The Detroit Lions are searching for answers at offensive tackle after a 2015 season during which the majority of the team’s offensive line struggled.
They have five tackles already under contract for 2016: last season’s starters at left tackle (Riley Reiff) and right tackle (Michael Ola) along with the team’s No. 3 tackle (Cornelius Lucas), last season’s seventh-round draft pick, Corey Robinson, and former Atlanta Falcons right tackle Lamar Holmes.
Still, don’t be surprised if the Lions start looking for an upgrade at the position in the draft, potentially even in the first round. Matthew Stafford has been sacked 89 times the past two seasons -- more than all but three quarterbacks in 2014 and 2015.
So the need is there, and here are a few tackles the Lions could look at during next week’s NFL combine in Indianapolis:
Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame (6-5, 304): It would be a little bit surprising to see him on the board at No. 16, but if he is he’ll likely merit high consideration from the Lions. He has played both tackle spots at Notre Dame, but if he’s taken in the first round he’s likely to be considered the left tackle of the future. In 2014 he allowed only one sack while facing a litany of future pros.
Jack Conklin, Michigan State (6-6, 325): He started 38 games at tackle at Michigan State -- all but three at left tackle. He began his career as a walk-on before getting a scholarship in January of 2013 after a red-shirt season. He played in a mostly pro-style system, which should help his transition to the pros. His NFL.com profile says he would fit in well in the NFC North.
Taylor Decker, Ohio State (6-7, 320): If he is around at No. 16, the Lions might consider him. He was a left tackle at Ohio State, but could potentially be a right tackle in the NFL according to this NFL.com breakdown. This Cleveland.com story about him, told through his tattoos, gives some insight into who he is.
Jason Spriggs, Indiana (6-5, 301): His Indiana bio said he allowed four sacks total over the past two seasons at left tackle and was an All-American by multiple outlets. He was a four-year starter for the Hoosiers. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, playing basketball, lacrosse and track along with football. The multi-sport background could lead to good footwork for him in the NFL.
Willie Beavers, Western Michigan (6-4, 324): He doesn’t have the name recognition others will have, but if the Lions choose to wait on a tackle until the middle rounds he could be a good pickup. He was a starter at left tackle the past three seasons for the Broncos and has the size to be a good tackle in the future. He could be a guy the Lions look at if they feel they have their 2015 starters in the group mentioned above or any potential free-agent acquisitions.