Quarterbacks, pass rushers and players that can protect the quarterback on the edge typically dominate the top of the NFL Draft and rightfully so. Teams can never have enough good pass rushers, and this is a good year to go looking for one both at the top of the draft and into Day 2.
The Lions have a few young pass rushers they really like, led by Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, but GM Brad Holmes and the Lions will no-doubt do their homework on this year's crop of edge rushers.
Top 5 edge rushers to watch at the Combine:
1. Will Anderson Jr., Alabama, 6-4, 245
Anderson is a long, athletic pass rusher. His physical traits match his production, which teams love. Anderson is the total package on the edge and someone who should be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. He's notched 27.5 sacks and 48.0 tackles for loss the last two seasons alone.
View photos of the defensive line prospects who were invited to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
2. Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech, 6-6, 270
Wilson has the length, reach and athleticism defensive coordinators love when they start working with a young player. He's got all the tools to be a difference maker on the edge and likely won't wait long to hear his name called on opening night.
3. Myles Murphy, Clemson, 6-5, 273
Murphy has some versatility to his game moving up and down the line at Clemson and lining up in a variety of stances. He's got a great motor and sets a good edge in the run game. He recorded double digit tackles for loss in all three seasons at Clemson while notching 18.5 sacks.
4. Lukas Van Ness, Iowa, 6-5, 270
This one will be an interesting evaluation for teams in the pre-draft process. He wasn't a starter at Iowa but played starter-caliber snaps and put up for good numbers (10.5 TFL and 6.0 sacks) this past season. I love the fact that he's a really good former hockey player too.
5. Keion White, Georgia Tech, 6-5, 280
White is as high as No. 8 on Daniel Jeremiah's list of his Top 50 players in this year's class. He's got great length and a good first step. He played pretty well throughout the course of Senior Bowl practices. A former tight end turned pass rusher, White is still pretty raw after recording 14.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in his first full season as a rusher.
Combine sleeper to watch: Mike Morris, Michigan, 6-6, 290
Morris' size and athleticism combo is rare. He'll be a really interesting study at the Combine. He can play inside and outside, and his tape shows a great combination of speed and power, but his production didn't always match the physical traits. He had 23 tackles (17 solo), 11.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks for the Wolverines in 12 games this past season. Still a developing player.
Lions' need at the position: Moderate
The Lions like where Hutchinson, James Houston and Joshua Paschal are at in their progression heading into Year 2, but they'll never say no to adding another youngster to that room that could potentially put them in another category of pass-rush prowess.
Holmes is in a great spot to add to that room with an impact player at both No. 6 and No. 18 in the draft. With five picks in the top 81, Holmes could package picks for a player too.
I think re-signing veteran John Cominsky will be a priority this offseason, and Romeo Okwara and Julian Okwara are under contract, but talent, depth and competition have to rule that room this offseason. If Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell have to make a tough camp cut because the Lions are deep at pass rusher, that's a good problem to have.
Key Stat: Hutchinson and Houston are the first set of rookie teammates in NFL history to each have at least 8.0 sacks in the same season. In Week 17, Paschal added a 2.0-sack game to give Detroit three rookies with a multi-sack game in the same season for the first time in franchise history.
Lions rookies combined for 20.5 sacks this season, establishing a new NFL record for the most combined sacks from a team's rookie corps.