Ranking the Defensive Line:
|1. DE Quinton Coples||North Carolina||6-6/284||4.78|
|2. DT Fletcher Cox||Mississippi State||6-4/295||4.79|
|3. DE Melvin Ingram||South Carolina||6-2/276||4.79|
|4. DT Michael Brockers||LSU||6-6/306||5.36|
|5. DT Dontario Poe||Memphis||6-5/350||4.98|
|6. DE Courtney Upshaw||Alabama||6-1/273||4.79|
|7. DE Whitney Mecilus||Illinois||6-3/242||4.68|
|8. DT Jerel Worthy||Michigan State||6-3/305||5.08|
|9. DT Devon Still||Penn State||6-5/305||5.08|
|10. DE Nick Perry||USC||6-3/271||4.64|
Others: DT Kendall Reyes, Connecticut; DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse; DE Andre Branch, Clemson; DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson; Vinny Curry, Marshall; DT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington; DT Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati; DE Jared Crick, Nebraska; DE Tyrone Crawford, Boise State; DT Mike Martin, Michigan.(Note: Position ratings on Detroitlions.com are based on research with no input from Lions coaches or scouts.)
Lions depth chart: The Lions are four deep at both defensive tackle and defensive end.
Reviewing the 2011 DL draft: 44 were drafted – 27 ends and 17 tackles. Nearly one-third of the 32 first-round picks last year were true defensive lineman (10). Aldon Smith (49ers) and Ryan Kerrigan (Redskins) were drafted as defensive ends, but played mostly outside linebacker in 3-4 schemes.
The first four true defensive ends taken in last year's draft – Marcell Dareus, Buffalo; JJ Watt, Jacksonville; Robert Quinn, Rams; Adrian Claiborne, Buccaneers – combined for 23.5 sacks, with Claiborne collecting 7.5.
Watt and Dareus made the All-Rookie Team. The other two defensive linemen on the team were the first two picks by the Browns: DT Phil Taylor in the first round and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (8.5 sacks) in the second round.
Lions 2011 pick: Defensive tackle wasn't considered a need for the Lions with the No. 13 pick, but when a top 5 talent like Nick Fairley fell to them, there's no passing that up. Fairley suffered a broken foot the second day of training camp and it hampered him the entire year. He did show flashes, though, and there are high expectations for him heading into this season.
Twentyman on the 2012 draft class: One of the deepest classes in recent history. Teams are going to get a legitimate starter into the second and possible third rounds at both tackle and end. The defensive tackle class is particularly deep with seven or eight players having first-round grades. It's always a debate this time of year if players like Upshaw, Mercilus and Ingram are 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers.
O'Hara on the 2012 draft class: It's deep enough in first-round prospects at end and tackle, but it's just as deep in prospects who have holes. A prime example is Quinton Coples of North Carolina, the school that produced Julius Peppers as the second-overall pick 2002. Coples had been compared to Peppers in terms of skill, but his effort is inconsistent.Teams have to decide if players such as Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, Courtney Upshaw of Alabama and Melvin Ingram of South Carolina are 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers.
Twentyman on the DL draft impact on Lions: The Lions certainly have other needs to address along the offensive line and secondary, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they take a defensive end in the first two rounds. Avril is on a one-year franchise tag, Jackson and Young (restricted) will be free agents after the season and Vanden Bosch will turn 34 during the season. Upshaw, Mercilus, Perry, Jones, Branch and Curry could all be available to the Lions at No. 23.
O'Hara on the DL draft impact on the Lions:Defensive line isn't a primary need in this year's draft, but it could be next year because of Kyle Vanden Bosch's advancing age and the fact that Cliff Avril and Lawrence Jackson could be up for free agency. The defensive line is strong now, and drafting to keep it that way plays into their plans.One player I wouldn't overlook on the third round is Mike Martin, a strong, athletic defensive tackle from Michigan.