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

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons could cause a problem that no NFL team's defensive coordinator should mind having.

Simmons won the 2019 Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, but he is such a talented and versatile athlete that a decision might have to be made on whether to play him at linebacker, safety or a hybrid position that is a combination of the two.

Simmons raised his already high stock with an impressive Combine performance, topped by a time of 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash at 238 pounds.

Simmons is rated at the top of a solid group of linebackers, with some post-Combine mock drafts projecting him going to the Detroit Lions with the third pick overall on April 23.

There is a mix of good outside and inside linebackers after Simmons, but no one in his class.

Simmons, who referred to himself as the "Swiss army knife" in his Combine media interview, welcomes the opportunity to showcase his skills at more than one position.

"I think it's really beneficial for me," Simmons said. "I know years ago it wasn't good to be a position-less guy. But now it's become a benefit for me, for all the versatility I'll be able to do.

"Play linebacker, play safety – whatever it is. I feel like it helps me out."

Following is a breakdown of where the Lions stand at linebacker and how the 2020 class shapes up, with five linebackers who could fit the Lions, plus one sleeper.

Summary — View photos of Mike O'Hara's top 5 linebacker draft prospects that could interest the Lions.

Detroit Lions linebacker draft status: Adding playmakers to the defense is a priority, and that could mean taking a linebacker high.

Lions linebacker depth chart:

Returning: Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, Steve Longa, Anthony Pittman, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Christian Sam, Jahlani Tavai, Jason Cabinda.

1. OLB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson.

6-4, 238. 4.39 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, 44 games. 28 career tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 4 interceptions.

Breakdown: By far the top-rated linebacker in the draft and a top five prospect overall. He had a big 2018 season and an even bigger one in 2019 – 102 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 3 interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Where he could fit Lions: In short, wherever needed – linebacker or hybrid safety because of his athleticism. He'll be there for the Lions at No. 3 if they want a linebacker.

2. ILB Patrick Queen, LSU.

6-0, 229. 4.50 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, 41 games, 16 starts. 17.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks.

Breakdown: An ascending player in 2019 after a move to the middle made him a full-time starter. Came through in the playoffs: 1.5 tackles for loss in the semifinal vs. Georgia and 2.5 in the win over Clemson in the national championship game.

How he could fit Lions: Undersized compared to most of the Lions' linebackers, but playmaking ability could add value as a three-down player.

3. OLB Zack Baun, Wisconsin.

6-2, 238. 4.65 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 active years, with a 2015 redshirt and missed all of 2017 because of a preseason foot injury. Returned to start his last two seasons. 30.5 career tackles for loss, 15 sacks.

Breakdown: Put himself among the top prospects at outside linebacker in 2019 season with 19.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks. Big game in a pivotal conference win over Michigan, with two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

How he could fit Lions: Steady, productive and did well covering tight ends for the Badgers. Could be a good addition somewhere in the second round or later.

4. ILB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma.

6-2, 241. 4.52 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, 42 starts. 37 career tackles for loss, 9 sacks.

Breakdown: Early impact, started all 14 games as a true freshman and ranked second on the team with 78 tackles. Similar to Baun in ranking but Murray plays inside, not outside. A competitive player, he had 257 tackles his last two seasons combined.

Where he could fit Lions: At the right spot – second or third round – he'd provide depth early with the potential to start. Strong and fast, plays sideline to sideline.

5. OLB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech.

6-0, 240. 4.53 Combine 40.

Stats: 4 years, 47 games, 45 starts. Career: 347 tackles with 33 for loss.

Breakdown: Broke in in a big way and never slowed down. Became the first freshman to lead the team in tackles with 86 in 2016. Closed out his career in 2019 with 108 tackles, 20 for loss.

How he could fit Lions: Productive player, could provide backup depth in development.

Sleeper: OLB Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State.

6-1, 224. No Combine 40.

Stats: 56 games, 258 tackles, 28 for loss, 8 sacks.

Breakdown: Productive in the Sun Belt Conference, worked his way into a starting role after a 2015 redshirt season and two as a backup. Improved steadily to post 24.5 tackles for loss his last two seasons combined.

How he could fit Lions: Upside of young player on the rise. Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year in 2019.

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