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NOTEBOOK: Promising pass rushers available in draft

INDIANAPOLIS – The Detroit Lions will be able to find pass rushers of all shapes, sizes and skillsets in next month's NFL Draft. This is a deep and talented draft at defensive line, and the Lions could have a big need there, depending on what happens in free agency over the next month.

Michigan's Taco Charlton could be one of those names available when the Lions pick at No. 21. The 6-foot-5, 272 pounder received first-team All-Big Ten honors this past season after leading Michigan with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

"I study a lot of guys that got that similar body type," Charlton said Saturday at the Combine. "Guys like Carlos Dunlap, Ziggy Ansah, guys with that similar body size that learn how to use their leverage and use their long arms."

View photos of prospects meeting the media during Day 4 of the 2017 NFL Combine.

Takkarist McKinley has a much different frame at 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, but he called himself the best pure pass rusher in this class when speaking to reporters Saturday.

He received first-team All-Pac 12 honors as a senior after recording 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and six pass breakups. He did that playing through a torn labrum in his shoulder that will require surgery after the Combine. He hopes to be ready to play by training camp.

"Some teams have me as a 4-3 rush end," McKinley said. "Some teams got me at 3-4 outside linebacker. I pretty much tell them I can do both. I'm here to get the quarterback. The league now is a passing league and you need you guys that can get to the quarterback. I feel like I'm the best pass rusher in this draft class to do that."

Other players like Stanford's Solomon Thomas (6-2, 273), Tennessee's Derek Barnett (6-3, 265) and Alabama's Tim Williams (6-4, 252) could also be options for the Lions to help bolster their edge.

"I can rush anywhere," said Thomas, when asked what sets him apart from the rest of the rushers in this class. "I can play anywhere. I play every down. I'm great stopping the run, great rushing the quarterback. I'm very versatile. I have toughness.

"I try to get after every (offensive) lineman and put the fear of God in them and make a play. I'm just trying to get to the quarterback every play and be destructive and wreak havoc."

Detroit's 26 sacks overall in 2016 ranked 30th in the NFL, and they could be looking at having to replace starter Devin Taylor, who is a free agent.

- Tim Twentyman


Washington's speedy receiver John Ross called his shot. He told reporters down at the Combine Friday that he'd run the 40-yard dash in the 4.2-seconds range. Saturday, he backed up those words and set a new speed record at the Combine by running in 4.22 seconds.

The mark breaks Chris Johnson's eight-year record of 4.24 seconds set back in 2008.

"I was gifted with speed," Ross said Friday. "So I just used it the best I can."

-* Tim Twentyman*



There are ties that bind forever for the stars who play for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and one of the alums who reached out to defensive end Tim Williams was Detroit Lions defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson.

The Lions drafted Robinson in the second round last year, and he became a starter midway through the season, and a formidable force on the interior of the defense. Williams is trying to follow him to the NFL.

"A'Shawn and those guys reach out to me a lot," Williams said Saturday. "They reach out to a lot of us."

What did A'Shawn say to him?

"A'Shawn said, 'I hope you come play for the Lions,'" Williams said, laughing.

Williams was a four-year player at Alabama. He blossomed his last two years, registering 10.5 sacks on the 2015 team that won the national championship and nine sacks as a senior for the team that lost to Clemson in the championship game.

Williams is considered one of the top edge rushers in the draft, but he had some off-field issues that teams have brought up in the individual meetings.

Williams said he is taking the meetings seriously.

"All the stuff that's out there about me, they want to get my say about it," he said. "I made decisions that I grew from. That's being a man, owning up to your mistakes.

"I'm not here laughing and joking. I've got something to prove."

  • Mike O'Hara


Even though they've never met, Temple linebacker Haason Reddick feels a strong connection to Detroit Lions middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead that goes beyond the fact that they're both Temple alums.

Both worked their way up to make a mark on Temple's football team. Whitehead began his career at Temple as a safety and switched to linebacker. He was a fifth-round draft pick by the Lions in 2012 and gradually worked his way up the pecking order, from a special-teams ace to the starting middle linebacker and one of the NFL's leading tacklers in 2016.

"I don't know him personally, but I know of him," Reddick said Saturday. "I talked to him a couple times through social media. I've seen him a couple times. I do know that he's one of the Temple greats. I've always heard stories about how hard he played and how dominant he was."

Reddick was a walk-on in 2012 and red-shirted his first year. His status improved steadily over the last four years, matching how the team climbed in the American Atlantic Conference. The Owls went from 2-10 and 6-6 in 2013-14 to matching 10-4 records and bowl game appearances the last two years.

Reddick had 65 tackles and 9.5 sacks as a senior to project himself as a likely candidate to go off the board in one of the first two days of the draft. That would make Reddick at least a third-round draft pick.

Reddick feels like he has followed a path similar to the one Whitehead took to reach the NFL.

"I heard he came in as like a safety and ended up transitioning to linebacker," Reddick said. "You look at what I've done and my journey at Temple – you think our journeys are exactly the same."

If the Reddick and Whitehead ever play together in Detroit, they might call the substitution package "The Temple of Doom."

  • Mike O'Hara


Alabama's Reuben Foster is one of the top linebackers in this draft class, but he won't be able to show off any of that talent or go through the interview process with any of the NFL's 32 clubs at the Combine after being sent home Saturday.

According to reports, Foster was sent home for getting into a "heated" argument with a hospital worker Friday night as he waited for an MRI.

Foster, the top-graded inside linebacker by most analysts, and a potential top-10 pick, was Alabama's leading tackler last season and a unanimous first-team All-American.

-* Tim Twentyman*


Ohio State's Curtis Samuel played H-back, running back and receiver at Ohio State. He was basically a Swiss army knife for the Buckeye's offense.

The first-team All-Big Ten pick rushed for 771 yards and eight touchdowns (97 carries, 8.0 average) and caught 74 passes for 865 yards and seven scores. He led the conference with 128.8 all-purpose yards per game.

He's down here at the Combine as a receiver. He's been training exclusively at receiver the last month to prepare for the Combine, but will go back to training at both receiver and running back ahead of the draft, just in case teams want him to play either or.

"Uh, I can't say I feel like a full-time receiver still, just because of my running back background," Samuel said. "I love to run the ball. I love to catch. I'd say I'm both. I'm still a hybrid.

"I just feel like I'm able to do so many things, which sets me apart from other guys. I feel the National Football League wants playmakers and different types of players. I feel I can catch and run the ball, and that's helping me out a little more."

Samuel helped his stock Saturday by running the 40 in 4.31 seconds.

  • Tim Twentyman


John Ross could have won himself a private island through a promotion by Adidas had he worn Adidas cleats when he broke the 40-yard dash Combine record. He wore Nike cleats, and told the NFL Network why afterward:

"I can't swim and I don't own a boat."

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