It has been interesting to watch the debate about not only who the Detroit Lions should pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but also which offensive lineman should be the selection if they opt to go that route. Colorado's Nate Solder seemed to be the most popular pick for a few weeks, and then after the NFL Combine the attention turned to USC's Tyron Smith. For the latest SBNation.com 2011 NFL mock draft, the popular pick is the route they went for the Lions.
13. Detroit Lions: Tyron Smith, OT, USC. The Lions are getting there, but they won't actually get there until they can keep Matthew Stafford healthy for a full season. That argument could work against the super raw Smith, but his upside makes him solid value here.
I have not been a fan of the Lions potentially taking an offensive tackle in the first round of this year's draft, and the whole "we must protect Matthew Stafford" argument is exactly why. Any OT drafted by the Lions this year is unlikely to see significant playing time, especially at left tackle.
While it's important to build for the future at some point, I don't necessarily think using a first-round pick is necessary to do that. Sure, Smith could help protect Stafford in the future, but this team is already built to make a run in my mind. They can keep Stafford protected for a couple more years without spending a first-round pick on an offensive lineman in my opinion, so I don't buy the "protect Stafford argument." If no other positions produce players worth the 13th pick, then I don't have an issue with taking an OT, but not for the excuse of protecting Stafford, which Martin Mayhew doesn't seem to buy, either.