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Lions trade up, draft defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo

Detroit's defensive line is getting some reinforcements.

The Lions moved up in the sixth round with Houston, giving the Texans picks 205 and 249 to select LSU defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo.

Wingo battled a lower-body injury that allowed him to play in only eight games this past season but still had 25 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

He's a sturdy and powerfully built interior defender who had 46 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks in 14 games (13 starts) for LSU in 2022.

How strong is Wingo? He set high school squat records, according to The Athletic. He's got a nice combination of power and quick feet that allows him to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage more often than not, even though he's got a smaller frame at 6-foot, 284 pounds. He ran the 40 in 4.85 seconds with a 1.63 10-yard split at the NFL Scouting Combine.

View photos of defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo.

"I've seen the style of football that the Detroit Lions like to play and I'm glad I'm a part of the club now," Wingo said via Zoom after the selection.

He was also a team captain for LSU, which says a lot about his mental makeup and leadership qualities. He rehabbed to return for LSU's bowl game, something not a lot of prospects headed to the NFL do.

Wingo was awarded the No. 18 jersey at LSU, which is worn by the player who best represents the traits and spirit that 'defines LSU greatness.'

"That's the type of guy that I am," he said of rehabbing to get back to play in LSU's bowl game. "Being that No. 18 and being that leader I had the injury earlier throughout the year and didn't feel like I got my full "18" season.

"Of course I could have just packed it up but it really got to me, watching my team lose a few games with me on the sidelines, so once I had my surgery I was rehabbing my butt off and made an emphasis to really get back on the field to be with my guys one last time."

Wingo is a three-down interior defender who averaged 55 defensive snaps per game over his two seasons at LSU.

The Lions had a need at defensive tackle with some unproven depth behind starters Alim McNeill and the newly acquired DJ Reader. The Lions are hoping Brodric Martin can take a big leap in development in Year 2 and be part of the rotation inside. They're also hoping a healthy Levi Onwuzurike can give them some production along the interior, but there is certainly room to add another player like Wingo to the mix to compete for playing time and add competition to the room.

Wingo isn't the biggest defensive tackle you'll come across, but he's got a great first step and strong hands, and offers great pass rush from the interior. Lions general manager Brad Holmes said Wingo has the ability to play both inside and outside, much like Lions defensive lineman Josh Paschal.

"I would make up for the lack of size by doing the ordinary things extremely well," Wingo said. "I have to have better eyes than the guy who is 6-5 ... and my hand placement has to be better.

"I've been undersized my whole life, it's nothing that just happened, so I just have to continue to work with the habits I've worked with and hopefully it'll lead me to a successful career."

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