Laken Tomlinson has had his ups and his downs like most young players in this league. The former first-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2015 has been an on-again, off-again starter at guard the last two seasons.
His third season in Detroit this year will be a big one, as he's expected to compete with Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl not only for the starting left guard spot, but for a roster spot altogether.
"Laken's going to compete at the left guard spot and we'll head into training camp and OTAs with really good depth and really good competition across the board, so we'll see how it goes with Laken," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said.
Tomlinson started 14 games as a rookie, and went into last season as the starting left guard. He eventually lost his starting spot to rookie Graham Glasgow, and didn't get it back until Glasgow had to slide over to center to fill in for the injured Travis Swanson the last five weeks of the season (including the playoffs).
Glasgow seems to be the odds-on favorite to win the left guard job to begin this year, and Quinn said at the Scouting Combine in February that he's excited about the development Dahl showed last year. Quinn drafted both Glasgow (third round) and Dahl (fifth) in his first draft last season. He inherited Tomlinson from the former regime.
It seems Tomlinson will have to have a good offseason and training camp if he's going to be part of the long-term picture upfront in Detroit.
"I think he has the right kind of attitude," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of Tomlinson recently this offseason. "He's a tough guy. Smart. He has ability. But just like anything else, it's a challenge. It's a challenge to you mentally, physically, the whole bit.
"I think he's taken that on the right way. I think he's addressing it the right way. You see him working at it. He's another one of those guys if you take a poll he started working right away (after the season) getting ready. So, it'll be a real challenge."
Caldwell expects a really good battle for the left guard spot all offseason, and Tomlinson will have to be at his best if he's going to win a role in 2017.