The Detroit Lions, as hard as it might be to conceive, would enter next season right now without a suitable replacement or upgrade for Jason Jones at defensive end. It is possible that the next man up, Devin Taylor, is that guy. He flashed some playmaking potential in the second half of last year and very well could enter next year as the starter. However, the Lions still undoubtedly need an additional piece at defensive end to challenge Taylor and provide depth. I think the missing piece that could do both of those things and more is Florida Gators alum Jonathan Bullard.
Jonathan Bullard is one of the top defensive linemen available athletically and it definitely shows on tape. His explosiveness off the snap brought me shades of Aaron Donald’s film from a few years ago. I am not saying he will bring the same type of production or is even the same type of player as Donald, but that is high praise nonetheless. He boasts a top ten SPARQ score for athleticism among defensive tackles in this class and even is above average when placed with edge rushers. On his college film, he flashed more often than Jason Jones with one major edge on the unrestricted free agent. Jonathan Bullard finishes plays, and the Lions need another finisher.
Bullard can play defensive end on early downs and would effectively fill the closed end role for the Lions in such situations. He can slide inside for passing downs and use his explosiveness to rush the passer seemingly before offensive linemen can even react. Pairing him and Ziggy Ansah together on one side of the line is a current dream of mine and I hope to see that come to fruition this fall. He should supplant Devin Taylor as a starter at closed defensive end right away and then the team can bring in Taylor on pass rush situations sliding Bullard in with Ansah and Tyrunn Walker or another pass rush force on the interior.
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With the sixteenth pick, the Lions are likely to be looking at a situation where the top offensive tackles are no longer on the board, where the likes of Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner are already to be selected, and where the defensive tackle talent becomes a blur of similarly rated run stuffers that could possibly be had later on. Bullard’s skillset and versatility are more unique than an Andrew Billings, Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson or Kenny Clark and can fit in on multiple downs in multiple ways.
While Bullard does not fit the 6-5 and over height mold that has predicated some of the Lions’ recent picks at defensive end, his versatility supercedes that. His length, at 6-3, is not even bad – he is within an inch of the wingspan of highly touted DeForest Buckner. Speaking of Buckner and Bullard, they shared the same jumping measurables while Bullard outdid Buckner in the 40 yard sprint and 10 yard split as well as the three cone drill. Buckner beat Bullard in the short shuttle, but drill-wise Bullard matches up extremely well minus a few inches of height.
Long story short, Jonathan Bullard represents a probable every down player for the Detroit Lions that will be effective against the run and the pass. He should be able to line up wherever the coaches want, even giving some of the same unique looks that Ndamukong Suh gave in his time with the team as a rushing “linebacker.”
While Bullard is currently projected to go later in the first round, I hope the team wisens up and makes a the right selection. Draft Jonathan Bullard!