MOBILE, Ala. – The Detroit Lions have some good, young prospects along their defensive line, led by Defensive Rookie of the Year finalist Aidan Hutchinson, late-season sensation James Houston and second-round pick Josh Paschal.
Alim McNeill is a core player in the middle of the line, and veteran key contributors and free agents-to-be John Cominsky and Isaiah Buggs would both like to return to the Lions next season. We'll see where third-year defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike fits into the mix too, after missing all of last season with a back injury.
But Lions general manager Brad Holmes made it clear in his postseason press conference he'll be looking to add talent to all levels of the defense, including the defensive line. Assistant general manager Ray Agnew told detroitlions.com here at the Senior Bowl he's looking to improve the team talent across the board on defense.
The elite defensive line talent that could interest the Lions with the No. 6 overall pick are mostly underclassmen not participating in the Senior Bowl, but the Lions have five picks in the top 81 in this year's NFL Draft. Defensive linemen like Notre Dame's Isaiah Foskey, Army's Andre Carter II, Auburn's Derick Hall and Wisconsin's Keeanu Benton are here in Mobile and could be Day 2 or Day 3 options for the Lions to help boost their talent and depth upfront.
Talking with some of the defensive line prospects this week, the biggest thing they want to show teams is their versatility. That will also be something the Lions scouts and front office personnel will be looking closely at as they value guys up front that can wear different hats. Just look at how they used Hutchinson, Cominsky and Houston last year. Those guys played across the line and were asked to play in space some too.
"Right just trying to show off my versatility," said Foskey, who measured in at 6-foot-4, 262 pounds this week. "I can be aggressive at the point of attack and be aggressive in the pass rush and just versatility going off the edge and playing inside getting to the quarterback. I want to show I can stop the run too, and drop into coverage."
Foskey had 13.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks for the Fighting Irish this past season. He had 10.0 sacks as a junior in 2021 and is Notre Dame's all-time leader in sacks. He's projected to be a second-round pick.
One of the reasons NFL talent evaluators like the Senior Bowl so much is because the three days of practice allows teams to watch players in a competitive football environment playing multiple positions.
Carter is a great example of that - taking part in 7-on-7 drills with the linebackers and then running over and participating in pass-rush drills with the offensive and defensive linemen.
"The strength of my game is knowing the scheme and responsibilities of the defense and just effort," Carter said. "Running to the ball each and every play."
Benton had a terrific first couple practices which helped his cause this week. He's been a load in the middle for the National Team. Another name to keep an eye on in the pre-draft process is Karl Brooks from Bowling Green. Brooks (6-3, 303) played on the edge last year and recorded 18.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks. He's got a lot of that versatility the Lions love, and he was a handful for offensive linemen to block all week.
Holmes has proven over the last two draft cycles he has a keen eye for finding immediate impact on Day 2 and Day 3 of the draft, and there could be some defensive linemen here in Mobile this week that fit that mold.