2014 NFL Draft: Tackle Should Still Be Considered 1st Round Need for Detroit Lions
Offensive tackle is not a major need for the Detroit Lions in either the 2014 NFL Draft or in free agency, but with the draft starting to take shape, the Lions simply cannot ignore the possibility of drafting a tackle with the No. 10 overall pick. While cornerback and wide receiver are still the major team needs for the Lions, the best player available at the time the Lions select may be a tackle too good for the team to pass on.
Under the premise that Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson will be off the board before No. 10 due to his enormous potential, there are two other great tackles in this draft who could upgrade the Lions’ offensive line immediately. Both Michigan‘s Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M‘s Jake Matthews would immediately start and make the Lions’ offense better.
While Riley Reiff is a solid tackle and LaAdrian Waddle did surprisingly well as an undrafted rookie free agent, neither has the potential to become a franchise tackle like Lewan or Matthews. In Lewan, the Lions would get a hometown prospect the team has seen for quite some time considering he is not far from the Lions’ facility. Lewan’s impressive combine performance and the success of other former Michigan linemen in the NFL will force the team to consider drafting him. In Matthews, the Lions would get a lineman who comes from a bloodline of one of the best football families in NFL history. Matthews is the son on Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, and while at Texas A&M, Matthews blocked for the most dynamic playmaker in college football the past two years in quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Aside from Reiff and second-year guard Larry Warford, Detroit’s offensive line is not set in stone. Guard Rob Sims is getting older and will be a free agent next year; Waddle is still an undrafted rookie free agent despite last year’s success, and center Dominic Raiola was brought back on a one-year deal because the team had no other quality options at center. Solidifying the line will give Detroit’s offensive playmakers time and room to do what they do best. Both Lewan and Matthews are maulers in the running game, which would allow backs like Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to hit the holes and make plays in the running game. Lewan and Matthews are also equally skilled as pass protectors, which would allow quarterback Matthew Stafford extra time in the pocket to find Calvin Johnson and Detroit’s other offensive playmakers in the passing game.
While I would select either of the top two cornerbacks in the draft at No. 10 or try to trade up for Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, I could also see the Lions selecting Lewan or Matthews should one or both be available. While any of the three possible draft scenarios will help the Lions, a tackle just might be what the Lions need to get back to the postseason.