Early struggles defending the run and lack of pass rush for the entire season were two big reasons the Detroit Lions struggled in 2018. While the Lions made eventually strides in fixing the former problem, Detroit will undoubtedly look to improve their ability to rush the quarterback this offseason.
Dan Kadar of SB Nation did his best to play armchair general manager with his two-round mock draft on Monday. He took an interesting strategy for the Lions: hit the defensive line twice early in the draft.
With the eight overall pick, Kadar slotted Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver to the Lions, a pick that seems to be gaining steam.
Oliver is an undersized tackle who had a ton of production at Houston. In three seasons, he racked up a total of 53 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Though undersized, Oliver is expected to have outstanding athletic numbers at the NFL Combine, naturally leading to some admittedly lazy Aaron Donald comparisons.
While defensive tackle doesn’t appear to be a huge need, Oliver would be a good addition if they want to stay young and cheap at the position. Damon Harrison Sr. has already crossed over 30 (and may be seeking a new contract), while A’Shawn Robinson will be entering the final year of his rookie deal.
But Kadar didn’t stop there. To help out with Detroit’s edge problem—especially with Ezekiel Ansah’s unknown future with the team, he selected Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson with the Lions’ second-round pick.
“Ferguson is an experienced, technically sound pass rusher who will be an effective player in the NFL, even if he never becomes a superstar,” Kadar explained.
We’ve talked about Ferguson a couple times here already. The long and short of the former Bulldog is that he set the D-1 record for sacks in college, but is also pretty disciplined in defending the run. However, he did it mostly against inferior competition, and he didn’t make much of an impression at the Senior Bowl this year. The NFL Combine will be huge for him, as questions remain about his athleticism.
Going defensive line with the first two picks makes some sense for this franchise. Their overall defense ranked just 27th in DVOA, and often improving in the trenches is the quickest way to get that turned around. Detroit still has other big needs elsewhere—tight end and cornerback spring to mind—but this mock makes a lot of sense.
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