Allen Park — Leading up to the NFL draft, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions’ roster and evaluating how the team might address each position. Today: Interior offensive lineman.
► Current roster: Graham Glasgow, Frank Ragnow, Oday Aboushi, Joe Dahl, Kenny Wiggins, Leo Koloamatangi
►Short-term need: Seven out of 10
► Long-term need: 10 out of 10
► Top prospects: Cody Ford, Garrett Bradbury, Chris Lindstrom
► Mid-round options: Lindstrom, Dalton Risner, Connor McGovern
► Late-round fits: Nate Davis, Beau Benzschawel, Hjalte Froholdt
No position group is more reflective of general manager Bob Quinn's tenure than the team's offensive line. He's committed significant resources to the unit each of his first three offseasons, spending both draft equity and free-agency dollars to build his vision up front.
But as is often the case in the NFL, roster building is a series of moving targets. And three years into the line's overhaul, there's another hole to be filled following the release and subsequent retirement of veteran guard T.J. Lang.
The Lions aren't without options on the current roster, but none could be reasonably expected to perform at Lang's level. Returning are Kenny Wiggins and Joe Dahl, while the Lions added journeyman Oday Aboushi to bolster the competition at the spot.
That's the short-term view. Long-term, even if one of those three emerges as a solid starting option, none are under contract beyond this season. The same for reliable center Graham Glasgow, who merits an extension on his expiring rookie deal, but hammering out those details before free agency is never a guarantee.
So the Lions enter the draft with plenty of reason to invest in an interior lineman, and landing a potential long-term starting guard would be ideal.
That's unlikely to happen in the first round, like it did a year ago when Detroit took Frank Ragnow. Interior linemen rarely work their way into the top 10, and while this year's crop is deep, there isn't a clear-cut option at the top of the class.
The only scenarios where addressing the line in the first round make sense for Detroit is if the team takes a top offensive tackle, and moves Rick Wagner inside or trades down several spots from their current slot at No. 8.
But starting in the second round, selecting a guard becomes realistic. The conversation should start with Boston College's Chris Lindstrom, assuming he makes it to the Lions at pick No. 43.
A four-year starter who has played both guard and center, Lindstrom possesses elite athleticism, making him an ideal option to put on the move, pulling around the edge or shooting into the second level. But he also has the bulk to handle NFL interior rushers in a phone booth.
Sticking with Quinn's preference for major conference linemen, a second option could be Connor McGovern out of Penn State. A powerful run blocker with long arms, he brings added versatility with experience playing center.
If the Lions wait until the later rounds, they could seek a high-ceiling developmental option such as Charlotte's Nate Davis if he makes it until Day 3. Or the team could go with a safer, high-floor option from a big program, such as Wisconsin's Beau Benzschawel or Ragnow's college teammate, Hjalte Froholdt.
Given Quinn's investment in his offensive line, which in turn is an investment in protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford, as well as the team's newfound rushing attack, sticking with the roster's status quo seems ill-advised. Expect the Lions to take an interior lineman in April, likely in the first four rounds.