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Notes: Lions’ excellent history of drafting offensive linemen could finally pay off in 2022

The Detroit Lions have been drafting offensive linemen extremely well the past decade. Now they’re finally poised to benefit from it.

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2016 NFL Draft Set Number: SI347 TK1

The Detroit Lions are not known for doing anything particularly well (except, yes, losing. Haha, very funny). That goes double for the NFL Draft. In fact, many of the Lions’ failings throughout history can be traced back to poor drafting and head-scratching personnel decisions.

But, believe it or not, the Lions have been one of the best teams in the NFL at building a particular part of the team. Detroit has done a phenomenal job drafting offensive linemen for the better part of a decade, and there’s evidence to prove this point.

PFF’s Timo Riske (@PFF_Moo on Twitter) put together a chart that graphically represented each NFL franchise’s success in drafting offensive linemen on a per-pick basis. For numbers nerds, this data is weighted by draft position, so the fact that the Lions have drafted a lot of offensive linemen with high-value picks is accounted for in the dataset. Here are the results:

Since 2013, the Lions have been the second-best team at drafting offensive linemen. Of course, if you’ve been paying close attention, that’s not all that surprising. Here’s a list of every offensive lineman the Lions have drafted since 2013:

Looking amongst this group, it’s hard to identify a single pick that was a “failure.” Larry Warford didn’t work out in Detroit, but he made three straight Pro Bowls in New Orleans. It was a similar story for Laken Tomlinson, who flourished in San Francisco after leaving Detroit. Just about everyone else in this group lived up to expectations by draft round or exceeded them. Detroit even hit relatively well on their mid-round picks of Tyrell Crosby and Joe Dahl.

Of course, none of that has paid off in the win department. Part of that was likely due to Detroit’s coaching failing to get the most out of picks like Warford and Tomlinson, while letting Graham Glasgow walk in free agency.

However, looking into 2022, the future looks promising. Detroit has three first-round picks in their projected starting lineup—all of whom have shown flashes of elite play. A third-round pick in Jackson fills out one of the guard spots and the other is filled by a veteran (Halapoulivaati Vaitai) who showed he’s probably better inside than as a tackle.

Put it all together, and the Lions may have their most formidable offensive line in years. But don’t take my word for it, look at these pass protection projections for next year:

That’s your Detroit Lions again ranked second in the entire NFL. Of course, you’re probably looking at this and wondering, “Why the hell is Penei Sewell’s number so low?” That’s a fair question. For as well as Sewell played in his rookie season, he graded out as merely an above-average pass protector per PFF (69.4). Also, Ben Baldwin, who created this predictive model, did say that it could underestimate the value of rookies who struggled in 2021.

Either way, Lions fans should be very encouraged about their starting offensive line going forward, especially considering all of them are signed at least through the next two seasons.

  • A couple of our Pride of Detroit staffers are making appearances on other Lions podcasts. Don’t miss ‘em!

  • I think it’s safe to say Jamaal Williams is pretty excited for Hard Knocks:

  • Contract details for the latest Lions tight end:

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