With Jeff Backus announcing his retirement shortly after the Lions announcing a slew of Free Agent signings, the Lions find themselves needing to fill 3 starting spots on the offensive line. And I would say they shold just blow it all up and get rid of Raiola while they are at it, what better time than now, let 4 new players get continuity.
Now Mayhew has been on record as saying they feel comfortable with their Offensive Line situation. They drafted Jason Fox an Offensive Tackle in the 4th round of the 2010 draft to groom, but after a few years of injuries, he was healthy last year and could find his way into the line up.
Last year the Lions drafted Riley Reiff in the 1st round, saying he was an elite LT that slipped to the number 23 pick. Reiff played in a lot of games as the 6th offensive linemen in many packages and played well. He also got a start at LT when Backus missed his 1st game of his career. Reiff held his own in that game and proved he is an NFL tackle.
The Lions have yet to make anything official regarding their line or where Reiff will play, and this leads me to believe they will take an LT at #5 pick in this years draft. Elite LTs are top 10 picks every year, and there are three elite LTs in this years draft projected to go in top 10 picks. LT Luke Joeckel, LT Eric Fisher and LT Lane Johnson are all expected to go in top 10 selections.
Reading between the lines, and knowing Mayhews history of trying to make the offense the centerpiece of this team, he will take one of the top tackles. The real prize would be Eric Fisher from Central Michigan. I believe the secretly the Lions covet him, and believe he has an all pro skill set.
From analyzing the games last year, I saw Stafford rushing things due to increased pressure from the year before. Stafford had to throw a lot of times at weird angles and did not set his feet, and while many analysts were quick to critize him, I give a lot of the blame to poor offensive line play. Because Stafford likes to avoid hits and sacks at all costs, many times he would throw ball before he wanted to, and the stat sheet would show that the Lions offensive line was pretty good at pass blocking due to the sack numbers being low. Stafford completion percentage went from 63% to 60%, this to me was due to the line allowing more pressure.
But when you cut through just stats and observe the game film, you do see that if the Lions were to get better protection, and give stafford just a little more time and just a little cleaner pocket, the Offense could take the next step this year even play better than the 2011 playoff team. Having a Gadget Back such as Reggie Bush makes this offense lethal. Losing Jahvid Best in 2011 and 2012 was monumental, as was Mayhew not having a backup plan for the Jahvid Best and his Concussion issues, that alone is grounds for termination in my mind.
Looking at the players possibly available at #5 in the Draft, such as Dee Milliner CB from Alabama, Ziggy Ansah DE from BYU, the biggest impact would be an elite LT. Drafting one of the elite LT would allow Reiff to play either RG or RT, which might be his more natural position as a mauler in the run game. It would potentially allow Jason Fox to play RT and Reiff to slot over to become an elite RG. Then hopefully Bill Nagy, who had a few good starts for the Cowboys, win the starting center spot.
An offensive line of:
LT – Eric Fisher
LG – Rob Sims
C – Bill Nagy
RG – Riley Reiff
RT – Jason Fox
On paper this lineup looks very good if inexperienced, and all the guys are young, so hopefully they could form one of the better offensive lines in the league, and have some continuity over a few years.
Mel Kiper Jr thinks lions will go heavy Defense, but I have a gut feeling that they covet Eric Fisher and if he is not there at #5, they’ll take Luke Joeckel or Lane Johnson at #5 this year, barring some trade down scenario involving Geno Smith.