Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Five to Watch: Defensive Linemen

This is the third part of a five part series leading up to the 2012 combine. Keep an eye out this week for each article examining prospects the Detroit Lions may be interested in drafting come April.

Mock drafts abound in our post-Super Bowl slump as we eagerly await the 2012 draft. The combine is this coming weekend and promises to shake up everyone's boards.

Detroit's star defensive end, Cliff Avril, could be leaving this off season and you better believe the Lions will pull the trigger if one of the top prospects fall to them in the first round just like Nick Fairley did. Whether a deal is or isn't worked out with Cliff Avril, the Lions still have to think about aging Kyle Vanden Bosch which could make defensive end Detroit's number one priority in the draft.

Make sure to keep an eye on these pass rushers:

Cam Johnson, Virginia (6'4", 270)

Health concerns and an all around lack of elite talent surround Cam Johnson, but the ability and the potential is certainly there. It's possible he could fall to the Lions in the second round which would be difficult for them to pass up.

Vinny Curry, Marshall (6'4", 263)

Curry will likely boost his draft stock in the combine, but he seems more of a rotation guy in the way of Lawrence Jackson to me. Here's the thing though: Next to Suh and Fairley that's all they really need. Willy Young flourished in 2011 as a situational pass rusher and if the Lions can grab another one like him this year they will be sitting pretty. I don't think Curry will pan out for the Lions as I think he'll be taken early second round.

Whitney Mercilus, Illinois (6'4", 265)

This guy is mocked everywhere from the top ten to number 32, but he will definitely go in the first round. The main concern surrounding Mercilus is the fact that he has only had one solid year of production. I highly doubt he will make it out of the top 20, especially with Tennessee sitting at number 20, but if he does the Lions would have yet another brutal weapon on their defensive line and possibly a long term replacement for KVB.

Andre Branch, Clemson (6'5", 260)

Branch also seems to me like a reach in the first round, but a great developmental prospect to grab in the second round if he falls that far. He would be a great addition to the Lions defensive line and a possible starter down the line.

Jared Crick, (6'6", 285)

Crick is a guy who makes a lot of sense to me for the Lions. Andre Fluellen is a free agent this year and he didn't do much as a rotational DE/DT guy. Corey Williams also seems to have lost a step in the pass rush department (though still had a great season against the run). Crick offers versatility being able to play end and tackle and would almost certainly be an upgrade on Fluellen and possibly even Williams. Right now he's being drafted early second round, so it may be unlikely that the Lions have a shot at him, but if he's still on the board in the second round the Lions could make the depth on their D line ridiculous.

Coverage of Defensive Linemen workouts begins at 9:00am on Monday, February 27 on the NFL Network and

Are there any other Defensive Linemen in the draft that we should be keeping an eye on? Leave a comment and let everyone know who you're looking forward to seeing this weekend.

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