Lions address need, add 2 O-linemen on draft night

Well, it wasn’t boring.

First the Lions traded the No. 23 pick for a guy they once cut. NFL teams rarely trade to get players back, but when they do, it’s usually because they hated letting them go.

Manny Ramirez wasn’t that guy.

He was cut from the Lions in October 2010, less than two years after Detroit’s 0-16 season, when he was rarely used. How a guy gets cut from a former 0-16 team is something I’m sure Ramirez, now 32, has had to explain more often than he likes. He was out of football for months. (Heck, most of us would need that long to get our pride back.)

However, Ramirez found a second life with the Denver Broncos, eventually becoming the man who snapped for Peyton Manning. Never mind that he was also the guy who snapped OVER Peyton Manning in the opening seconds of the Super Bowl in 2014, a play from which the Broncos never recovered en route to a 43-8 shellacking by Seattle.

But as we said, not boring.

The Lions got Ramirez and two fifth-round picks, one this year, one next year, in exchange for moving back five slots in Thursday night’s draft, from No. 23 to No. 28.

They then watched Denver use that No. 23 pick to take Shane Ray from Missouri, a potential impact defensive player the Lions could have used.

And they watched Arizona take big offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, a player the Lions definitely could have used.

And they watched Dallas, one pick ahead of them, snatch heralded cornerback Byron Jones from Connecticut, another player they could have used.

By this point Lions fans were out of fingers and toes for all the players the Lions could have used and didn’t get to pick in the first round.

And then they made their selection.

“The Detroit Lions,” commissioner Roger Goodell told the TV and live audience, “select Laken Tomlinson, guard, Duke.”

Duke? A guard? In the first round?

And then Tomlinson stepped up, pulled on a Lions cap.

And stole the evening.

A devil of a pick

Speaking to Suzy Kolber from ESPN, Tomlinson told the Chicago audience about his journey from Jamaica, the groundwork his mother laid out for him. He fought back tears in calling his path “unbelievable” and something “I couldn’t imagine.”

He then detailed how he became a pre-med student at Duke after his grandfather’s death in Jamaica while on a vacation.

“The hospital couldn’t help him when he went there when he was sick,” Tomlinson recounted. “That angered me. … My goal in life is to one day go back to Jamaica and change the health-care system there.”

Wow. The Lions would be happy if he made a few blocks.

Tomlinson reminds you of the Duke prototype for student-athletes: mature, intelligent, accomplished and a veteran. He started 52 games in college. He will step in for the Lions and, in all likelihood, be a starter from Day 1. With Ramirez now on the team (likely as a backup center and guard), the Lions, in one night, thickened their offensive line, perhaps improved the run game, and helped get some protection for their most valuable asset, Matthew Stafford.

Not bad. And not boring.

Beats another tight end

Could the guys they missed out on have helped more than Tomlinson? Probably. But picking 23rd doesn’t give you tons of options. Was it just me, or did it seem like almost every team ahead of Detroit was plucking the kind of players the Lions wanted?

After the top two (predictable) selections went on quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, 12 of the next 17 picks were offensive linemen, defensive linemen, defensive backs or running backs — the top four needs on the Lions’ roster.

Didn’t anyone want a tight end? (Or is that just when the Lions are drafting?) Didn’t anyone want another quarterback? There have been years when six quarterbacks went in the first round. This year, when the Lions don’t need one, it was two.

You do have to wonder about some of the guys the Lions passed on for Tomlinson, who seems a steady, reliable pick, if not a star-studded one. But general manager Martin Mayhew loves to make trades at draft time, and he did haul in two picks he didn’t have before, plus a big body in Ramirez, and he still filled a need with Tomlinson, a man who, at least based on his story, seems like a character guy you’d want on your team.

Which should counter Ramirez. I mean, just a wild guess here, but how happy do you think he’s going to be coming back to Detroit? I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell him.

Meanwhile, if you’re like me, you watch until the end of the first round to see how the team that wins the Super Bowl will fare. What kind of lowly, useless player will it get stuck with as punishment for winning it all?

And there’s the New England Patriots, picking 32nd. And they get Malcom Brown from Texas, a darn good defensive lineman prospect who many thought would go in the top half of the draft, and may end up doing more than most of the guys the Lions have working at that position right now.

And you wonder, how do the rich keep getting rich that way? But then, drafts have never been the Lions’ strong suit, and we should be grateful when they don’t mess it up. Last year, you could sense that taking tight end Eric Ebron that high had “danger!” written all over it.

This year, there was a need and the need was addressed, with a young man who seems straight out of central casting. On to Round 2 tonight, and then later rounds sometime before, what, the end of the summer?

 

Contact Mitch Albom: malbom@freepress.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at mitchalbom.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/mitch-albom.

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