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I’m not as dire as many Lion fans are about the team’s chances to re-sign Ndamukong Suh, but it’s a very real possibility that he is gone after the season. Even if the Lions retain Suh, do they attempt to extend Nick Fairley? Fairley was playing very well until a knee injury sidelined him, potentially for the remainder of the season. If Suh does walk, the team could re-sign Fairley but along with that comes a great deal of risk. More likely, they’ll look to augment in the draft if one or the other leaves the team.
It’s unlikely the Detroit Lions draft high enough to pick up the top defensive tackle prospect in Michael Bennett from Ohio State, but someone like UCLA’s Ellis McCarthy could still be available. The hulking 6’5″, 330 lbs. monster would provide an intimidating presence on an already dangerous defensive unit. You’re not going to replace a Nick Fairley or a Ndamukong Suh with a rookie in year one, but someone like McCarthy could soften the blow and possibly surpass one or the other in the future.
Forgoiong an early pick, the Lions might target someone with the physical tools, but maybe lacking in technical, to develop for the long term. Someone like Leon Orr from Florida could fit the Lions big, lengthy mold. Orr isn’t the playmaker that Suh or Fairley are, and I wouldn’t expect immediate impact from him as a pass rusher. He can eat up some space, though, and a player like that can allow defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to scheme for his playmakers. Might not be a sexy pick, but it’s one I would understand.
There aren’t a lot of eye opening later round defensive tackles, and I don’t want to pretend there are. As such, let’s keep it closer to the middle rounds and go with a guy like Christian Covington. I’m not as high on the Rice product as most are, but he’s still a very highly rated prospect. Absolutely destroying Conference USA for the past few seasons, Covington is exactly the type of defensive lineman that Martin Mayhew has targeted in the past few years. Covington could go as high as the second round, but if my instincts are right he’ll slip a round or two and land in the Lions lap.