Taylor Decker wants Detroit Lions to ‘take all the linemen’ in 2021 NFL draft

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions have taken an offensive lineman with two of their past five first-round picks, and one of those choices hopes they go back to that well this week.

Left tackle Taylor Decker said Tuesday he would be all for the Lions drafting an offensive lineman with the seventh pick of the first round.

“Take a lineman in the first round,” Decker said. “Take all the linemen in the draft. I love it cause I’m an offensive lineman and I see a lot of value in that position, so I would love it.”

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Decker, the 16th pick in the 2016 NFL draft, and Frank Ragnow, the 20th pick in 2018, form the nucleus of a young Lions offensive line that ranks among the best in the NFL.

Jonah Jackson, a third-round pick last season, Tyrell Crosby, a fifth-rounder in 2018, and 2020 free agent signee Halapoulivaati Vaitai also return as potential starters, but the Lions could have their choice of the draft’s best offensive tackles — Oregon’s Penei Sewell or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater — this week.

With Decker and Jackson both signed to multi-year deals, and Ragnow in line for one, adding Sewell or Slater would give the Lions stability on the offensive line for what looks to be a multi-year rebuild

“If we could add talent at any position, wherever it may be, let’s do it,” Decker said. “Obviously, I don’t follow the draft, I don’t know a lot of the college players. I mean, I watch Ohio State and that’s about it. But I know there’s talented guys and whoever the organization deems can be a help and add value to the team, I’m all for it.”

Fields day

Decker, who played at Ohio State, gave a positive review of Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields, who could go as high as No. 4 to the Atlanta Falcons or could be in for a draft day slide according to some observers.

“He’s a playmaker,” Decker said. “You watch the big-time games he plays in, not that I’m a quarterback expert, so this is not the Holy Bible of draft analysis, but I mean it seems like the guy can make a lot of throws. I know he had his pro day and I watched some of the highlights cause I follow the Ohio State social media accounts and it looks like he was putting some on a dime deep down the field on the move. I know he ran well.

“I didn’t play with him personally, but I know some guys and they seem to like him. And I think the huge thing, huge thing about being a quarterback, you’re going to run the show but you’ve got to be able to relate to your teammates and your teammates got to like you, as with any position. And that’s what I’ve heard.”

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Listen up

When the Lions ended the 2020 season with a fourth straight loss, Decker was one of a handful of players who met with team president Rod Wood to offer his thoughts on the pending rebuild.

Not everything Decker wanted to happen came true. He said he planned to lobby to keep Matthew Stafford, who asked for and was granted a trade in January.

But on balance, Decker said he felt like the organization took his and other players’ wishes into account with its new direction.

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“I felt like my words were taken very seriously and that was awesome to see,” Decker said. “I know there were some other guys that had conversations towards the end of the year and conversations as this staff has been built (and it’s good to know) as a player that’s invested that wants to see more wins, that they took into consideration some guys’ opinions and thoughts on things.”

The Lions hired Dan Campbell to replace Matt Patricia, bringing in a coach who was known for his communication skills and ability to reach players to replace one who struggled in those areas.

The team also kept offensive line coach Hank Fraley, whom Decker said he vouched for in his meeting with management. Fraley, tight ends coach Ben Johnson and assistants Tanner Engstrand and Stephen Thomas are the only assistants to return from last year.

“It’s a good feeling to know that the organization wants to hear what players have to say. Not that I have all the answers, because I don’t. Not that I know every single coach, not that I know everybody’s résumé. But my thing was I’ve been here for some time, I’m invested in Detroit. I hope to retire a Lion one day and I’d seen Hank do a great job, so I wanted him to at least have the opportunity to be able to interview for the job and if there was anything I could do just asking, ‘Hey, will you guys do this for the O-line, for Hank or whatever,’ and they did.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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