It’s a fool’s errand to try to accurately predict the NFL Draft. Every year, “first-round prospects” fall to the second round or even beyond. Guys who “we can get in the third round” end up gone 30 picks before expected. In short, the general perceptions of prospects rarely line up with the actual NFL scouts.
That being said, as the draft draws nearer, there seems to be late surge in the hype around several offensive linemen. While there has never really been a doubt that a guy like Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson will be long gone before the Detroit Lions pick at 20, a few other interior prospects are slowly climbing up the draft boards. Just take a brief look at Twitter on Tuesday morning:
There comes a time when you have to fall on the sword— Doing more work on Frank Ragnow tonight. I’m too low on him. Better to admit it, correct it and move on.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 24, 2018
Likely first-rounder. There could actually be three centers going in the first round — Ragnow, James Daniels, and Billy Price, whose health is no longer really a question. https://t.co/08JTiQNwi0— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 24, 2018
Seeing a lot of late buzz for Frank Ragnow. He's been @ConnorJRogers top center all along. My only concern was/is injury related. Dude is a mean MF'er at guard or center. Day 1 starter type.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 24, 2018
On the surface, this looks to be bad news for the Lions. After all, guard or center is one of Detroit’s bigger needs going into this draft (some would say it’s the Lions’ top need). However, there’s a way in this could also work in the Lions’ favor.
This year’s draft is extremely thin on the defensive line, and if Detroit wants to get an impact player that can start immediately, they’re going to have to spend some early draft capital. There’s a huge drop-off in talent after players like Harold Landry, Marcus Davenport, Maurice Hurst and Taven Bryan come off the board. However, if there’s a run on offensive linemen, there’s not only a chance that one of those players will fall to Detroit at 20, but another could potentially be there in the second round.
Not only that, but the market on offensive tackles could also greatly benefit the Lions. Detroit doesn’t have a serious need for a tackle in this year’s draft, and that’s a good thing. This year’s tackle class is incredibly weak, which could lead teams to get desperate and potentially look at a trade up as early as the first round.
Pro Football Focus’ Brett Whitefield discussed this very scenario on this week’s episode of the PODcast. “The offensive tackle scarcity in this draft is quite alarming,” Whitefield said. “So if one of those guys, like a Mike McGlinchey or Connor Williams is there at 20, you’ve got the Bengals and the Bills right after us, so a team that needs a tackle—like the Patriots, actually for example—they may be wanting to come over the top to make sure that the Bills or the Bengals don’t grab one.”
So while a run on centers and/or guards may make life harder for the Lions to fill that need, and it could force them to grab an interior offensive lineman earlier than they want, when a draft closes a door, it also opens a window. A surge in first-round centers may allow Detroit to get a high-impact defender either in the first or second rounds. And the lack of offensive tackles could cause a panic among other teams, leading Detroit’s 20th overall pick to have some trade-down value.
Or maybe all of these rumors are just noise, and no one knows what will happen on Thursday. Yeah, it’s probably that.