It wasn't particularly shocking when the Detroit Lions drafted a long snapper in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft, but it was certainly confusing for many fans. Don Muhlbach has been a stalwart special teams presence for more than a decade and "The Muhl" is a fan favorite despite an obviously limited football role. There is more to the team drafting a long snapper than just replacing their aging veteran, however, and once you really start to think about it the pick makes complete sense.
Though he has been with the Lions since 2004 after going undrafted out of Texas A&M, Muhlbach has played 180 games for the team. He made his first and only Pro Bowl in 2012, and I don't say 'only' to diminish how good he is, only to point out that his reputation for being a great long snapper doesn't really extend beyond the Lions fan base. He has been good at what he does, but there's a fun little fact that most fans don't realize that makes the selection of Jimmy Landes much less of a surprise. They have been trying to replace Don Muhlbach since at least 2013.
Whaaaaaat? Yes, dear friends, it's true. The old adage is that you can always get a long snapper in undrafted free agency, but the team has been trying that route for years and failed. It was 2013, back when Glover Quin was just an underrated free agent acquisition, back when Ogemdi Nwagbuo was (presumably) leading the team's name bracket and back when Havard Rugland was a thing. Back then, they tried the free agent route, bringing in Cory Greenwood from Kansas City. You may not remember him, since he was injured immediately and never played.
The following season in 2014, the team brought in Jordan Thompson. You might remember him from his brief active duty stint where he dropped a touchdown pass thrown his way, one of his only career targets. He wasn't supposed to ever play tight end, though, as he was brought in as the heir apparent for Muhlbach. Thompson, of Ohio Bobcats fame, would be a practice squad staple from then on. The team would use him as the primary long snapper for much of training camp in 2014 and 2015. Speaking of 2015, they also brought in someone named Kevin Snyder. Snyder could also long snap, though I'm not sure how much they used him there. Thompson would be the primary guy, and it always looked like he was their succession plan.
Obviously and unfortunately for Jordan Thompson, that wasn't the case. So why draft a long snapper? Undrafted free agents get to pick what team they go to and the best long snappers are going to pick a team they have the best chance to start on. No good long snapper would go to a team with a vested veteran with more than a decade of experience on it and such a fan following. If the Lions wanted a good long snapper, they would have to draft one. So they did. It's possible to quibble over where he was selected, but if you want a good specialist and haven't found success in using the easier methods, why not use your cheapest draft capital? Like Sam Martin, fans will forgive the pick if it works, but from a team building perspective it has always made sense.