NFL Draft Report: Lions Could Opt To Protect QB Stafford With Draft Pick

Greg RiotAnalyst IApril 20, 2010

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 6: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws under pressure from the Cincinnati Bengals in their NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium December 6, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.    (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
John Sommers II/Getty Images

It’s no secret that the most prized position in the NFL is quarterback. The St. Louis Rams are going to spend $50 million of guaranteed money on Sam Bradford, even though he’s coming off a season marred by a season-ending injury and surgery to his throwing arm.

Last year, the Detroit Lions had to do the same thing with Matthew Stafford. In fact, just thinking about how much money the NFL spends on quarterbacks is nauseating. That’s why padding those investments with a strong offensive-tackle is more of a priority than giving him a top-notch receiver.

Six of the top-10 teams in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft have established quarterbacks already. Only the Rams, Bucs, Seahawks and Bills have questionable quarterbacks heading in to 2010. Between the Chiefs, Browns, Lions, Raiders, Browns and Jaguars, they’re spending a combined amount of over $83 million on quarterbacks between the six of them. Of course, that’s fair market value for any solid quarterback, but lost in the mix are names like Delhomme, Garrard and JaMarcus Russell.

Despite production, you have to protect a high dollar investment no matter what the cost and that means drafting a solid left-tackle. Unfortunately, finding these guys on the open market isn’t easy. When they do show up, like when Alan Faneca went to the Jets, it costs you an arm and a leg.

The best players in this draft are Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Sam Bradford and then a pair of offensive tackles. Knowing that offensive tackles are worth so much, it almost feels inevitable that the Lions or Bucs could reach for one in the draft. If they do, that could change everything in the draft.

The main problem is that there are three very strong offensive tackles in the draft. Russell Okung of Oklahoma State, Trent Williams of Oklahoma and Bryan Bulaga of Iowa represent the best of the bunch with guys like Anthony Davis (Rutgers) and Charles Brown (USC) falling not so far behind.

Neither the Lions nor the Bucs have offensive tackles that you can truly bank on, and both are paying for first-round, 2009 quarterback draftees. The Lions especially have $26.5 million owed to Stafford in 2010. That’s what makes their decision so hard at number-two. Do they go with the game changing defensive tackle, or the hard nosed offensive lineman who will protect their franchise’s future?

If any Lions fans just read that past sentence, they’re probably vomiting in their mouths. Offensive linemen are the least glamorous picks in an NFL draft, but they’re also the most important outside of quarterback. Not too many people remember great draft picks like Jake Long, but almost everyone remembers a bust like Robert Gallery.

Therein lies the rub—there’s a ton of great offensive linemen prospects in this draft. It’s a no-brainer that some of those would trickle down in to the early second round. Getting an offensive lineman prospect right is pretty easy. The higher graded ones in the past, like Joe Thomas, Long and Chris Mangold, have all panned out as pros. You don’t have to look very far to see all the failed defensive linemen prospects.

That being said, after digging around, I found this NFL Draft props page which has 6.5 offensive lineman being drafted in the first round at -300 odds. The UNDER in that bet pays out 2-to-1 or +200. As great as this lineman class is, I can only see four guys (Okung, Williams, Bulaga and Davis) getting that first-round call. As far as NFL draft futures go, that one feels like a lock especially with specialty players like corner backs and receivers filling up the natural spots in the first round.

NFL draft betting aside, if the Lions elect to take Okung or Bulaga with the second-overall pick you can’t roast them. They have to protect a young Stafford, especially with their future in such a fragile state. If they do so, no team would be happier than Tampa Bay which has been drooling over Suh as the heir apparent to the legendary Warren Sapp.

All this speculation is making the 2010 NFL Draft one of the most intriguing and interesting in ages. Strangely, it all hinges on the Detroit Lions.