There is a price to be paid, and a reward to be gained, for players who provide security for the NFL's most prized athletes.
Franchise quarterbacks make the biggest bucks. The offensive linemen who protect them – particularly the tackles – also make big bucks.
The premium on how highly offensive tackles are regarded is evident in the recent history of the draft.
In the last 10 years – from 2006 through the 2015 draft – 12 quarterbacks have been taken with the top five picks. In that same period, 12 offensive tackles have been taken in the top five.
Those draft numbers represent a version of the theory of supply and demand. There is a limited supply of quarterbacks who truly deserve to have the label of "franchise quarterback" applied to them. And their value demands that they be protected at a high cost – if not at all costs.
"The tackle position is protecting your franchise quarterback for most teams," Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn said at his pre-draft press conference Thursday. "I think it's a position that's hard to find.
"I mean, just go by their height and their weight. Like how many 6-7, 6-5 320-pound guys are walking around earth? I mean, not that many, right? So, you kind of go into like, 'How many guys are there in college football that play that position at a high level?'
"Really, when you look at it there are many more skill players -- receivers, corners, running backs -- walking around than there are guys that are 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 that can move their feet. So, I think it's just supply and demand."
This year's draft has a typical handful of tackles who are likely first-round draft picks. The Lions could be in the market to take a tackle with the 16th pick overall in the first round, depending on which one is still on the board, and who's available at another position.
At the top of the list is Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil, a powerful athlete with agility and quickness who is regarded by some analysts as the top prospect in the draft regardless of position.
Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame is generally regarded as the No. 2 tackle with three Big Ten prospects next in line in some order – Jack Conklin of Michigan State, Taylor Decker of Ohio State and fast-rising Jason Spriggs of Indiana.
Center Ryan Kelly of Alabama is the only interior lineman with the potential to be a first-round pick. Cody Whitehair of Kansas State is the top guard prospect.
Following are Mike O'Hara's rankings of the top offensive tackles, guards and centers, along with the Lions' depth chart, their draft probability and the three-year draft trend. Height, weight, 40 times and other measurements and workout results were officially recorded at the Combine, unless otherwise noted.
**1. Laremy Tunsil, Mississippi: 6-5, 310 – no 40 time .
Highlights: He is the clear-cut No. 1 offensive lineman and one of the highest rated prospects at any position. Smooth and strong – a natural left tackle. Made 26 starts at left tackle as a three-year player, missing seven starts in 2015 as a result of an investigation into whether he had received improper benefits. Although he did not run the 40 at the Combine, he was impressive in position drills. He had 34 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press at his Pro Day.
2. Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame: 6-6, 312 – 5.20 40.
Highlights: A four-year player and full-time starter for three years for the Irish, he showed versatility, making 13 starts at right tackle in 2013 and all 26 at left tackle his last two years. A two-sport winner in high school in Las Vegas, he played on three state champions in football and two in basketball.
3. Jack Conklin, Michigan State: 6-6, 308 – 5.00 40.
Highlights: A solid first-round prospect, with some debate about whether he is best suited to play left tackle, right tackle or guard. Official 5.00 40 time was second among offensive linemen at the Combine only to a 4.94 by Indiana's Jason Spriggs. A 2012 redshirt, Conklin started all 13 games at tackle in 2013 -- 10 on the left side, three on the right – and every game except two on the left side in 2014-15. Long arms (35 inches) can help control pass-rushers.
4. Taylor Decker, Ohio State: 6-7, 310 – 5.23 40.
Highlights: His vertical jump of 29 inches was among the best efforts for offensive linemen at the Combine. He is another tackle prospect with versatility – 14 starts at right tackle in 2013 and all 28 the next two seasons on the left side. Decker was known at Ohio State for his work ethic and toughness.
5. Jason Spriggs, Indiana: 6-6, 301 – 4.94 40.
Highlights: A standout performer at the Combine – a sparkling 1.75 for 10 yards on the way to a position-best 40 time of 4.94, plus 31 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press and a vertical jump of 31.5 inches. Spriggs looked like a natural left tackle from opening day of 2012, when he started all 12 games as a freshman and 35 his last three years.
Spriggs' hot stats: Spriggs blocked for a 2,000-yard rusher in 2014 (Tevin Coleman, 2,062 and 26 TDs) and a pair of 1,000-yard runners in 2015 (Jordan Howard, 1,213 and 9 TDs; Devine Redding, 1.012 and 9 TDs).
6. Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M: 6-6, 324 – 5.27 40.
Highlights: He is built to play the right side, at guard or tackle, and he started at both spots in college. Along with his height and weight, long arms (36 inches), big hands (10.75 inches) and good explosion – 32.5-inch vertical jump, 9 feet, 1 inch in the broad jump – give him the physical tools to be a power player.
7. Shon Coleman, Auburn: 6-5, 307 -- No Combine or Pro Day 40 time.
Highlights: He has overcome extreme medical adversity. Coleman did not play his first two years at Auburn (2011-12) while undergoing treatment for leukemia. He was the backup to Greg Robinson at left tackle in 2013 and started 25 of 26 games his last two years. Coleman already has earned a master's degree.
8. Willie Beavers, Western Michigan: 6-4, 324 – 5.28 40.
Highlights: Good size and athleticism helped Beavers make the transition from part-time starter at left guard in 2012 to a three-year anchor at left tackle, where he started every game the last three years. The Broncos went 8-5 the last two seasons and played in two bowl games.
Beavers got some work at guard at the Senior Bowl.
9. Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech: 6-5, 316 – 5.16 40.
Highlights: A four-year starter after a 2011 red-shirt season, Clark was the starter at right guard in 2012 before making the switch to left tackle, where he made 38 starts from 2013-15. Long arms (36.1 inches) and enormous hands (11.8 inches) are assets.
10. Joe Haeg, North Dakota State: 6-6, 304 – 5.16 40.
Highlights: Not as well known as QB teammate Carson Wentz, Haeg was undersized entering college and grew from 225 pounds to his present weight. A three-year starter at right tackle, he moved to the left side in 2015 after Billy Turner departed for the pros as Miami's third-round pick. Haeg started 60 games in four years and played on four straight FCS national champions. He and Wentz face the same question – their level of competition in college.
1. Cody Whitehair, Kansas State: 6-4, 301 - 5.08 40.
Highlights: He played across the board, as needed, as a four-year starter after a red-shirt season in 2011. The 2012 season was a sign of what was to come. He started at right tackle, left guard and right guard that year. After two seasons at left guard he spent his senior season at left tackle.
2. Christian Westerman, Arizona State: 6-3, 298 – 5.17 40.
Highlights: Possesses enormous hands and was No. 1 in the bench press at the Combine with 34 reps of 225 pounds. He also showed well in the agility drills. Began his career at Auburn and transferred to his home state, where he took over as the starter at left guard in 2014-15.
3. Joshua Garnett, Stanford: 6-4, 312 – 5.32 40.
Highlights: Good strength (30 reps in the bench press) and explosion (29-inch vertical jump) to go with versatility based on how he was used in Stanford's pro-style offense. He started at left guard his last two years, but also was used at times as a blocking tight end.
Honor: Won the 2015 Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman, joining a cast of previous winners that includes Joe Thomas, Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald and Brandon Scherff.
4. Connor McGovern, Missouri: 6-4, 306 – 5.11 40.
Highlights: A star high school athlete in North Dakota with a wrestling background, which often translates to success on the gridiron because of the agility, strength and leverage required to compete at a high level. McGovern has starting experience at right guard, right tackle and left tackle, but also has had to play over injuries.
5. Graham Glasgow, Michigan: 6-6, 307: 5.13 40.
Highlights: A walk-on and 2011 redshirt who improved steadily to become a starter at guard and center his last three years. He had alcohol-related issues that resulted in a one-game suspension in 2014 and a second suspension in the spring of 2015. However, he started every game in 2015. Good size and agility, plus position versatility, should help him in the pros at guard or center.
1. Ryan Kelly, Alabama: 6-4, 311: 5.03 40.
Highlights: He took over for Barrett Jones at center in 2013 and had to overcome injuries for two seasons before staying healthy all of 2015. He started all 15 games and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center. Kelly could be drafted a full round ahead of the next center prospect.
2. Nick Martin, Notre Dame: 6-4, 299: 5.22 40.
Highlights: He has the genes to make it in the NFL. His brother, Zack, was drafted by the Cowboys out of Notre Dame in the first round in 2014 and has been a two-time Pro Bowler at guard. Nick has most of his starting experience at center but also has started at guard.
3. Evan Boehm, Missouri: 6-2, 309: 5:33 40.
Highlights: An excellent all-around high school athlete in Missouri, Boehm stepped in as a true freshman in 2012 and started all 12 games at left guard before making the switch to center. He started all 40 games at center and set the school record with 52 career starts. He played over an ankle injury all of 2015.
4. Max Tuerk, Southern Cal.: 6-5, 298: No 40 time.
Highlights: A knee injury has limited his pre-draft workouts. He did 28 reps in the bench press at his Pro Day on March 23, an improvement over the 22 he did at the Combine a month earlier. In four years at Southern Cal Tuerk started at left tackle, right tackle, guard and center. A knee injury in the fifth game ended his 2015 season.
5. Jack Allen, Michigan State: 6-1, 294: 5.29 40.
Highlights: A four-year starter from 2012-15 when healthy, center is his primary position, but he also has started at guard and left tackle. He missed two starts because of injuries in 2012. Allen ran nine yards for a TD against Penn State in 2015. It was the final score in a 55-16 victory.
Lions depth chart:
Returning: All five players who made the majority of starts in 2015 are under contract: LT Riley Reiff, LG Laken Tomlinson, C Travis Swanson, RG Larry Warford and RT Michael Ola. Also back are T Cornelius Lucas, C Gabe Ikard, G/C Darren Keyton and T Corey Robinson.
Additions: G Geoff Schwartz and T Lamar Holmes signed as free agents.
Lions draft possibilities: There are a lot of ways to go with the 16th pick overall, and an offensive lineman – most likely a tackle -- is one of them based on the unit's performance last season and the talent pool available this year. If not in the first round, an offensive lineman is a high priority pick.
Three-year offensive line draft trend
(Source: NFL Record and Fact Books.)
2015 - 47 drafted: 26 tackles (4 first round), 16 guards (3 first round) and five centers (none first round). Brandon Scherff was listed as a tackle but played guard for Washington.
2014 – 45 drafted: 19 tackles (4 first round), 16 guards (1 first round), 10 centers (none first round).
2013 – 42 drafted: 20 tackles (5 first round), 15 guards (3 first round), 10 centers (1 first round).