In this series, I’ll be looking at five college players that might get drafted by Detroit position-by-position, breaking down the positives and negatives of each player and projecting if Detroit were to take them, which round they would be taken in. The position I am looking at today is:
This is the biggest need in this draft for the Detroit Lions. The offensive line was horrendous last season as Detroit allowed 44 sacks, and it was a circus you saw unfold every week. Changes were made left and right, people getting benched, moved up, released, and signed. Out of all five positions on the line, the two with the most inconsistent play was on the left and right tackle spots. Riley Reiff was at left tackle and played in all 16 games, something not many of the rest got to achieve. He was letting guys get through easily and didn’t seem like the first round pick he once was. Now while Reiff had some issues, they were nothing compared to the right tackle spot. We started the season with LaAdrian Waddle, who only played in six games before getting cut and was basically a tall traffic cone. He let people in and just let Stafford get railed. Waddle would be replaced with Cornelius Lucas, who was just as bad as Waddle. Finally, Detroit signed Michael Ola to a contract and he finished the year out strong. He did a good job, but Detroit could do better and snag someone in the draft. This year’s draft has a strong tackle class inside the first three rounds. Outside of that you are drafting backups, not day one starters. Detroit did sign Geoff Schwartz today, but offensive tackle could still be a pick come April 28. Let’s take a look at the top five offensive tackle targets in this years draft.
Offensive Tackle Options:
1. Jack Conklin – LT (Michigan State)
This is the guy I want at 16. He is the best offensive tackle available when Detroit is on the board at 16 and if we want to add a stable blocker to the line and help Stafford actually have time in the pocket to throw, this is the guy for that. Conklin could play at LT and we could move Reiff to RT or vice versa. This Michigan native has some strong upper body strength, able to lift the rusher underneath and stop him in his tracks. He gets underneath the blocker and forces him up and able to do nothing. When he gets beat at times, Conklin is able to recover and make the stop. He does have some trouble with some edge speed, and the NFL could give him a licking if he can’t stop players getting around him. Smaller rushers can get by with a quick move at times, and once Conklin is in space, he can get a little grabby and get a holding call. He is an anchor at the position, getting his arms extended well and putting his hands in the correct spots. When it comes to pass protection, he has that wide base to help him get a good stance and form for the block.
Conklin is a first round pick easily. Now could he be at 16 for Detroit? There is a strong chance he is. He’d be a day one starter at the RT position and Detroit’s offense would show improvement with the new addition on the line.
2. Taylor Decker – LT (Ohio State)
Now in comes the possible backup plan. Taylor Decker is the next best thing for Detroit if Conklin is off the board. Decker has the frame and build to be a good offensive tackle. He can stop blockers in their tracks just like Conklin. Decker likes to finish out his blocks though, not stopping until the whistle blows. He can drive into the rusher and blow him away, creating holes for the running back or time to throw for the quarterback. He does tend to stand straight up while moving and he plays with the high pads during those times. When he has to change directions to stop somebody, he usually can’t find out who to block or where the play is going. While he has good upper body strength and good hand placement, he relies on it too much while he lacks balance and footwork which can of course be worked on. In vertical pass sets, Decker is a natural and he can block defenders easily and smoothly.
At pick 16, Decker is a bit of a reach, but Detroit trading down a spot or two for him isn’t worth it. If Conklin is off the board at 16, Decker is the next best guy. He can bring leadership to the locker room and make an impact on the field.
3. Jason Spriggs – LT (Indiana)
Spriggs has a good frame and long arms. He is able to make some good stops and battle the rusher up until the the play stops. He is a quick tackle who can bend his knees well and get low if he needs to. When he is given space he can take the guy out on the play. He can adjust quickly and change his focus from one guy to the next. He is a little weak as he can get knocked back off of his spot with the power of the rushers overtaking him. He can miss blocks at times too, looking the other way and the defensive end just runs by for the stop. While he has long arms, he doesn’t use them to his advantage in stopping players. He is very active with his hands though, being able to move them around to help stop the rusher. Instead of putting his hands up so the defenders can just swat them down, he throws jabs with both of his hands. He can slow pass rushers down when his timing is on point.
Spriggs for Detroit could be a gamble in the first round. Spriggs had an impressive combine to boost his stock as now he is projected as a first/second round pick. Detroit trading down in the first, into the 23-27 pick, that would be a good spot to take him in the first. If we don’t want to take him in the first, he could be available in the second, but Detroit would have to trade up to get him and he would be a good offensive tackle pickup.
4. Germain Ifedi – RT (Texas A&M)
Ifedi is the only right tackle on this list and he could fit with Detroit very well. Ifedi has a strong grip and hands, so when he has you blocked, you aren’t going anywhere. He has a good movement speed with his feet that he is able to cover a good amount of space. Those 36″ long arms are very helpful when it comes to making the stop and giving the rusher no chance to get inside for the stop. Ifedi gets close to getting false start calls, just getting antsy to start the play. The timing of his combo blocks could use some work and when he helps double team a player, he doesn’t seem to do much of the work as he blocks the backside of the player who easily escapes on the other side. Spin moves can also be a weak spot for him as they can work to get around him. Instead of kick sliding also, he does more of a stomp and can’t really move as quick as he should be able too. Ifedi does have good body control though and he can change his direction for blocking. He also can use his hips to knock defenders out of a hole.
Ifedi in the second round would be perfect. While he is a strong blocker with long arms, he is missing some of the athleticism that the other guys above have.
5. Kyle Murphy – LT (Stanford)
This last pick is close to being a starter in the NFL. Murphy has great awareness in the passing game, knowing when blitzes and twists can come to attack him. Just like Ifedi, once Murphy has you locked up, you have no chance of getting out. On the low types of blocks, Murphy is very good at using his legs to burst forward and his shoulders just go into the defenders. Murphy has trouble blocking smaller rushers as they can be too quick for him as one good spin move or a hand swat, and they are free. He does get antsy pre-snap, sometimes getting very close to being called for a false start. When it comes to powerful and fast defensive ends, he gets knocked back and loses his balance. Double teaming though is a breeze for the offensive tackle. His kick slides help him gain ground and he doesn’t lean in his pass protection blocks.
Murphy in the third round is a good fit here. While he is a good offensive tackle, he is just a few things away from being a starter. Ola could start and Murphy could take over in a season or two.
There you have it, another installment in this series. Next I will be looking at offensive guards. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter@BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.