The Detroit Lions could be hoping one of the top offensive line prospects falls to them in the second round in next week’s NFL draft.
The Detroit Lions offensive line allowed a total of 43 sacks last season, which was tied for 13th most in the NFL. But a much bigger concern is the fact 11-year veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford was limited to just eight games in 2019 due to injury.
Keeping the 32-year old passer healthy and under center for 16-games is likely this 3-12-1 team’s best chance of becoming a playoff contender this upcoming season. So the Lions’ front office went about revamping their offensive line recently, parting ways with starters in right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard Graham Glasgow.
Then the Lions signed former Philadelphia Eagles reserve offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a hefty five-year, $50 million deal in free agency. And Detroit recently agreed to re-signed Kenny Wiggins, a 31-year old versatile guard who has started 13 games for the Lions over the past two seasons.
Combined with a depth chart that also consists of starters in left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Joe Dahl, center Frank Ragnow plus a slew of key reserves like Oday Aboushi, Beau Benzschawel, and Tyrell Crosby; the Lions’ offensive line figures to be in a pretty good place heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.
But that doesn’t mean Detroit isn’t open to finding a possible current or future starter for their offensive line during the annual selection event. Here’s what Benjamin Raven of MLive.com wrote recently about the possibility of one of the top offensive lineman prospects falling to the Lions’ second-round selection.
"“[Josh] Jones was a member of the Matt Patricia-coached team at the Senior Bowl and came away with high marks looking like the best tackle on the field at times. He’s PFF’s top-ranked pass-blocking tackle on the board and earned those marks while playing in a high-paced offense at Houston. He is a potential first-round pick … that could be the steal of the draft at Pick 35.”"
The Lions picked up Decker’s fifth-year option last April, securing his services through the upcoming season. But if Detroit decides to move on in 2021, that’s were selecting someone like Jones makes sense.
The team could also decide to start the rookie lineman at right tackle and kick the newly-acquired Vaitai to guard if they were looking to get him starting experience in his first season. The point here being selecting a talented rookie like Jones in the second round simply gives the Lions more options.
Remember, this is a Lions’ organization that allowed Glasgow to leave via free agency this offseason presumably in pursuit of cheaper options. Perhaps they see Decker and the future of the left tackle position in a similar light, not wanting to tie up too much of their salary cap into a contract they may eventually regret.
As for the prospect himself, Josh Jones is a six-foot-five, 319-pound offensive tackle that the Draft Network’s Jordan Reid called a raw, but talented lineman who has the makings of a top-25 selection.
Draft analyst Lance Zierlein calls Jones a developmental project who showed steady improvement during his time in Houston and whose shortcomings appear to be coachable. With a prospect grade of 6.37, NFL.com believes Jones will be a starter within his first two seasons. Finally, Hall of Famer Gil Brandt recently ranked Jones as his 29th overall prospect entering next week’s draft.
Based on his stellar performance at the Senior Bowl, that pre-established relationship with the Detroit Lions coaching staff, and considering the possible future needs of this offensive line, it’s easy to envision a scenario where the Motor City would be very interested in someone like Josh Jones. Especially if he’s still on the board when the Lions’ number is called, 35th overall, in the second round.