Defensive End Will Be A Position Of Need In The Offseason.
After struggling to pressure quarterbacks last season, basically everybody expected the Lions to add a defensive end early in last years draft. That didn’t happen. They didn’t add any big-name pass rushers in free agency either. To top things off, last season’s leader in sacks Kerry Hyder tore his Achilles during the preseason and is out for the season.
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is entering the final year of his contract. After breaking out with 14.5 sacks in 2015 he only recorded two last season. This was mainly because he struggled to stay healthy but is still concerning. If the Lions choose to let Ansah test free agency, then adding a defensive end will be crucial. Even if they retain him they could still use a difference maker to play opposite of him to help get after quarterbacks.
2018 Draft Class- Defensive End Prospects
Obviously it’s way too early to tell where the Lions will be picking in the 2018 draft and too early to tell where players will most likely be selected. With that being said, it isn’t too early to start looking at guys who could end up being top prospects.
The three guys I’ll focused on are LSU’s Arden Key, Harold Landry out of Boston College, and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell.
Arden Key- LSU
Arden Key has the potential to be one of the first players off the board in the 2018 draft. He’s already being compared to guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett. It’s still early in the process but drawing comparisons to guys like that is usually a good sign. The LSU defensive end is a junior this season. He had a great season last year as a sophomore, recording 56 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, three pass deflections and three forced fumbles. He was named First Team All-SEC.
Last season Key looked a little thin at 6’6” and around 235 lbs. This off season he put on some bulk, getting to around 265 lbs. It will be interesting to see if he is still just as explosive now that he put on weight. Key is a great athlete with long arms and a variety of moves that he utilizes to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. His explosiveness is usually enough for him to get an advantage over his blocker and he is able to bend around the corner to make the play. When he sees a lane to the quarterback he’s able to close in a hurry.
Against the run, Key uses his long arms to help him hold the point of attack. The fact that he should be stronger this season will make him even better at holding his ground. He also uses his athleticism to be able to chase down running backs from the backside.
Every draft prospect has some flaws and Key is no different. Occasionally, he doesn’t track the football and gets fooled on fakes. Also, he took time off from football this spring for personal reasons. It’s hard to say how this will effect his draft stock since there are no details as to the reason he needed time off. He also had shoulder surgery during the off season but seems to have recovered from that. A couple good games to see Key for yourself are October 7 at Florida and November 4 at Alabama.
Harold Landry- Boston College
Harold Landry could’ve come out last year and been drafted in the first couple rounds. Instead, he opted to come back for his senior year and try to cement his status as a first round prospect. Boston College lists Landry at 6’3” and 250 lbs. Some feel that he is smaller than that so he is a little undersized for defensive end in the NFL.
He has been incredibly productive during his college career. His best season was last year where he logged 22 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, four pass deflections and an incredible seven forced fumbles. Landry generally beats his blockers using his first-step, his speed, and his ability to bend. It’s hard for tackles to stop him from getting around the corner. He’s able to create consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Getting stronger would really help Landry’s game. He struggles in the run game at times because offensive lineman can push him around. He is able to use his speed to run down plays from the backside however. Some games to watch Landry are September 23 at Clemson and October 14 at Louisville.
Clelin Ferrell- Clemson
Clelin Ferrell hasn’t been as productive as the other two guys on this list. This is at least partly because he plays with a lot of other talented defensive lineman. Plus he is a red shirt sophomore, so last season was his first where he saw game action. In that season he had 44 tackles, 12.5 for loss and six sacks.
The Clemson defensive end has good size at 6’5” and 260 lbs. and has really good length to go with it. He has pretty solid short-area quickness that allows him to play in space. As a pass rusher Ferrell utilizes his power to try to overwhelm his blocker and mixes in a spin move at times as well. He also uses his length to keep the hands of offensive linemen off of him.
The biggest knock on Ferrell is that he isn’t an elite athlete. He doesn’t have the speed that guys like Key or Landry do. That makes it tougher for him to get around the edge but he is good at finding ways to still make plays. On September 23 you can watch him against Boston College (two for one with Landry). Another good game to see him is October 27 vs Florida State.