The Lions already have a stud defensive end in Ziggy Ansah. His job is in no danger. However the defensive end opposite of Ziggy, Devin Taylor, is a different story. Through 52 games in his NFL career Taylor has managed just 14 sacks, and he is just an average player against the run.
Defensive end won’t be the biggest need for the Lions in the 2017 draft. But if the right situation comes up it is possible that the team would add a talented player to replace Taylor and play opposite of Ansah.
2017 Draft Class- Defensive End Options
There are a few prospects that may be better pass rushers than the guys that will be mentioned but are projected to play 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. Since the Lions run a 4-3 scheme those players were not in consideration. The three defensive end prospects that will be highlighted are Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, and Missouri’s Charles Harris.
Myles Garrett- Texas A&M
Myles Garrett is an absolute stud. He is widely considered to be the top prospect in the 2017 draft, and that’s not just out of the defensive ends, but of any player.
At 6’5” and 262 pounds, the junior Texas A&M defensive end has ideal size for the next level. He also has elite athleticism that will translate well in the NFL. Through 30 games in his career Garrett has already racked up an impressive 26.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss. So he doesn’t just have size and athleticism, he also has been very productive.
Part of the reason he is so effective is that he has a high motor and rarely takes a play off. Every time opposing quarterbacks drop back Garrett is usually there to either rush the throw or take a sack. That also works with run plays as well. Garrett is so explosive off the ball that he can get into the backfield to blow up a run play before it gets going. In terms of pass rush moves, Garrett usually wins with speed but can also translate his speed to power and also mixes in an effective spin move to keep offensive linemen on their toes. He also is very good at setting the edge against the run and doesn’t allow opposing linemen to push him around very easily.
There are not many negatives about Garrett as a prospect however, one thing he could do better is get off of his block a little quicker when defending the run. He has shown that he can do it but just needs to do it more consistently.
Myles Garrett is essentially a lock to be taken very highly in next year’s NFL draft. All NFL teams would love to have a defensive end that has the athleticism and explosiveness to overwhelm an opposing blocker right from the snap, and that’s what Garrett is bringing to the table. Garrett has the potential to be a real difference maker at the next level for a long time.
To see Garrett’s explosiveness for yourself, a game to check out is November 24th when Texas A&M takes on LSU.
Derek Barnett- Tennessee
Barnett is not as flashy as a defensive end prospect as Myles Garrett, but he is a very good prospect none the less. He has a shorter and stockier from than some 4-3 defensive ends at 6’3” and 265 pounds. However he uses his thick, strong frame to his advantage. Like Garrett, Barnett has been productive while at Tennessee. He’s logged 25 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 33 games.
As mentioned before, Barnett has impressive strength. Because of this he can be moved all over the defensive line, both inside and outside. His strength helps him against the run and the pass. Against the run he holds the point of attack well and is able to avoid being moved out of holes by blockers. Against the pass he is able to use his strength to bull-rush opponents to get to the quarterback. He also has enough athleticism to get past offensive tackles and bend around the edge to generate pressure that way as well.
The junior defensive end doesn’t have the elite explosiveness that NFL teams prefer high end defensive end prospects to have. To try to make up for this he sometimes tries to guess the snap count to gain an edge that way, which leads to penalties.
Derek Barnett may not be as pretty of a defensive end prospect compared to someone like Garrett who has great athleticism and explosiveness, however Barnett still brings a lot to the table. His strength and versatility will likely be enough for a team to select him somewhere in the first round of the 2017 draft.
A good opportunity to watch Barnett is November 24th against Missouri.
Charles Harris- Missouri
Charles Harris is a very similar prospect to Barnett. At 6’3” and 260 pounds he even has a similar frame as Barnett. Harris hasn’t been quite as productive as the other two prospects in this article but that is mostly due to the fact that he hasn’t played as many games. Although he is a junior he didn’t get a lot of playing until his sophomore season while both Garrett and Barnett were key contributors on their teams since they were freshmen. In the 19 games that he played in, and received consistent playing time, he has recorded 10.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss.
Harris plays with good instincts. He seems to always know where the ball is. Like Barnett, Harris uses his strong frame well. He plays with power. Against the run he doesn’t get moved easily and he does a good job of getting off of blockers when he has to. As a pass-rusher Harris uses his power to generate an effective bull-rush, but he does a good job at mixing in a variety of other pass-rush moves as well. And to add to all of that he also plays with a high motor, giving full effort on seemingly ever play.
Unfortunately Harris doesn’t have a great first-step that will jump off of the screen. The fact that offensive tackles have to respect his ability to bull-rush them or beat them to the inside however make that a little less significant of a weakness. Also sometimes Harris plays with his pad-level a little too high. He needs to stay lower so that he will be able to stay on and and create leverage more easily.
NFL teams look for defensive ends that can be effective in every aspect of the game. Because of his motor, strength, and the fact that he plays with good technique most of the time, Harris is one of those players.
Check out the game between Missouri and Tennessee on November 19th so you can watch both Charles Harris and Derek Barnett get after quarterbacks.