when the Lions’ second selection rolls around.
Still, there will be some intriguing options after the first round, and the Lions could look to address the need as early as round two, where they again currently pick third. Tackles Austin Jackson of USC, Prince Tega Wanogho of Auburn and Josh Jones of Houston, as well as interior linemen Solomon Kindley of Georgia, Shane Lemieux of Oregon and Ben Bredeson of Michigan, could all help the Lions and be available with later selections.
It’s hard to find good NFL teams today that don’t have stout offensive lines stocked with homegrown draft picks. The Lions would clearly like to join that group, but will probably need to dedicate some significant draft assets to their offensive front this year to ensure that they stay on that path. As with other key positions, neglect the need for too long in April, and they could regret it.
When do you think the Lions should select an offensive lineman in this year’s draft? Which players do you think they should target? Let us know in the comments section below.