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2017 Combine Preview: Defensive end

Any defensive coordinator will be quick to point out that he can never have enough players that can rush the passer.

The Lions have a good one in Ziggy Ansah, but after that, there's some question marks, which makes pass rusher a position of need this offseason.

Starter Devin Taylor is a free agent. Taylor, 27, averaged a little less than four sacks per year over his first four NFL seasons, with 2015 being his peak season with seven.

Detroit's 26 sacks overall in 2016 ranked 30th in the NFL, though the high ankle sprain Ansah suffered early in the season certainly played a factor.

Still, Detroit's edge rushers accounted for just 18.5 sacks combined.

Kerry Hyder had a breakout year, leading the team with eight sacks, but is he a starter or a good role player?

Armonty Bryant, who is also a free agent, had three sacks in five games, but is he part of the team's long-term plans?

This is a strong pass-rushing draft class, and at pick No. 21 Lions GM Bob Quinn is in a pretty good spot to pick one up if that's what he ultimately decides to do.

With the NFL Scouting Combine fast approaching, here's a look at some of the edge rushers to keep an eye on during the week in Indianapolis:


View photos of the prospects participating in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.


School: Texas A&M

Ht/Wt: 6-5, 270

Best trait: Physical freak. People said the same kind of things athletically about Ansah when he was coming out in 2013, but Garrett is a much more refined football player than Ansah was then. As a sophomore, Garrett recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and tied for second in the FBS with 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. He fought a knee injury last year and still managed 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks starting nine games.

Concern: Stamina could be an issue. Garrett never played in more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps in any of his three seasons at Texas A&M, per

The skinny: He has a bevy of pass rush moves, he can play either side of the line of scrimmage, and he can be equally effective with his hand in the dirt or standing up. He's easily the best player available in this draft.


School: Alabama

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 291

Best trait: Position versatility. Allen is both big enough and quick enough to play inside or outside at this level. He won the Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski Award as the nation's top defender this past season after recording 69 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. That came on the heels of a junior season in which he recorded 12 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.

Concern: Teams usually like their defensive ends to be a little taller with longer arms to better combat some of this league's athletic tackles. Like most linemen coming out of Alabama, he'll have to adjust to one-gap attacking schemes.

The skinny: Teams love versatile defenders, and that's exactly what Allen is. He can rush the passer from the inside or outside, which is rare. It's not often a 290-plus-pound defensive end records the sack numbers Allen did. He's quite an athlete. He's likely to be gone before pick No. 21.


School: Tennessee

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 265

Best trait: Hands and production. He has quick and strong hands that allow him to get away from blockers. He made 20.5 tackles for loss (which led the SEC) and had 10 sacks as a freshman in the SEC. He had 10 more sacks in 2015 and 12 sacks with 18 tackles for loss this past season.

Concern: He's not what most would consider an explosive athlete. He uses great technique, hands, power and awareness to make plays.

The skinny: He has the most productive collegiate resume among this entire group of rushers. He became the first Tennessee true freshman to start a season opener on the defensive line. He developed early, and his production and technical skills will sit well with NFL coaches.


School: Stanford

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 273

Best trait: Both quick and powerful, which is a good combination for rushers in this league. He can get the edge on a tackle or bull rush him. Thomas led Stanford with 62 tackles (15 for loss) and sacked the quarterback eight times.

Concern: He's a bit of a tweener, probably not big enough to play inside, and some worry he's not long enough or explosive enough to be an elite player on the outside.

The skinny: He's highly intelligent, his game comes pro-ready, and his production is undeniable. Guys like him just know how to play the game, and can fit in any scheme.


School: Michigan

Ht/Wt: 6-6, 272

Best trait: Elite body type with a rare combination of size, length and athleticism. He received first-team All-Big Ten honors this past season after leading Michigan with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

Concern: Why didn't he become a starter until his final year in Ann Arbor? Is he a project? He also needs to add strength to his frame.

The skinny: He's still growing as a pass rusher, which will excite a lot of teams. He comes in the league as a terrific athlete with elite length and plenty of room to grow as a pass rusher. He could end up being the steal of the draft when it's all said and done.


School: Alabama

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 252

Best trait: Pure pass rusher. The ball snaps and he gets after it. He had 31 tackles (16 for loss) and nine sacks this past year when he only started two games.

Concern: He'll have to be properly vetted for some off-the-field issues he ran into during his time in Tuscaloosa.  He's a pass rusher. That's what he's good at and does best. Don't ask him to do much more than that.

The skinny: Some view him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but he's a pure pass rusher and he can do it in a three-point stance or two-point stance, in my opinion. He's an explosive pass-rush talent.

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