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O'HARA'S DRAFT PREVIEW: 5 defensive tackles that could interest Lions

Defensive tackle Derrick Brown of Auburn didn't claim to rule over the entire 2020 draft when asked at the Combine earlier this year if he thought he was the best player in the draft.

Brown was content to limit his self-analysis to the side of the ball where he fits.

"I think I'm one of the top guys on defense," Brown said.

That's an accurate judgment on Brown's part.

Most draft analysts rank Brown as the top interior defensive lineman, and No. 2 among all defensive linemen behind only edge rusher Chase Young of Ohio State. There's depth on the interior, with quality prospects who also play on the edge who will be available in the later rounds.

Brown was a powerful, disruptive force and quick off the ball at Auburn. There were skills he needed to defeat constant double-team blocking schemes that teams used to try to contain him.

"Almost every snap – pass, run, it was a double-team frenzy when it came time to play us," Brown said.

Asked what his greatest skill is, Brown replied: "My ability to create knock back. Being able to get off the ball – (using) hands and feet."

Following is a breakdown of where the Lions stand on the interior defensive line and how the 2020 class shapes up. There is a breakdown of five prospects and a sleeper who could help the Lions on some level.

View photos of Mike O'Hara's top 5 defensive tackle draft prospects that could interest the Lions.

Lions' interior defensive line draft status: It's a priority on defense, but not the only one, based on what they did in free agency and last year's performance.

Lions' depth chart:

Returning: DL Da’Shawn Hand, DT John Atkins, DT Kevin Strong, DT Olive Sagapolu.

Added: DT Danny Shelton, DT Nick Williams.

Interior prospects:

1. Derrick Brown, Auburn.

6-5, 326. 5.16 Combine 40.

Stats: 4 years, 53 games. Last 3 seasons combined: 32 tackles for loss, 12 sacks.

Breakdown: Power player who's quick off the ball. Some comparisons to Ndamukong Suh, who was one of the players Brown mentioned when asked at the Combine who he likes to emulate.

"Guys that have been the guys," Brown said.

How he could fit Lions: Stud penetrator in the middle who'd free up others to make plays. More likely the Lions would take him after a trade down than at No. 3, but he wouldn't be a bad pick there, either.

2. Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina.

6-5, 324. No Combine workout.

Stats: 3 years at South Carolina after a JC season -- 37 games, 34 starts, 18 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks.

Breakdown: Like many before him, Kinlaw got attention and raised his stock at the Senior Bowl. Uses his long arms – he calls them "hockey sticks" – to his advantage. Only knock was inconsistency and playing – sometimes down -- to the level of his competition.

How he could fit Lions: The No. 2 interior lineman behind Brown, he'd provide a physical presence with athleticism. Another prospect who'd have to be taken with a pick acquired in a trade unless he drops to Round 2.

3. Ross Blacklock, TCU.

6-3, 290. 4.90 Combine 40.

Stats: 2 active seasons: 15 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks. Missed 2018 with an injury.

Breakdown: Gets by on athleticism and strength, not bulk. Can bull rush effectively because of quickness off the ball and strength.

How he could fit Lions: Size might not fit their mold but his dynamic skills would – if they can get him in the second round.

4. Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma.

6-2, 304. 4.79 Combine 40.

Stats: 4 years after 2015 redshirt season. Career: 18 tackles for loss, 9 sacks. Last 2 years: 12 tackles for loss, 7 sacks.

Breakdown: Grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and had a steep learning curve at Oklahoma because of higher competition level. Aggressive athlete who needs to refine technique to increase his production.

How he could fit Lions: There might be interior linemen rated higher, but Gallimore could add something. Energy level makes him ideal Matt Patricia project.

5. Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M.

6-3, 293. 4.83 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, after a 2017 redshirt season, 38 games. Career: 24.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks.

Background: Not big for an interior lineman, but fast and powerful as shown by 31 reps in the Combine bench press with 33.5-inch arms. Voted the team's 2019 defensive player of the year. Good stats his last two seasons – 21.5 of his career tackles for loss and all 10.5 sacks.

How he could fit Lions: Quick, strong and durable, he'd fit multiple places on the defensive line.

Sleeper: James Lynch, Baylor.

6-4, 289. 5.01 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, 38 games. 22 sacks, 33.5 tackles for loss.

Background: A high-intensity player who can play on the edge or the interior, depending on scheme. Posted 28.5 of his career sacks and 19 sacks in 2018 and 2019. Big 2019 season – 19.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, five passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and 2 blocked kicks.

Where he could fit Lions: Might be a Day 3 pick who could bring versatility and production to the defensive line.

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