Detroit Lions NFL Combine preview: Offensive line

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

This is the second in a multi-part series previewing the NFL Scouting Combine. The event will be broadcast over four days on the NFL Network, Thursday, Feb. 27 through Sunday, March 1. Today, we'll look at the offensive line.

Lions pre-free agency needs

► Offensive tackle: It's conceivable the Lions roll with their current top-three tackles into the 2020 season, but the franchise needs to make a decision about right tackle Rick Wagner. Signed to a massive deal in 2017, his play didn't match his pay in 2019. He's set to have an $11.9 million cap hit, and moving on would save the team more than $6 million in space. Additionally, left tackle Taylor Decker is entering the final year of his rookie contract. 

► Interior: All signs point to the Lions not wanting to pay Graham Glasgow what he'll get on the open market. That, combined with top reserve Kenny Wiggins also set to hit free agency, leaves a hole at guard. The team already added one potential option in former first-round pick Joshua Garnett, but adding competition in the middle rounds would make sense. 

Metrics to monitor

Bench press, 20-yard shuttle and broad jump

It goes without saying that you want your offensive linemen to be strong. The bench press offers useful insight into a player's upper-body strength, while the standing broad jump displays lower-body power and explosion.

The 40-yard dash is relatively worthless for the big fellas, at least beyond the 10-yard split, but many of the top linemen in the league have exceptional short-area quickness. That's best demonstrated through the 20-yard shuttle. Recording a time of 4.6 seconds or under is great, especially for the interior guys. 

Jedrick Wills

Top prospects

► Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

It's still early in the process, but many mock drafts have been slotting Wills to the Giants with the No. 4 pick. A physically dominant blocker, he only played on the right side for the Crimson Tide, but that doesn't hurt a player's value the way it once did because of the rise of so many good rushers lining up on that side. 

► Tristan Wirfs OT, Iowa

Wirfs played both left and right tackle at Iowa, but was at his best on the right side, which is where he'll likely play at the next level.There's also some who believe his best long-term fit might be at guard. Kicking inside worked well for Brandon Scherff, another former Hawkeye and top-10 pick. 

► Andrew Thomas OT, Georgia

A durable powerhouse, Thomas started every game during his time at Georgia. After playing right tackle as a freshman, he finished up protecting the blindside of the Bulldogs quarterbacks the past two seasons. 

Cesar Ruiz

► Cesar Ruiz IOL, Michigan

Ruiz's film showcase a nice balance of power and athleticism, earning him the early designation as the best center in this draft class. He could further impress decision-makers if he shows up to Indianapolis having trimmed some bad weight from his 6-foot-4, 320-pound frame.

► Netane Muti, IOL, Fresno State

The medical evaluations will be important for Muti, who missed significant time with Achilles and Lisfranc injuries. If he gets the green light from the doctors, there's plenty to like about the way he plays. Quick out of his stance, powerful and relentless, he likely could fit into either a gap or zone scheme.  

► Lloyd Cushenberry III, IOL, LSU

Cushenberry solidified his draft stock as one of the nation's best interior linemen with a solid week at the Senior Bowl. He's on the shorter side, at 6-foot-3, but that's offset by longer arms. 

Sleepers to watch

Matthew Peart, OT, UConn

There wasn't much to like about a UConn team that went 2-10 last season, but Peart was a bright spot. Playing on the right side, he allowed just seven pressures (two sacks) on more than 400 pass-blocking snaps as a senior last season. Often praised for his athleticism, the combine will offer him the opportunity to put some numbers behind that film-based assessment. 

► Solomon Kindley, G, Georgia

Projections for Kindley are all over the map, from a late first-rounder to a Day 3 option. Best suited for a gap/power scheme, the 330-pounder established himself as a solid pass protector for the Bulldogs, particularly with his ability to ward off bull rushes. 


►Defensive backs