2023 Lions draft: Finding a new swing tackle for Detroit’s offense

This past week, the Detroit Lions had some notable news that they wouldn’t be giving an RFA offer to offensive tackle Matt Nelson. I’d consider that significantly important as the Lions don’t have much for a backup tackle on the roster.

Dan Skipper is set to hit the free agent market and while he could be back, he’s only started in 5 games while playing in a total of 29 games. Aside from Skipper, they’ve got two practice squad tackles with Obinna Eze and Darrin Paulo. While they could surprise us, I still wouldn’t expect much contribution from either player if the Lions were in a pinch. Time will tell with both of those players.

That’s why having a player like Matt Nelson on the roster was nice. He wasn’t overly impressive, but when he spot-started two years ago, there were some flashes. During his 40-game career with the Lions, Nelson started 12 games and played 987 snaps. Meanwhile, he only gave up 3 sacks in his career while playing as an in-line tight end and right tackle.

There’s a chance that the Lions bring back Nelson or Skipper, or they could bring back both players. The next week or so, we’ll find out what the depth chart looks like at offensive tackle for the Lions. If neither player is back, specifically Matt Nelson, the Lions will be in need of another offensive tackle. Let’s take a look at three offensive tackles that the Lions could consider during the 2023 NFL Draft!

Tyler Steen, OT, Alabama

Over the past week or so, I watched the tape of Alabama offensive tackle Tyler Steen and the more I watched, the more I liked. He checked into the Scouting Combine at 6’6″ and 321 pounds with 32 3/4″ arms. An impressive feat for Steen because when I asked around about him, many people thought he’d move inside to guard due to his arm length.

That might not be the case after he checked into the Scouting Combine and put up 31 reps in the bench press. But if that’s not enough for you to buy-in, you can go to the tape. In the three games I watched of Steen, you’ll see his ability to anchor and reset his hands consistently against the opposition.

Meanwhile, he’s got the desired foot speed to match speed rushers off the edge or those that try to cross his face with an inside pass rush move. He’s got strong hands and displays the ability to turn and redirect defenders while opening rushing lanes.

Prior to playing at Alabama, Steen was a starting tackle at Vanderbilt. During his 3 years with the Commodores, he had over 1400 snaps at left tackle and almost 800 snaps at right tackle. While he gave up 11 sacks at Vanderbilt, he cleaned up much of his technique at Alabama and only gave up 2 sacks this past season for the Crimson Tide (per PFF).

On my board, Steen ended up with a solid third-round grade, but he could very well be available during the early portion of Day 3 of the 2023 NFL draft. Whether it’s the 3rd or 4th round, the Lions should pounce on the opportunity of selecting Tyler Steen out of Alabama. He’d provide guard and tackle flexibility for Detroit, which the Lions will desperately need moving forward.

Richard Gouraige, OT, Florida 

Per editor Jeff Risdon’s request, I’ve got to talk about Richard Gouraige from Florida. And I’m glad I get to do that because Gouraige was someone that I wasn’t going to watch until closer to the draft but he had some impressive flashes on tape.

Measuring at the Combine at 6’5″ and 306 pounds with 34″ arms, Gouraige checked off a lot of boxes. Another one of those players that got labeled as a potential player to move inside to guard, he might end up finding a spot at tackle for a team. While he didn’t do any of the drills at the Combine, his frame is intriguing, and it stands out with his strong lower half.

When putting on the tape, Gouraige plays under control and shows the consistent ability to reset his hands. He’s got strong hands and is able to steer defenders away from quarterbacks and running backs while also being able to maul them into the ground. Meanwhile, he utilizes his length by locking out defenders and preventing them from even sniffing around the pocket. Now, there are times that he’s slow out of the gate and his foot speed will get tested against faster pass rushers or a blitz off the edge.

Per PFF, he played over 2600 career snaps with over 1500 of those snaps coming at left tackle and the rest coming at left guard. The more impressive stat for Gouraige is that he’s only given up four sacks in his career.

It’s worth noting that I do know of the Lions staff and scouting staff to be at Florida Gator games at least five times this year. Maybe they were there for a defensive player, quarterback Anthony Richardson or right guard O’Cyrus Torrence. But there could also be a chance that they were down there to get their eyes on Richard Gouraige. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out but Lions fans need to keep tabs on Gouraige during the third day of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh

It’s somewhat shocking that when people talk about finding a swing tackle in the middle rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, they don’t talk more about Carter Warren. Maybe it’s because he’s coming off an injury but I think this prospect deserves more buzz. While his tape doesn’t scream elite, it’s still very good.

Warren checked into the Scouting Combine at 6’5″ and 311 pounds with 35 3/8″ arms. Maybe we’d be talking about him more if he would have worked out at the Combine but unfortunately, he’s saving that for his Pro Day. We do know that Warren is a long-armed offensive tackle that plays light on his feet.

While he does have quick feet and great length, Warren does have a thinner lower half and doesn’t always keep his base as wide as he should. This does allow him to get knocked around or to play off-balance. But he does a good job of working his hands and is able to transfer his weight consistently from his post-foot to his set foot.

Much of this has transitioned to success during his four-year career for Pittsburgh. Per PFF, he’s played over 2100 career snaps at left tackle and has only given up six sacks in his career. Looking at his athletic frame and length, Warren screams to be a mid-round prospect. There’s a good chance he becomes a swing tackle for an NFL team, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he carved out some type of starting role for a team.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire