Vaitai's position versatility could open up draft for Lions

The Detroit Lions like position flexibility among their players, and it's a big reason why they valued and pursued offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai in free agency.

"Yeah, Vaitai is a guy we obviously like a lot," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said in a conference call last week. "One of the best things about him is we feel like he can play two positions and he has played two positions. Does he have the ability to play right tackle? Absolutely. Can he go inside and play guard at a high level? We think he can."

What that flexibility offers the Lions are options when it comes remaking the right side of their offensive line after the release of right tackle Rick Wagner and the departure of Graham Glasgow (Denver) in free agency.

It opens the door to a lot of different possibilities in this week's draft when looking at the different offensive line prospects. Depending on how his board shakes out, Quinn can take the best offensive lineman available and not be forced to pass on a better player at either tackle or guard to fill the other spot. It opens up a lot of options for Quinn.

"That's one of the reasons why he was kind of a target for us because depending upon what happens in the draft and the rest of free agency, we feel like we can plug him into either spot," Quinn said of Vaitai, or "Big V" as he was nicknamed in Philadelphia.

"Obviously, he has more experience at tackle. This guy played left tackle in the Super Bowl. He's played a bunch of games at tackle behind two outstanding tackles at the Eagles (Jason Peters and Lance Johnson). So, he has versatility to play both. We'll kind of see where the roster shakes up here in another three, four weeks and kind of solidify the depth chart going into the offseason."

Vaitai, 26, started three games for the Eagles last season and has played as Philadelphia's swing tackle most of the past four years. He has started 24 of 61 games played, including the postseason.

This is a strong tackle class in the draft, especially at the top with names like Mekhi Becton (Louisville), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Jedrick Wills (Alabama), Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and Austin Jackson (USC) all potential first-round picks. If the Lions gain additional draft capital in the first round by moving back from No. 3, maybe tackle could be in the mix there.

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Names like Josh Jones (Houston) and Ezra Cleveland (Boise State) could be tackle options early in Day 2.

Detroit could also look to the interior linemen in this draft starting in the second or third rounds with players like Cesar Ruiz (Michigan), Lloyd Cushenberry (LSU), Robert Hunt (Louisiana), John Simpson (Clemson) and Ben Bredeson (Michigan), just to name a few.

It's likely that Quinn will add to his offensive line at some point in the draft. The signing of Vaitai in free agency, and his position flexibility, give Quinn a lot of options in doing so.

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