It's the year of the offensive lineman in the NFL.

If 2012 was the year of the quarterback, it only makes sense to focus on the big, burly men blocking for them up front this season.

Nine offensive linemen were selected in the first round on last week's draft, so it's clear teams are turning their attention to protecting those quarterbacks this season.

For the Lions, there still are questions about how that protection will look for Matthew Stafford this season, specifically on the right side.

The Lions were ahead of the curve last year when they drafted left tackle Riley Reiff in the first round, and they displayed a trust in their own scouting by not trading up for one of the top three tackles in this draft. As respectable as Jeff Backus' career was with the Lions, Reiff should be an immediate upgrade as long as he develops at a typical rate for a second-year player.

But there still are two holes along the offensive line, and the two players who emerge can be the difference in at least a couple wins or losses in 2013. If tackles Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard, or guards Rob Nagy, Larry Warford or Rodney Austin play above their expectations, the Lions could make a playoff push.

Don't confuse the shift in focus, though. Stafford's performance directly affects the Lions' record more than any player or position group, and if he's throwing in the area of 727 passes with only a 59.8 completion percentage again, the results won't be much different from 2012.

As electrifying as shiny new running back Reggie Bush can be, he can't lighten Stafford's load as much as an Adrian Peterson-, Arian Foster- or Ray Rice-type back.

Like Stafford, Bush will need offensive line help to provide the return the Lions hoped for when they signed him to a four-year, $16 million deal in March.