With the 2019 season not going as the Detroit Lions expected with their defensive line, the team will certainly be paying close attention to all of the interior defensive line talent as the NFL Combine carries on. The rules changed this season, and it’s no longer “everyone meets with everyone” as teams are limited in how many interviews they can officially have with prospects. With that, one of the first formal interviews the Lions had was with TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock who is an option for the team to upgrade their pass rush on the interior.
Ross Blacklock, Defensive Tackle, TCU
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With only 5.5 sacks over the last three seasons (he missed all of 2018 with injury), you’d be forgiven for thinking Blacklock is more of a run defender than pass rusher. Turn on the tape, though, and it tells a totally different story. Blacklock possesses some excellent get off the ball and strong hand usage to execute a variety of pass rushing moves from the defensive tackle position. With the NFL Combine in full swing, Blacklock is a guy that many expect to be a riser since much of his success appears to be due to solid to great athletic traits.
After a strong 2017 where Blacklock looked like he could shoot himself up in draft rankings, he suffered a torn Achilles that forced him to sit out the 2018 season. Always a concerning injury for players who rely on their explosiveness, there was worry that his development would be stunted by the Achilles injury. Those concerns were quickly put to rest and Blacklock put together a strong junior campaign with 40 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 9.0 tackles for a loss.
With Trey Flowers and Da’Shawn Hand locked into starting roles, there’s plenty of room for someone like Blacklock to jump onto this defensive line and provide some help to their pass rush. He would likely play on the end in some three-man fronts and next to the nose tackle when the team lines up four down, but the concern would be that his value is purely rushing the passer. As a run defender, there’s some room to grow as he occasionally over-commits and gets a little too into his assignment trying to go after the passer.
Currently projected to be off the board sometime during day two of the draft, the Lions would likely need to use a pick after their current second-round pick. I mention that because Blacklock would have to be taken with a pick the Lions acquire during a trade-down scenario. I feel like the top of the second is a bit rich for a player needing as much polish as Blacklock, but I would expect him to get plenty of snaps in this defense immediately in several packages so he’d be worth taking fairly high.