Detroit Lions 2016 Draft Overview: Defensive Tackle

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In this series, I’ll be looking at five college players that might get drafted by Detroit position-by-position, breaking down the positives and negatives of each player and projecting if Detroit were to take them, which round they would be taken in. The first position I am looking at is:

Defensive Tackle

Detroit has made some moves in the off-season to help the position out, bringing back Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker and signing Stefan Charles. Even with the addition of Charles and Walker and Ngata coming back, Detroit still needs help at the defensive tackle position and this draft has a stellar defensive tackle class. There are great players all the way through, so Detroit may even take two defensive tackles just to take advantage of this great class. Ngata has two years on his contract, but his final year is a team option, so he may only be here for one season. Drafting a good tackle and have him learn the ropes, play sometimes, but learn from Ngata and take his spot in 2017 would be great. Let’s look at who Detroit could take in this years draft!

Defensive Tackle Draft Options:

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1. Sheldon Rankins (Louisville)

A strong beast at the defensive tackle position is Sheldon Rankins. He is an athletic defensive tackle and explosive on the line. He can knock opposing linemen back and make them unbalanced easily to get to the ball carrier. When double teamed he can provide a strong base and keep them busy while someone else gets in easily. He is smaller than most interior defensive tackles in the NFL, which could limit how he does in the next level. He has good quickness for a defensive tackle, which can help him with the spin moves to get off the blocker. His last two seasons at Louisville have been the best for his career, and he ended with 133 tackles, eighteen sacks, two interceptions, four pass deflections, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his four years at Louisville.

Rankins would be a great pick at 16. He could be a starter next to Ngata as the season progresses. Rankins is the best defensive tackle in this draft and having him come to Detroit would be a great thing for our future.

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2. Andrew Billings (Baylor)

Bring on the power with Andrew Billings. This guy has a weightlifting background so he has that strength in his arms and his hips that can make him just blow up the offensive line. He does have a weight problem and he is a big guy, something we had to deal with Nick Fairley and he also is kind of small for a defensive tackle and he isn’t as athletic as he should be. His hands are powerful enough to knock away the hands of blockers and break free from the line. Once he grabs the ball carrier, there is no escape from him. He wraps up well and doesn’t give them another inch. Billings had 107 tackles, eight and a half sacks and two forced fumbles in his three years at Baylor.

Billings would be a good second round pick for Detroit since his combine did knock his stock down a tad, a first round pick for him would be a little too early at the 16th pick.

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3. Kenny Clark (UCLA)

Being a former high school wrestler has its advantages in football, especially at the defensive tackle position. Clark can use his strong powerful hips and upper body strength to create torque on his blockers. He can make blocking a challenge with his strong core. His arms are shorter than most linemen, so he could be known more as a finisher than a tackler. Tackling is an issue too with four broken tackles last year, unusual for a defensive tackle. When in a one-on-one battle, he can just bull rush the quarterback and get the easy sack. Double teams aren’t that much of an issue for him too as he can squeeze between them and get to the ball carrier. Clark ended with 159 tackles, six and a half sacks, a forced fumble and recovery along with six pass deflections.

Clark would fit well in the second round for Detroit but with some questions about his size and how he did against good competition in college, he could fall into the third round.

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4. Willie Henry (Michigan)

Now we are getting into depth spots at defensive tackle. Willie Henry has moved up in the draft boards of many teams. Mel Kiper Jr. even said he could turn into a possible first round pick before workouts. After workouts he still isn’t a bad player, but not a first or second round pick. Henry uses the leverage advantage to take on blockers and with a strong base, he can knock blockers away and give them a fight. He can sense when trap blocks are inbound and knows how to take on the double teams. He struggled with encroachment penalties last season, something that could cost the team in games. Cut blocks take him down to the ground and make him a non-factor on that play. Henry does have a great closing in speed when he can see the quarterback in his sights, able to wrap him up and end the play. Henry ended with 85 tackles, nine and a half sacks, an interception and two pass deflections in his three years at Michigan.

Henry would be a solid pick in the fourth round. Taking Rankins in the first and Henry in the fourth would give Detroit two good defensive tackles to learn the ropes and in a short amount of time, take over the starting jobs. Detroit needs depth at the position with two players on one year contracts and Ngata on a two year deal that could end after one.

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5. Anthony Zettel (Penn State)

Another depth defensive tackle here is Anthony Zettel. He gives his all during the entire game and never wants to give the offensive lineman a break. Double teams lock him down and make him useless on the field. Short arms are a negative for him as well. Reading the quarterbacks eyes are a strength for him and he can get right into the passing lane, knocking the ball away. In his career at Penn State, Zettel had 119 tackles, 20 sacks, four interceptions, 14 pass deflections along with two forced fumbles and recoveries. A good comparison would be Haloti Ngata with his pass deflecting skill and being able to snag the ball in the air.

Fourth round would be a nice spot for Zettel, but teams may overlook him and falling to the fifth round could happen. This class has a good amount of defensive tackles so there are many more great options than just these five players, which is perfect for Detroit this year.

There you have it, the third installment in this series. Later this week, look for me talking about defensive ends. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.