With the 23rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions decided to trade back five spots with the Denver Broncos to acquire two additional picks (2015 and 2016 fifth-rounders) and offensive guard Manny Ramirez. A pretty good deal considering the Lions were allegedly targeting USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor with the No. 23 overall pick, had he not been taken by the Philadelphia Eagles three picks ahead of them. Instead, the Lions selected Duke OG Laken Tomlinson -- their top-rated OG in the class -- and bolstered their porous offensive line.
Detroit's front office has made it a point to go after high-character guys. They've focused on guys who are intelligent, mature and those who have come from humble beginnings. Laken Tomlinson is the epitome of whom the Lions are looking for to continue to improve the culture of the locker room.
Tomlinson was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States at the age of 11. His desire to become a neurosurgeon came to fruition after the unfortunate news broke of his grandfather passing due to a stomach ulcer when visiting Jamaica.
I just got so angry," Tomlinson said Friday morning as he signed autographs in a private room at Chicago's Roosevelt University. "I ended up writing my senior paper (in high school) about the Jamaican health-care system and how poor it was, and it just really got to me, and at that point I decided I wanted to get into medicine and to do something about that, and I wanted to, at the end of the day, go back to Jamaica and help the Jamaican community there."
Seriously though, who wouldn't want this guy in their locker room?
Tomlinson is actually a really nice athlete for his size. According to the chart above, Tomlinson had the 16th-highest z-score (standard deviations from the average NFL athlete) among all offensive linemen.
As you can see, Tomlinson is pretty explosive and posted a couple of impressive scores in the broad jump and vertical jump. However, his 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle times aren't as desirable and represent his below-average foot quickness.
According to Pro Football Focus, Tomlinson was the most efficient pass blocker among all OGs last year.
Anchor in Pass Protection
His biggest strength in pass protection is his ability to anchor and stuff bull rushes.
(GIFs via Draft Breakdown)
In the play above, Tomlinson absolutely stonewalls Anthony Chickillo (now a Pittsburgh Steeler). You're not going to outmuscle Tomlinson or beat him with a bull rush. It's just that simple.
Here's another great example where Tomlinson barely gives up any ground to his assignment, while his teammates are all at least 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
So we've seen what Tomlinson can do when he gets position and anchors early, but what if he isn't able to get his feet set at the point of attack, or what if he gets the wrong hand placement initially? Is he able to reset and recover? This is something to consider when evaluating O-linemen.
This is exactly what I'm talking about right here. Tomlinson gets poor initial hand placement off the snap and gives up plenty of ground to No. 91. But instead of panicking, he keeps his feet moving, maintains his balance and gets his hands back inside to set his anchor late and give his QB a chance.
Pop in His Hands
Tomlinson has frying pans for hands in pass protection. He sits in his stance ready to attack and delivers a jarring blow that will surely knock you off balance. The second GIF is my personal favorite. After Tomlinson shuts down the blitz, you can kind of feel for the linebacker and only imagine he responds with a "my bad, dude."
Efficient Run Blocker
Tomlinson is technically savvy in the run game and received a lot of praise as a run blocker via PFF. Our own Jeremy Reisman did a nice job of selling his ability to latch on and turn defenders away from the play to open up a hole for the ball carrier.
This is a fourth-and-1 situation where Tomlinson completely wipes Marcus Hardison out of the play to ensure a first down for the ball carrier. Have to love the tenacity that Tomlinson brings to the football field.
On the very next play, Tomlinson engages with No. 41 and shoves him out of the way to open up another hole for a 7-yard gain.
Inconsistencies vs. the Run
There are a few things Tomlinson could improve on at the next level. As a run blocker, his footwork is a bit inconsistent and he often falls off of his blocks.
On this play, Tomlinson was unable to keep his feet underneath him on a run play, and he basically just takes a nosedive straight off the snap. He can be a bit of a leaner or a waist-bender as well.
My final concern is Tomlinson's inconsistencies when asked to carry out a second-level block. He had some highlight-reel plays and he also had some plays like you see above, where he looked absolutely lost.
Outlook for 2015 Season
Tomlinson is a great talent and will immediately compete for a starting job during training camp. One would assume that he's a near lock for the starting LG spot that's currently unoccupied, but I wouldn't call anything a guarantee.
Mayhew won't bite on whether Tomlinson is starting left guard. Though says he will play guard— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) May 1, 2015
Historically, you want your quickest or most athletic guard to play the left side. Both Tomlinson and Larry Warford played RG in college, and between the two, Tomlinson is the best athlete. However, Warford has much quicker feet and does a better job when pulling and carrying out second-level blocks.
I'm not saying the Lions should move Warford after doing so well on the right side, but it's something they may consider. I fully expect the Lions to try out a variety of different lineups to see what fits best for their offensive-line unit.
Tomlinson doesn't seem to believe there is that much of a difference when switching to LG, so there's that.
Tomlinson said he things biggest difference in switching to LG is a stance change. Felt comfortable there during the Senior Bowl.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) May 1, 2015