With the No. 16 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker.
A safe pick for a team in desperate need of better pass-protection—QB Matthew Stafford has been sacked a ton in the last two seasons, and Riley Reiff hasn’t shown the ability to hold up on the blind side. Decker will have to keep his body lean low to avoid getting overpowered, but he is one of the better run-blockers in this class. Some may question his potential as a left tackle in the long term in the NFL, and if he can’t hang on that side, this could prove to be a major mistake.
Strengths: Big, well-framed blocker with a muscular upper body and power in his legs. Has an innate understanding of how to flare out and protect the arc against edge-rushers. Great feet for the position—has a working kick-step, and keeps his upper body balanced and arms in check when he’s pulling back. Latches on as a run-blocker and can mirror well to the edge as well as he pushes defenders back. Hits targets efficiently at the second level and has the power and technique to dominate linebackers. Will absolutely put opponents on their backs at times. Plays with a peppery attitude—has a defensive mentality, especially in the run game, and loves to mix it up from snap to whistle.
Pinches inside and seals the edge very well, and has the strength to move defensive tackles at times. Keeps his head on a swivel and understands zone and second-level assignments very well. Has the processing speed to deal with twists and stunts. Basketball background shows up on tape with his ‘dancing bear’ potential. Consistent, high-rep starter and a leader on and off the field. Plug-and-play from Day 1.
Weaknesses: Average-sized arms prevent him from keeping rushers at bay all the time—his tendency is to let defenders into his area too often. Vulnerable against inside counters and arm-over moves, and doesn’t always sustain through the whole play when pass-blocking—Decker lets guys slip off and rush past him more than he should. Can be a step slow off the snap, and isn’t always direct enough when dealing with rushers who are able to beat him with that first move. Good eyes to the second level, but isn’t that agile in space—tends to mince when he runs at times. Slow to recover from hand-punches. Height is sometimes an issue, as Decker doesn’t consistently get under his opponents’ pads and can be shaken off his assignment as a result. Needs to be more consistent with his hands when latching on and punching.