Top 10 Lions Of 2012, No. 5: Cliff Avril

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 18: Cliff Avril #92 of the Detroit Lions sacks Carson Palmer #3 of the Oakland Raiders in the final minute of their game at O.co Coliseum on December 18, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Pride of Detroit is counting down the top 10 Lions players of 2012, as voted on by readers of the site. More than 400 ballots were submitted, and today we are taking a look at the No. 5 player on the list.

No. 5 - DE Cliff Avril - 2,014 points (1 first-place vote)

So far, there have been a few distinct sections in the top 10 Lions of 2012. The first two players revealed on the list, for example, had almost matching vote totals in the 700s. The next three players unveiled had vote totals in the low 1,000s. Now, we are on to a new section -- the 2,000s.

There is a large gap between No. 6 Brandon Pettigrew and Cliff Avril, the No. 5 player on the list. Specifically, Avril ended up with 758 more points than Pettigrew. Avril was included on 353 ballots and even received one first-place vote. Overall, the majority of the ballots that voted for Avril had him somewhere from third to sixth, allowing him to become the first player on the list so far to cross the 2,000-point plateau.

Avril entered the NFL as a third-round pick in 2008. His rookie season coincided with the Lions' 0-16 season, but for him personally it wasn't a bad year on the field. As a rookie, he appeared in 15 games and had 23 tackles, five sacks and four forced fumbles. He established himself as a promising defensive end and saw his game go to a new level when the Jim Schwartz era began a year later.

In 2009, Schwartz's first year as the Lions' head coach, Avril appeared in 13 games (he made 11 starts) and had 41 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three pass defenses and three more forced fumbles. In 2010, with Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams joining the defensive line, Avril's numbers continued to go up. He set a career high in sacks with 8.5, and he also had five pass defenses. He added one forced fumble and had a total of 33 tackles in 13 games.

Following the 2010 season, Avril was hoping for a long-term deal, but he ended up playing on his one-year restricted free agent tender. In 2011, for the first time in his career, he played in every game in a season, and he ended up having 36 tackles, 11 sacks, four pass defenses, one interception, six forced fumbles and two touchdowns.

With the Lions and Avril still unable to agree on a long-term deal this offseason, Detroit placed the franchise tender on him. He still hasn't signed it, and the two sides have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal. Even if they are unable to agree on something, Avril should eventually sign the tender and be in a Lions uniform in 2012. Assuming he is, he will have a big part in the success of the defense, just as he did in 2011. This is why he made the top five of the top 10 Lions of 2012.

Top 10 Lions of 2012
1. WR Calvin Johnson (281) 4,370 points
2. QB Matthew Stafford (168) 4,259 points
3. DT Ndamukong Suh (4) 2,981 points
4. LB Stephen Tulloch 2,190 points
5. DE Cliff Avril (1) 2,014 points
6. TE Brandon Pettigrew 1,256 points
7. S Louis Delmas 1,230 points
8. WR Titus Young 1,024 points
9. K Jason Hanson (1) 750 points
10. RB Jahvid Best 747 points

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