Top 5 Pass-Rushers Lions Should Target in NFL Draft
After a season in which the Lions produced just 34 sacks, a pass-rusher is clearly high on their offseason wish list.
And to make matters worse, over half of those sacks may not be returning.
Earlier this offseason, the Lions parted ways with veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, and free agents-to-be Cliff Avril and Lawrence Jackson will soon join him on the open market.
With reports that Avril would like to sign a Mario Williams-like contract, a return to Detroit seems unlikely.
Fortunately for general manager Martin Mayhew, this is one of the deepest classes in recent memory for quality pass-rushers.
The Lions, who own the fifth pick in April's draft, are in prime position to land one of the premier pass-rushers in this class.
Here's a list of the top five prospects the Lions should target in an effort to bolster their weak pass rush.
1. Dion Jordan, Oregon
Jim Z. Rider-USA TODAY Sports
Dion Jordan is one of the best pure athletes in this draft class.
He originally committed to Oregon as a tight end and played briefly at wide receiver before being moved to the defensive side of the ball.
Jordan played a hybrid end/linebacker role for the Ducks' defense, so he has limited experience lining up with his hand on the ground in Jim Schwartz's traditional 4-3 scheme.
But that doesn't mean he can't become an immediate difference-maker for Detroit's defense.
In a division featuring Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers, the primary responsibility of the defensive line is to get to the quarterback. In order to make that happen, Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham may want to consider getting more creative.
Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch were traditional 4-3 defensive ends and limited the Lions' ability to think outside the box.
But Jordan is a unique athlete.
If Schwartz and Cunningham want to throw new looks at the likes of Cutler and Rodgers in 2013, Jordan could be exactly the type of versatile pass-rusher they'll want to bring aboard.
2. Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Crystal Logiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Raw barely even begins to describe Barkevious Mingo.
But the Lions aren't necessarily concerned with the whole package—they simply need a pass-rusher.
But while Irvin struggled against the run, much like Mingo, he excelled as a pass-rusher.
So the Seahawks put him in positions where he could succeed, allowing him to rush the quarterback on 74 percent of his defensive snaps.
In an era where teams are throwing the ball at a record rate, specialists such as Irvin and Mingo are becoming a hot commodity.
Mingo wouldn't be a three-down lineman in Detroit, but he could rack up a double-digit sack total and emerge as a Rookie of the Year candidate.
3. Ezekiel Ansah, Brigham Young
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah is the top-rated defensive end on my board, but I knocked him down a few slots because he doesn't quite fit the Lions' primary needs.
Both Jordan and Mingo are elite quick-twitch athletes and pure pass-rushers who will contribute immediately in that area.
Ansah's game, on the other hand, is more about strength.
As his 4.63 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine indicates, Ansah has the athleticism to develop into a pass-rusher. But at this stage of his career, he relies primarily on an impressive initial pop and his bull rush to get into the backfield.
Ansah is ready to start immediately and, unlike Mingo, could be a three-down lineman in Detroit.
But it would be unrealistic to expect him to have a significant impact as a pass-rusher in 2013.
4. Tank Carradine, Florida State
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
If not for a torn ACL suffered in Florida State's regular-season finale, Tank Carradine could be much higher on this list.
He's an explosive edge rusher whose stock has soared since opening up the season as a backup to Bjoern Werner.
It could be argued that his teammate, Werner, is a more well-rounded prospect. But if the Lions are in the market for a pure pass-rusher, Carradine is the Seminole they'll want to bring aboard.
Despite the injury, Carradine is still a first-round prospect and could be a late riser up draft boards.
Carradine recently told Roster Watch that he expects to have a full workout prior to the draft.
If this workout actually happens, and Carradine displays the same athleticism he showed briefly in 2012, expect his name to be mentioned as a potential top-10 pick.
5. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
But in terms of his physical tools, Moore remains among the top pass-rushers in this class and is a legitimate first-round talent.
Due to the off-field concerns, which includes an arrest for marijuana possession in 2011, the Lions may no longer consider Moore an option at No. 5, but he could be an intriguing option in the second round.
In terms of athleticism, Moore isn't in the same class as Jordan, Mingo or even Carradine, but he is a relentless pass-rusher with a nice blend of size and speed.