ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- With every draft comes the potential replacement process. When there is a new front office in place, led by first-year general manager Bob Quinn, the potential for players losing their jobs becomes more heightened.
When a team drafts a player, it is typically a three-to-four year investment. If a veteran is playing a position that was drafted highly, it doesn’t look good for the veteran's long-term future with the franchise. With that in mind, here are some winners and losers for the Detroit Lions after this year’s draft.
WR TJ Jones: Wide receiver appeared to be a big need for the Lions after the retirement of star Calvin Johnson in March. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones were locks. Jeremy Kerley was signed to play the slot. But the Lions drafting another wide receiver to help Matthew Stafford for years to come seemed to be a given. When the Lions avoided receiver in the draft, it gave more credence to the potential of Jones in the future. The third-year pro from Notre Dame showed flashes of progress during the 2015 season. He will enter spring workouts as the likely No. 4 receiver and should have the inside track toward a roster spot.
CB Nevin Lawson: Much like Jones’ situation at receiver, cornerback appeared to be a long-term need after Rashean Mathis retired. Cornerback is typically a tough transition position, but with the Lions not drafting a cornerback in 2016, that gives Lawson the inside track on a starting job opposite Darius Slay. Lawson will get competition from Darrin Walls, Crezdon Butler and last year’s third-round pick, Alex Carter, but as of today he’s going to be slotted as a starting cornerback.
QB Matthew Stafford: No incumbent player received as much help during the draft as the quarterback. After being beaten up consistently the past two seasons, Quinn made it a priority to improve the long-term future of the offensive line by drafting tackle Taylor Decker in the first round, center Graham Glasgow in the third and guard/tackle Joe Dahl in the fifth. He also got him some more quarterback room help during the week with the extremely bright Jake Rudock, the quarterback taken in the sixth round out of Michigan. Rudock should be another good set of eyes for him during the week to help for prep on Sundays. Big win for Stafford over the weekend.
LS Don Muhlbach: Teams don’t carry two long-snappers, particularly if it's their only football skill. When the Lions took Jimmy Landes in the sixth round Saturday, it was a surprise to almost everyone for two reasons. First, teams typically don’t draft long-snappers, although Quinn’s mentor, Bill Belichick, drafted one last season. Second, Muhlbach has been considered one of the top snappers in the league for a while and is the longest-tenured Lions player. At age 34, it seemed like he would have a few good years left, and the Lions appeared to be grooming Jordan Thompson to eventually replace Muhlbach. Taking Landes threw those thoughts away as Muhlbach will be in a tough competition to keep his job.
C Travis Swanson: Unlike the Landes selection, the possibility of Detroit drafting a center had been discussed for months. Swanson, the team’s third-round pick in 2014, had an inconsistent season in 2015 on one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. There were some issues with snaps and overall protection, and it became clear the Lions were going to bring a player in as competition. That Detroit took Graham Glasgow in the third round of the draft doesn’t bode well for Swanson’s long-term prospects.
RTs Michael Ola, Cornelius Lucas and Corey Robinson: The Lions were always going to upgrade at offensive tackle. It was considered one of Detroit’s biggest needs in the draft, if not the biggest need. By taking Decker in the first round, it pushed last season’s right tackles down the depth chart, and at least one of them potentially off the roster. Ola probably makes the team as the No. 3 tackle, and this might allow Lucas to finally settle in as a backup at left tackle, where he has performed better throughout his career. Robinson, last year’s seventh round pick, has his roster spot in jeopardy. Since none of the three are expected to be starters, none are safe on the roster right now. But considering Detroit’s commitment to improving the offensive line, they likely knew that before the draft even started.