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2022 NFL Draft preview: 5 edge rushers that could interest the Lions

Teams looking for edge rush help have come to the right place in the 2022 NFL Draft.

While there's not a generational talent at the top like Myles Garrett or the Bosa brothers from recent drafts, it's a solid group overall and a very deep class. Teams are going to find pass rushers well into Day 2 that have a chance to come in and make an immediate impact and potentially be a double-digit sack producer early in their careers.

The Lions are moving more towards a 4-3 front in their base defense this season, though they'll retain some 3-4 looks as well, so they will be looking for some versatility at the position.

"I do think when you say just edge rusher, when you put that in that bucket, edge rusher, I do think there is a lot of different qualities that they can all bring," Lions general manager Brad Holmes said recently of this year's edge rushing group.

"That will depend on edge rusher for what scheme or which technique you want to play. Is it an edge rushing wide 9 or a wide 5? Is it an edge rushing five technique? When you say edge, I get it, and I always say rush. Look man, who can rush? But I do think they can come in all different flavors, but at the end of the day you want them to get after the quarterback."

Edge rusher class draft strength: Depth. NFL media analyst Daniel Jeremiah lists four edge rushers among the first 10 players in his rankings of the Top 50 players in this draft class, and has 10 rushers (20 percent) in the Top 50 .

Lions' edge rusher depth chart: Charles Harris, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara, Austin Bryant, Eric Banks.

Lions' edge rusher draft priority: High. The return of Romeo Okwara off an Achilles injury that forced him to miss 13 games last year should give the Lions a boost in this department, but as a team in 2021, Detroit finished with the third fewest sacks in the league (30), and their pass-rush win rate was the second lowest in the NFL. The Lions could certainly stand to add a young rusher to their repertoire on the edge in 2022.

Five edge rushers who could fit the Lions:

(40-yard dash times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)

1. Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan:

6-7, 260. 4.74 40-yard dash.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up set the Wolverines' single-season sack record last year (14.0) and also notched 16.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Hutchinson has position versatility due to his size, and he possesses a motor that never quits. He's a candidate to go No. 1 overall to Jacksonville, but if the Jaguars pass on him, Holmes and the Lions could snatch him up at No. 2 and have an immediate impact rusher for their young defense.

2. Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State:

6-5, 254. 4.58 40-yard dash.

One of my favorite players in the entire draft. The last time I saw someone have the kind of Senior Bowl Johnson had down in Mobile earlier this offseason was Aaron Donald in 2014. Johnson was that dominant. Then you factor in the production – 11.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss and 70 total tackles – and the fact that he's one of the best run-stopping edge rushers in this class ... he certainly sounds like a fit in Detroit.

3. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon:

6-4, 254. 4.58 40-yard dash.

There may be some question marks about his motor, but there are no questions about his athleticism and speed coming off the edge. Thibodeaux has raw athletic traits that made him a terrific pass rusher at Oregon, and someone who could set the edge well in the run game. He doesn't have as many pro-ready pass-rush moves as Hutchinson, but those will come with NFL coaching. He has a high ceiling.

4. Travon Walker, Georgia:

6-5, 272. 4.51 40-yard dash.

Talk about an athletic specimen. Walker almost ran in the 4.4's at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds at the Combine. He might also be the most positionally diverse defensive lineman in this draft, which teams will love about him. He played inside a lot at Georgia, but what could he do with that size and that athleticism if a team puts him on the edge and just lets him get after the quarterback? The only hesitation teams should have is a lack of production last season – 6.0 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss – that doesn't match the athletic traits.

View photos of NFL prospect Travon Walker.

5. George Karlaftis, Purdue:

6-4, 266. 4.71 40-yard dash.

Karlaftis is a non-stop worker on the edge with a motor that never quits. A lot of times his sacks and tackles for loss came from pure effort. He's a very powerful rusher with terrific hand skills. He also sets the edge well in the run game. He's one of those players that doesn't necessarily do anything exceptional, but he does everything really well, if that makes sense. Just a good all-around player on the edge.

Sleeper: Boye Mafe, Minnesota:

6-4, 261. 4.53 40-yard dash.

Mafe led the Golden Gophers with 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks (34 total tackles) in 13 games this past season in nine starts. He's a terrific athlete for a big man, running the 40 in 4.53 seconds, but he also notched a 38-inch vertical and 10'5" broad jump. He can play in space and is an ascending pass rusher who's only expected to get better at the next level.

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