The Defensive Line Can Find Help in This Year’s Draft Class

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Detroit Needs More Power On The Line Besides Ansah; Could They Add Talent Early In The Draft?

Welcome to this year’s draft overview series. In this series, I take a look at five possible options at each position that Detroit could end up taking in this years NFL draft. Last week I looked at the tight end position, now it is time to start addressing the defense and the defensive line is the first stop.

Detroit had no pressure from their defensive line last season. They tied for 30th in sacks in the NFL, with the 1-15 Cleveland Browns and ahead of the Oakland Raiders. One reason was their star Ziggy Ansah missed some time and dealt with injuries for majority of the season. Luckily, Kerry Hyder came out of nowhere and helped lead the team in sacks with eight and gave Detroit some kind of power on the line. Behind both of them was Devin Taylor who didn’t produce and wasn’t brought back to the team, and Anthony Zettel who helped Detroit recover the late fumble against the Eagles and turn that game into a win.

A’Shawn Robinson did well in his rookie year, however Haloti Ngata was starting to show his age. Khyri Thornton did well as a depth defensive tackle, but the rest of the group didn’t and haven’t been welcomed back. Detroit addressed the lack of tackles in free agency, bringing in Jordan Hill and Akeem Spence.

Detroit also brought back Armonty Bryant who did well coming off his first suspension and missed time due to another. Detroit signed one free agent to help fill the loss of Devin Taylor and that was Cornelius Washington. Fans still think the defensive line needs help, whether it is at defensive end or defensive tackle. This draft class is deep in defensive tackle, which is good news for Lions fans, but the defensive tackle class isn’t as talented. Here are five players Lions fans should watch out for as they could become a future member of the defensive line.

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1. Taco Charlton – DE (Michigan)

One of the players mocked to Detroit a lot has been Taco Charlton. I even wrote about if he would be a good fit for Detroit here. In his four years at Michigan, Taco totaled 91 tackles, 28 for loss, 19 sacks, two pass deflections and one forced fumble. While he didn’t get much playing time his freshman year, he saw more action his sophomore year and ended up starting his final two years. Taco played most of last year with a nagging ankle injury, and he still was able to get 10 sacks and have his best year yet.

Charlton is a good pass rusher, getting under offensive lineman by going low and other times being quick, getting around the edge fast. He wraps up well. He can’t dissect option plays well, and has an injury history. He also gets eaten up during running plays. Taco can draw holding penalties with his quickness and has a great spin move to get past his blocker.

Taco is a lock to be first round pick and if Detroit thinks they can find a linebacker later in the draft, Taco is the best player they could take at pick 21.

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2. DeMarcus Walker – DE (Florida State)

DeMarcus Walker is another impressive edge rusher in this class. At Florida State he recorded 179 tackles, 41.5 for loss, 27 sacks, eight pass deflections, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.

Walker has a good swim move to get him around the blocker easily and quickly. Doesn’t give up when getting double teamed or worked on. Always tries to find a way to get to the ball carrier. He is inconsistent and chooses when to give his all and when to take a break. When he gets beaten, he doesn’t recover too well. Fatigue is a questionable point for him as well. Puts his hands up on passes to try and get a pass deflection. Played 90 percent of the defensive snaps last season, so he doesn’t miss much time and stays healthy.

Walker has slipped out of the first round and there is some debate on whether or not he makes it into the third round. Walker getting taken in the second seems good for Detroit, but if he falls into the third round, Detroit can’t pass up on his talents.

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3. Derek Rivers – DE (Youngstown State)

The last defensive end is a guy who plays in a small school compared to the rest of the other players. Rivers still had good numbers, getting 173 tackles, 56.5 for loss, 37.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and one pass deflection.

Now unlike Walker, Rivers is consistent in his play and production; he can get underneath the blocker quickly on the edge get to the quarterback. He does need to work on stopping the run more as he is a better pass rusher. Takes too long to get out of the block and attempt to take down the ball carrier. Has good strength. Finally he has a great motor and willingness to keep playing, and doesn’t stop until the whistle blows.

Rivers has been climbing up draft boards with his play and since he played in the FCS, he won’t get as much attention compared to the players who played in the FBS. Rivers should be available in the fourth round and could be a steal for Detroit.

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4. Carlos Watkins – DT (Clemson)

The first defensive tackle on the list is coming off a championship victory. At Clemson, Watkins had 110 tackles, 24.5 for loss, 14 sacks, seven pass deflections, and one fumble recovery and a pick six.

Watkins has the strength to just push linemen backwards. Has good movement for his size and position. Is ready to attack as soon as the ball is off the ground. Got lost in double teams. Strong linemen are able to get underneath and just move him aside. Fatigue needs work. Gets hands up on some passing plays. He’s better when he is in rotation, which keeps him fresh and able to make plays. Can read screen passes.

Detroit might need to get ready for Ngata’s departure after the 2017 season and Watkins would be a good fit and addition to Detroit’s defensive line in the fourth round.

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5. Ryan Glasgow – DT (Michigan)

Another Wolverine on this list, this time a defensive tackle and a brother of Lions starting left guard Graham Glasgow. Ryan played four years at Michigan and was able to produce 77 tackles, 13.5 for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery and pass deflection.

Glasgow is a solid run stopping tackle. His strong arms can help him get past linemen with ease. He wraps up players well and doesn’t give them a chance to gain anything extra. He did miss half of 2015 with a pectoral injury. He could face challenges against NFL sized players and he lacks pass rush abilities. Glasgow did face many double teams in college, rarely had one-on-one battles, so he could do better when asked to go through one player. Along with that he can get past blocks that try and redirect him to go elsewhere.

If Detroit wants a depth defensive tackle that can contribute on the defensive line when needed, then Glasgow is their guy and in the fifth round it doesn’t bring too much of a risk to the Lions organization.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and share 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.