Clemson’s defensive line was dominant last season, helping the Tigers to the National Championship. The Lions have tapped into that talent pool in the fourth round of the NFL Draft with the selection of Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant.
As a junior in 2017, Bryant accumulated 15.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks as a first-year, full-time starter. He followed that up this past season with 44 tackles, 14.5 for loss, and eight sacks.
Bryant is a rangy edge defender with terrific size (6-4, 271). He has long arms, big hands and the production to match.
Bryant injured his pectoral muscle against Louisville Nov. 3, and played through the injury the remainder of the season through the championship game. He had corrective surgery in mid-January after the season, and was rehabbing through the Combine and his pro day.
View photos of defensive end Austin Bryant.
“I thought it was just a stinger so I went back in and played the rest of the game,” Bryant said of the injury at the Combine. “It hurt really bad, I couldn’t really use it much. Luckily, I only played a half that game. I got an MRI the next day and they told me it was completely torn from the bone. Of course, I had a tough decision to make whether I wanted to get surgery right then or wait until after the season.
“I sat down, I thought about it, prayed about it, talked to my parents and heeded a lot of advice from mentors and people I thought highly of that would give me a valued opinion. At the end of the day I knew what I came back to do. That’s the reason all three of us came back, was to win a National Championship. If I could walk, I was going to play. I knew it was going to hurt.”
There’s no debating Bryant’s toughness.
Bryant said in a conference call after his selection that his rehab is going well, and he should be cleared for full activities soon.
“I have a few more weeks left in my rehab,” he said. “Everything is coming along great. Shouldn’t be any setbacks. I’m just ready to get to work.”
He’s the fourth Clemson defensive lineman taken in this draft after Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence.
The injury might have pushed Bryant down the draft a bit. He was originally projected as a Day 2 pick, so it appears the Lions got good value in him in the fourth round, not unlike they did last season with Da’Shawn Hand, also in the fourth round.
Like most of the players the Lions have targeted in this draft, versatility was a big part of Bryant’s game in college. He moved up and down the line playing the three-technique, five technique and out wide on the edge.
“I feel like anything the coaches want me to do, anything coach (Matt) Patricia sees I can help the team, that’s what I want to do,” Bryant said. “Any role I can fulfill that’s what I want to do, man. That’s my main goal.”
Bryant joins Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara and others on the roster at defensive end.