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Lomas Brown talks Lions' lineman-heavy draft class

A lot has changed since Lomas Brown came to the Detroit Lions as a first-round draft pick in 1985 and was immediately installed as the opening-day starter at left tackle on the offensive line.

For Brown, that began a run of 18 NFL seasons – the first 11 with the Lions – and 251 games started, tied with former Falcons offensive tackle Mike Kenn for ninth most in NFL history by a position player.

That's a lot of experience, and it gives Brown an insight into what will be a period of transition and adjustment for the offensive linemen in the Lions' 2016 draft class.

It starts with tackle Taylor Decker of Ohio State, who will get the most scrutiny because of his status as a first-round pick, but it does not end there.

Third-round pick Graham Glasgow, a center-guard candidate from Michigan, and fifth-round pick Joe Dahl, a guard-tackle candidate from Washington State, also could make an impact as rookies at some point.

My take: the turn

over on the offensive line in 2016 will be close to that of 2015, when there were three new primary starters because of injury, retirements and performance.

With rookie minicamp wrapping up, there is still a long way to go before any firm decisions are made – either by opening day at Indianapolis on Sept. 11, or any point in the season.

For Decker in particular, whose best chance to start on opening day likely is at right tackle, the biggest change is the same that Brown faced as a rookie 31 years ago.

"I just think it's the speed of the game," Brown said after the draft. "The speed is what's going to really shock him -- not only how fast defensive ends move, but defensive tackles and linebackers. That was probably the biggest thing for me – the sheer speed of the teams."

Decker started at right tackle for the Buckeyes in 2013 and at left tackle the last two seasons. If Decker is moved back to right tackle, Brown doesn't foresee a difficult adjustment.

The final decision on that will be made by head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff. But based on what general manager Bob Quinn said after the draft about the desire for players to have position versatility, Decker is likely to get work at both sides under Ron Prince, the assistant head coach and primary coach of the offensive line.

"He should be all right," Brown said. "The coaching staff there, Ron Prince and the others, they'll get him fundamentally sound. I don't think it's a big adjustment for him.

"He's got the tools to work with. He's a young guy coming to a young group. I've got all the confidence in Ron Prince. It's a good pick for us to get.

"He played in the Big Ten. He faced great competition. He shouldn't be wide-eyed. You're going to be a little when you come into the pros, but it shouldn't be overwhelming.

"The competition, the games he played, the magnitude of the games he played, I don't think that should be a big deal for him. It should have a carryover for him."

Those observations also could apply to Glasgow and Dahl, who also played in power conferences – the Big Ten and Pac-12 respectively.

It's safe to say that the offensive line will be one of the Lions' most closely scrutinized and evaluated units. The 2015 stats point in that direction – 44 sacks allowed, and a running game that ranked last in the league. So does drafting three offensive linemen in the first five rounds.

Position changes that were made in 2015 could be followed by more of the same this year. New players made the majority of starts at three positions, as follows:

Left guard: rookie first-round pick Laken Tomlinson, 16 games, 14 starts.

Center: 2014 third-round pick Travis Swanson, 14 games, 14 starts.

Right tackle: Michael Ola, signed as a free agent in October – nine games as a Lion, seven starts.

On this year's line, Tomlinson appears set at left guard, and the same for Riley Reiff at left tackle – with some possibility that he could be moved to the right side. Right tackle and center obviously are open to competition, and it could be the same at right guard, where Larry Warford plateaued after a promising 2013 rookie season.

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