I thought Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench brought up an interesting suggestion during our video discussion Wednesday, one that went against conventional wisdom and will depend largely on the Detroit Lions' internal evaluation of what many consider the third-best left tackle in the draft.
If left tackles Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) and Eric Fisher (Central Michigan) are both off the board by the Lions' No. 5 overall pick, Muench suggested the Lions draft Oklahoma's Lane Johnson rather than a defensive end such as Oregon's Dion Jordan or LSU's Barkevious Mingo. The defensive end class is deep, Muench reasoned, and the Lions should have access to a good one at the top of the second round.
Would Johnson be a reach at No. 5? I wouldn't assume that fact based simply on his media ranking below Joeckel and Fisher. Johnson is a tremendous athlete, as evidenced by a stunning performance at the scouting combine, and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him as the fifth-best prospect in the draft. Scouts Inc. ranks Johnson at No. 10 overall.
Johnson, who was a quarterback at Kilgore Junior College, ran the 40-yard dash at the combine in 4.72 seconds and recorded a 34-inch vertical jump. Those attributes don't necessarily mean Johnson will be an elite left tackle, but they indicate he has room to grow and develop after what was already a well-regarded career at Oklahoma. He is also 6-foot-6 with 35 1/4-inch arms, measurements that should satisfy the NFL scouting community.
Of course, Johnson's presumably high ceiling is only part of the equation here. We still don't know how the Lions A) Judge their need for a left tackle and B) evaluate Johnson. Their 2012 first-round pick, Riley Reiff, played left tackle at Iowa and made one start there last season. But offseason discussion about his versatility has spurred suggestions that the Lions would prefer to play him at right guard or right tackle.
Ultimately, however, I think we should accept that the Lions' options for drafting a left tackle at No. 5 aren't completely eliminated if Joeckel and Fisher are already off the board.