LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Rookie general manager Bob Quinn doesn’t mind admitting he might play it safe as he tries to turn the Lions back into contenders.
He did exactly that Thursday night when Detroit made Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker the No. 16 overall pick in the NFL draft.
“At certain times during my reign here, there might be a certain time to take a risk,” Quinn said. “But I think in the first couple of years, I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
The Lions landed a player to help Matthew Stafford stay upright for a change, addressing a glaring problem with a three-year starter from Ohio State. The 6-foot-8, 315-pound Decker projects to be a right tackle, and that is likely the position he will play as a rookie in the Motor City.
“Taylor is a very durable player,” Quinn said. “Tough. Smart. Good agility. Good balance.”
He will probably start opposite left tackle Riley Reiff, a 2012 first-round pick entering the last year of his contract. Decker, though, is not expected to be handed a spot.
“I have not played one down in this league,” Decker said. “I have to earn every opportunity.”
The Lions need to bolster their offensive line to protect their investment in Stafford, the No. 1 pick overall in 2009, and to help them establish a better running game. Stafford has been sacked 89 times the past two years, a total that trails just three quarterbacks since 2014 and ranked last in the league last year in rushing.
“That was one of the areas we had to address,” Quinn acknowledged. “He’s the right player at the right time.”
Detroit has tried to build a formidable line through the draft in recent years.
The Lions took guard Laken Tomlinson with the No. 28 pick overall last year and he started 14 games. Larry Warford, a third-round pick in 2013, is a three-year starter. Travis Swanson, a third-round pick two years ago, started 14 games at center.
The Lions went into the three-day draft with 10 picks, including two in the fifth round and three in the sixth.
Detroit lost nine games last year, its 13th losing season in 15 years. During last season, team owner Martha Firestone Ford fired president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew, longtime executives with the team. She hired president Rod Wood to run business operations and Quinn to make football-related decisions.
Quinn made a pair of significant moves earlier in the offseason, signing former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Marvin Jones to a five-year deal just days after superstar Calvin Johnson retired and re-signing defensive back Haloti Ngata.
The draft was the 17th for Quinn, who said he learned to expect the unexpected while working for the New England Patriots. He did, though, acknowledge it was different to be the one making the final decision.
“Definitely, a little more nerve-racking,” Quinn said.
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