Skip to main content

Road to the Draft

Presented by

O'HARA'S DRAFT PREVIEW: 10 defensive linemen that could interest Lions

The 2021 draft's class of defensive linemen does not have a clear star like last year, when Chase Young of Ohio State was the top defensive end/edge rusher and regarded by many as the top prospect regardless of position.

That doesn't make it a bad class. This is one of those years when the top prospects are rated fairly evenly, and when other positions will dominate the first half of the first round.

Once the run begins on defensive linemen, the Detroit Lions and other teams will have good prospects to fill their individual needs.

Defensive end Kwity Paye of Michigan is one of the top linemen in the draft.

Looking back to last year, Young's pre-draft rating was validated when the Washington Football Team took him second overall -- one pick after the Bengals took quarterback Joe Burrow of LSU first overall.

K'Lavon Chaisson of LSU was the second defensive end off the board, going to Jacksonville 18 picks later at No. 20.

To some degree, it was the same for defensive tackles, where Derrick Brown of Auburn was No. 1 by a clear margin.

Brown went to the Panthers with the seventh pick. Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina was the next defensive tackle drafted, going to the 49ers seven picks later at No. 14.

It does not appear likely that any defensive linemen will go in the top 10 of the first round on April 29.

The quarterbacks, wide receivers and cornerbacks are projected to dominate the top half of the draft.

Following is the Lions' depth on the defensive line, the draft's strength at the position -- tackle and defensive end -- draft priority for the Lions and five defensive ends and five tackles who could fit the Lions.

Lions depth chart: Austin Bryant, Trey Flowers, Charles Harris, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara, Joel Heath, Robert McCray, Da’Shawn Hand, Michael Brockers, John Penisini, John Atkins, Jashon Cornell, Kevin Strong, Nick Williams.

Draft position and Lions' priority: A solid draft, but lacking in star power. The Lions are likely to draft a lineman because of needs.

Five defensive ends/edge rushers who could interest the Lions:

1. Kwity Paye, Michigan

6-4, 272

Stats line: Four-year player, 38 games and only four in 2020 because of pandemic. 23.5 career tackles for loss with 11.5 sacks. Season highs of 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks set in 2019.

How he could fit the Lions: Intense player, strong against the run and also played inside at Michigan.

2. Gregory Rousseau, Miami (Fla.)

6-6, 251

Stats line: Opted out in 2020 and played only 15 games with seven starts in two previous seasons. His 2018 season was shortened to two games because of a season-ending injury. Did not play defensive line until college. Rousseau made his mark in 2019 with 17.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.

How he could fit the Lions: Size, length and instincts make him an effective pass rusher.

3. Jayson Oweh, Penn State

6-5, 252

Stats line: Three-year player, 24 games. He had five tackles for loss and five sacks in 13 games in 2019 and 6.5 tackles for loss without a sack in seven games in 2020.

How he could fit the Lions: Showed development in 2020 even though the sacks didn't show that, and could take another step in 2021.

4. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

6-2, 247

Stats line: 27 games, three as a freshman in 2018 and 24 in 2019-20 combined. Career: 19.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks. Big 2020 season, 12.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks in 10 games.

How he could fit the Lions: Plays with instinct, versatility at outside linebacker.

5. Jaelan Phillips, Miami (Fla.)

6-5, 266

Stats line: 2020 only active season for Miami after transferring from UCLA, where he retired from football because of medical reasons. In 2020 at Miami: 10 games, 15.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks.

How he could fit the Lions: Skills to play the edge, he can help a team if he's healthy.

Five defensive tackles who could interest the Lions:

1. Christian Barmore, Alabama

6-5, 310

Stats line: 37 tackles and a team-leading eight sacks in 2020; 26 tackles with six for loss in 2019 as a redshirt freshman.

How he could fit the Lions: High energy player with power and strength.

2. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa

6-3, 305

Stats line: Two-year player, 21 career games. 2019: 3 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss in 13 games. 2020: 13.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks in eight games. One interception, returned 71 yards for a TD.

How he could fit the Lions: Powerful player with ability to be disruptive on the interior.

3. Marlon Tuipulotu, USC

6-3, 305

Stats line: Four-year player, 33 games -- 11.5 career tackles for loss with 6.5 sacks. Missed most of 2017 with a back injury but remained healthy his last three seasons.

How he could fit the Lions: Played nose tackle and had his best season in 2020, which could be the sign of an ascending player.

4. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington

6-3, 293

Stats line: Three-year player, 39 games, starting 26 of 27 games in 2018-19. Opted out in 2020. 16 career tackles for loss with six sacks.

How he could fit the Lions: A nose tackle with athleticism that could provide versatility.

5. Alim McNeill, North Carolina St

6-2, 320

Stats line: 30 career games, 17.5 tackles for loss with 10 sacks. Careers highs of 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks were in 2019.

How he could fit the Lions: A two-year starter, built to play nose tackle if the Lions are looking for an interior defender.

Related Content