Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell believes in the value of pass rushers, and the statistics support it.
"I don't think you can have enough rushers," Campbell said in his Combine press conference.
Pass rushers played a significant role in the Lions' turnaround in the 2022 season – from a 1-6 start to an 8-2 finish for a final 9-8 won-loss record.
The Lions had 11 sacks in the first seven games. They more than doubled that in the last 10 games, sacking opposing quarterbacks 28 times.
Rookies taken at opposite ends of last year's draft led the rush. Aidan Hutchinson, drafted second overall, led the Lions with 9.5 sacks. James Houston, taken in the sixth round and 217th overall, was next with eight – in only seven games.
A pass rusher is expected to be high on the Lions' list for who they'll take with the sixth pick in this year's draft. Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama is the top prospect among edge rushers with Tyree Wilson of Texas Tech next in line.
Following is a preview of the 2023 defensive end/edge rusher draft strength, the Lions' depth and draft priority at the position, and five prospects who could interest the Lions.
View photos of the top edge rusher prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Position draft strength: Strong at the top, with depth.
Lions' depth, draft priority: Pass rusher and defensive end are high on the Lions' list of positions to address.
Five prospects who could interest the Lions:
(40-yard dash times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)
1. Will Anderson Jr., Alabama:
6-3 1/2, 253. 4.60 40.
There was no doubt where he fit in the Crimson Tide defense from the moment he arrived on campus. He was a playmaker from the start. In 41 games over three seasons he had 205 tackles, 62 tackles for loss and 34 sacks.
Bottom line: Anderson's 2021 season was one for the books: 107 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks.
2. Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech:
Transferred to Texas Tech in 2020 after two seasons at A&M and made an impact early. In 32 games at Texas Tech he had 109 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.
Bottom line: Size, power and quickness make Wilson a good choice for a team looking for a pass rusher early in the first round.
3. Myles Murphy, Clemson:
Three-year player, 38 games, 27 career starts. Murphy had 37 career tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and five passes defended.
Bottom line: A consistent producer of big plays, Murphy is one of four Clemson players since 2000 to have multiple seasons with multiple forced fumbles and at least four sacks.
4. Lukas Van Ness, Iowa:
6-5, 272. 4.58 40.
A redshirt in the 2020 season, Van Ness played 27 career games and posted 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
Bottom line: In 2022, Van Ness set a school record with two blocked punts vs. in-state rival Iowa State. He also alternated at tackle and end in practice. Iowa lists his position as defensive line.
5. Keion White, Georgia Tech:
Transferred to Georgia Tech after four years – active for three -- at Old Dominion. White played four games for the Ramblin Wrecks in 2021 and 12 in 2022. He posted 7.5 sacks, all in 2022.
Bottom line: White caught the eye of some draft analysts with his play in 2022. He had a tackle for loss vs. two-time national champion Georgia in the final game of the season.