INDIANAPOLIS – The 2019 pass rushing class is one of the deepest and most talented in a long time, and if the Lions are looking to add one to their defense with the No. 8 pick, it’s expected there will be some very good ones available.
It’s hard to project two months out how the first seven picks of the draft might play out ahead of the Lions, but a good quarterback measurement and a freakishly athletic wide receiver performance at the Combine might have changed some things up at the top of the draft. That could potentially increase the chances of the Lions having a bigger pool of pass rushers to choose from.
So, who are some pass rushers Lions fans should familiarize themselves with?
One player who might be a stretch is Kentucky’s Josh Allen, but crazier things have happened on draft day.
Allen (6-5, 262) led the Wildcats with 88 tackles this past season. He tied for sixth nationally with 21.5 tackles for loss and ranked second in college football in both sacks (17) and forced fumbles (five).
View photos of the prospects that met the media on Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Combine.
“I think I’m one of the only guys that really dropped into coverage,” Allen said Saturday at the Combine, when asked what sets him apart from the rest of the edge rushers. “I also pass rushed, but I also dropped in coverage and I think that separates myself from a lot of guys here.”
Allen is considered by most analysts to be one of the top three players in this draft, yet there are scenarios where he could be available at No. 8.
Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell could be there at eight. He’s been a productive player for the defending national champion Tigers for a few years now.
Ferrell (6-4, 264) was the winner of the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end in 2018 after racking up 53 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles in 15 starts.
“I just feel like my versatility is something that is very, very important when you talk about my game,” Ferrell said. “I feel like that has always given me an edge as far as giving me a benefit on the field.
“Not only just my versatility as player, I can play defensive end, and I played some defensive tackle this past year – three technique – and I’ve also dropped into coverage as an outside linebacker. But not only just doing those things, but I feel like I’ve done them at a consistently high level. That’s always given me a bit of confidence and I’ve done it against the best competition so far playing at Clemson.”
Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat fits the physical profile teams love from a defensive end with a terrific mix of size, power and speed. He’s another name that could be in the conversation at No. 8.
Sweat (6-5, 260) compiled 53 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and a team-high 11.5 sacks this past season.
“I think I separate myself with my effort and my play,” he said. “Just getting after the QB is what I do best.”
Sweat also had the advantage of playing in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme in his time at Mississippi State.
And what about Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary? Like Allen, he’s projected to come off the board a couple picks before No. 8, but he could still be there.
Gary (6-4, 277) is coming off a 44 tackle campaign for the Wolverines with seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 12 games.
“To be honest, I feel I’m more versatile (than the other rushers in this class),” Gary said. “I play base end, but you’re able to throw me inside at three-technique. I can rush over a guard. I can stand up and rush off the edge and can drop to the flat or the hook. I can really do anything anyone wants me to be, so I’m an army swiss knife to every team.”
Even past the four guys listed above, this year's draft is filled with talented pass rushers, and the Lions will be able to grab one at No. 8 if that’s what they decide to do.