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Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Have at it: Okung for economic reasons?

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Quite reasonably, a few of you have grown weary of near-constant discussion of Detroit's looming choice between defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy in next month's draft. So, taking our cue from Nick of Detroit's question in Tuesday's SportsNation chat, it's for us to consider another decision the Lions could face.

Nick asked if the Lions might consider drafting Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung at No. 2 overall, in part because they've already addressed several defensive line positions during free agency. I'm sticking to my original answer -- I would only take Okung if my scouts were convinced he was a better prospect than Suh/McCoy -- but I think it's important to note the real-world decision isn't that simple.

The facts are clear: In the realm of NFL economics, left tackles are far more valuable than defensive tackles. Take a look at the chart listing the 2010 franchise tag numbers for each position. Although this isn't a perfect way to measure positional value, it gives you a good idea of where NFL teams collectively rank the economic value of a defensive tackle relative to left tackle.

The league's rookie slotting system will dictate the Lions pay a premium salary to whomever they take at No. 2. (Last year's second pick, St. Louis left tackle Jason Smith, received a six-year, $61.8 million deal that included $33 million in guarantees.) The question the Lions might have to answer: Should they pay left tackle money to a defensive tackle?

I have no idea if the Lions would take this factor into account. While Okung is generally rated as the best left tackle available, I haven't heard anything to suggest he challenges Suh (or McCoy) as a pure prospect. But you're fooling yourself if you think it's not an issue that at least some teams would consider.

Left tackles are paid more because they're more difficult to find and, in the view of many NFL people, impact the outcome of games more than defensive tackles.

So let's take this topic on in "Have at It" format. If you're the Lions, would you give any thought to taking Okung over Suh (or McCoy) at No. 2? Remember, Okung visited the Lions' practice facility earlier this week. Or do you believe it would be foolish to pass on an admittedly better overall prospect for these reasons?

Let me know what you think in the comments section below. I'll cull a representative sample of your responses, and offer my own, by Friday morning. Have at it.