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Why drafting an interior offensive lineman could make sense for Lions at No. 29

GM Brad Holmes and the Lions have a lot of options if they stay at No. 29 in next Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft in Detroit.

One position that just might end up giving Holmes the most value and fit best available is adding a young player to their offensive line.

Holmes trusts his board and it's certainly possible one of the top interior linemen in this class ends up being the best player on Detroit's board at the end of the first round.

Duke's Graham Barton, Oregon's Jackson Powers-Johnson and West Virginia's Zach Frazier are considered the top interior linemen in the class and potential late first-round picks.

"That's something I've talked to a bunch of teams around the league these three guys paired together and teams going through their meetings trying to sort these guys out," NFL media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said in a national conference call Wednesday. "Ironically, I would have it Graham Barton, Jackson Powers-Johnson then Zach Frazier.

"If you ask me who the Lion is, I would say the third one. I would say Frazier. The four-time state champ wrestler (159-2 record). The guy who just has a tenacity to him and a physicality to and through the whistle. He kind of fits their style. I think he's worthy of being taken there in the bottom of the first round. I would have no problem with that at all."

View photos from offseason workouts on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

A four-year starter at West Virginia, Frazier put together an All-American resume during his time in Morgantown with one sack allowed the last two seasons combined. He started 37 consecutive games at center before suffering a broken leg in the regular-season finale this past season.

"In terms of stylistically, Graham Barton is the best athlete of the three," Jeremiah said. "I think he has legit five position flexibility. He can move around and do different things. I think he's best at center, but I think he can survive at tackle if you needed him to. I think he's fully capable of playing guard, too, but he's the best in space and change of direction just overall athleticism. He's really, really talented there."

Barton just might be the most versatile offensive lineman in the entire draft. He played both center and left tackle at Duke. With teams having to make hard decisions with gameday roster restrictions his kind of versatility can be a real asset for a team.

"Jackson Powers-Johnson is just bigger," Jeremiah said. "He's 328 pounds. He's going to set a firm pocket. You want more of a mauler, brawler in the run game? He's not a poor athlete he's just not the athlete the other two guys are out in space. But he's a physical, strong, sturdy presence there in the middle who will be able to set a nice deep pocket with him."

Powers-Johnson won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center in 2023 and has the ability to play both center and guard at the NFL level. He didn't allow a single sack in college.

Jeremiah said all three are distinctly different players but all three are ready to start right away and fit at the end of the first round.

The Lions return All-Pro center Frank Ragnow, they signed Pro Bowl right guard Kevin Zeitler in free agency and re-signed left guard Graham Glasgow to a two-year deal, but Zeitler is only on a one-year deal and the long-term future at center is somewhat in question with some of the long-term injury concerns Ragnow's dealing with. Only Glasgow played in all 17 games last season among that group.

Continuing to make the offensive line a strength and maintaining great depth for years to come is a priority for Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell.

Jeremiah also touched on some other topics related to the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit on his conference call. Here are the highlights:

- Jeremiah's final mock draft will be released next Wednesday (April 24) at 8 p.m. In his most recent mock he had the Lions selecting Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry.

"This was a tough call for me, deciding between McKinstry and Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson," Jeremiah wrote. "The Lions end up going with the talented outside cornerback to pair with his former Alabama teammate, slot corner Brian Branch."

- He said he wouldn't be surprised if the Lions moved up to select an offensive lineman or a cornerback. He said talking to agents the Lions have done a lot of homework on this class of cornerbacks.

- Jeremiah said this was a big draft for teams looking for offensive help. Quarterbacks, wide receivers and offensive linemen are going to dominate the top of the draft and the first round.

- Which team has the best landing spot for a quarterback? Look no further than the NFC North and the Minnesota Vikings. Jeremiah said the Vikings have the three P's to give a young QB early success – play caller, protection and playmakers.

"I can't think of a better situation for a young quarterback than the Minnesota Vikings have," he said.

He also mentioned the Vikings having a veteran in place in Sam Darnold who can wins games and allow them to bring a young quarterback along slower if they so choose.

- Who could be a surprise Top 10 pick? Jeremiah talked about Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II. He said teams are on the lookout for impact interior defenders who can be difference makers.

- The new kickoff rule in the NFL could affect the draft. Jeremiah talked to some general managers who were going back to players' freshman seasons when they were returners and watching that film. Jeremiah said return ability could separate ties between players.

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