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A closer look at the Lions' offensive line overhaul

The Detroit Lions have invested a lot of early draft picks in their offensive line in recent years. Here's a closer look at how they have overhauled their offensive line.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just three short years ago, the Detroit Lions had a starting offensive line that looked like this:

LT Jeff Backus
LG Rob Sims
C Dominic Raiola
RG Stephen Peterman
RT Gosder Cherilus

During the 2013 offseason, Backus retired, Peterman was released and Cherilus signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent. Sims and Raiola remained for the two seasons after that, but the Lions decided against re-signing Raiola this offseason. Sims, meanwhile, reportedly received a contract offer from the Lions, but he hasn't signed it to this point, and I can't imagine they still have interest in bringing him back.

So, fast forward to now and the Lions have a projected starting offensive line that looks like this (the age of each player at the start of the 2015 season is listed in parentheses):

LT Riley Reiff (26)
LG Laken Tomlinson (23)
C Travis Swanson (24)
RG Larry Warford (24)
RT LaAdrian Waddle (24)

In terms of the draft, you can break down the Lions' O-line like this:

LT First-round pick (2012)
LG First-round pick (2015)
C Third-round pick (2014)
RG Third-round pick (2013)
RT Undrafted free agent (2013)

The Lions replaced three starters during the 2013 offseason. At left tackle, they plugged in Riley Reiff, who spent his rookie season serving as the sixth offensive lineman after being a first-round pick. Also, they drafted Larry Warford in the third round, and he immediately became a starter, and LaAdrian Waddle eventually became the starting right tackle despite being a rookie undrafted free agent. The original plan was to have either Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard start, but neither player could stay healthy, leading to Waddle eventually taking over that role. Unfortunately, Waddle has had some injury issues of his own, and he is currently recovering from a partially torn ACL. If he's not ready for the start of the season this year, Cornelius Lucas, an undrafted free agent from last year, will likely start at right tackle.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Lions are set to replace two starters. Travis Swanson, a third-round pick in 2014, is expected to take over for Raiola at center after mainly being a backup as a rookie, and Laken Tomlinson is set to take over the left guard job after being picked in the first round last week.

To recap, the Lions have drafted two offensive linemen in the first round and two in the third round since 2012, and they have one undrafted starter. By comparison, the Dallas Cowboys' stellar offensive line features three first-round picks, one fourth-round pick and one undrafted free agent. There's obviously more to having a good offensive line than simply using a bunch of top draft picks on tackles, guards and centers, but the Lions have certainly invested a lot of draft resources into overhauling their offensive line in recent years. While this means that they have a very young group of starters, it also means that this lineup could potentially be together for years to come.

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