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2021 NFL Draft: How Levi Onwuzurike impacts Detroit Lions roster

The Lions added an explosive defensive tackle. How will he fit on the roster?

Fresno State v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have prioritized the trenches, and with their second round pick, they select defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike from Washington.

Player selected: Levi Onwuzurike

Position: DT

Current players on roster at DT:

  • John Atkins
  • Michael Brockers
  • Jashon Cornell
  • Da’Shawn Hand
  • Joel Heath
  • John Penisini
  • Kevin Strong
  • Nick Williams

Offseason losses at DT:

  • Danny Shelton


What a difference a year makes.

The interior of the Lions defensive line will look vastly different from last season, from a personnel and scheme perspective. Danny Shelton, the nose tackle brought in just last offseason, was let go in March. Nobody really impressed in 2020, with Da’Shawn Hand being largely invisible, John Penisini being little more than a sufficient rookie, and Nick Williams being inconsistent. The Lions made a splash by trading for Michael Brockers, but the line could benefit from more acquisitions.

Onwuzurike could immediately see significant snaps on defense in his rookie season, given the modest performances from the returning Lions players. He projects as a hybrid tackle similar to Da’Shawn Hand, a tweener that can contribute inside and out. Perhaps the greatest aspect of drafting him is that he will bring a much needed pass rushing presence from the interior. The Matt Patricia era was synonymous with little-to-no pass rush, and the defensive tackles were no exception. Suddenly with Brockers and Onwuzurike, the Lions have some threats. Add in Trey Flowers and Julian Okwara on the outside, and the defensive line is looking more fierce.

This move impacts Hand the most. Hand has an excellent rookie season, but injuries have plagued him since, and his tenure with the Lions could be short-lived. Hand will have to prove he still has the skill that made him impress as a rookie. Onwuzurike figures to take a lot of his snaps as a three-technique. Washington played him at nose tackle on occasion at Washington, but at under 300 pounds, he likely projects elsewhere at the NFL level.

Elsewhere on the roster, it figures to push everyone down the depth chart. Many expected Nick Williams to be a cap casualty, but he remains after taking a paycut. This could means a reduced role, or perhaps put him on the bubble. Kevin Strong could face stiff competition and could be the odd-man out. Penisini likely stays as the team’s nose tackle, assuming they opt to keep one. The remaining players are depth at best.

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