Detroit Lions’ early 53-man roster projections: Defensive end

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 6: Sam Bradford #8 of the Minnesota Vikings is tackled by Kerry Hyder #61 of the Detroit Lions of the game on November 6, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 6: Sam Bradford #8 of the Minnesota Vikings is tackled by Kerry Hyder #61 of the Detroit Lions of the game on November 6, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) /

Snake-bitten would be an understatement regarding the luck the Detroit Lions have had at defensive end. This position could make or break the season.

Adding insult to injury is what the defensive end position is shaping out to be. Many people thought the Detroit Lions didn’t do their due diligence to resolve what was one of the biggest weaknesses on the team. Let’s hope that they prove the doubters wrong and make fans like myself, feel more comfort in the efforts they made to fix the poor pass rush.


If it wasn’t for injuries or suspensions, the Lions might be looking a lot better at the defensive end position. The Lions will have to make do with who they have. I project the Lions carrying six defensive ends on the roster, considering most of them can also kick inside and provide pressure from the interior of the defensive line.

Ziggy Ansah (PUP)

Returning to his 2015 Pro Bowl form will lift this group tremendously if he can stay healthy. Starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list looks to be more of a precautionary move in case the ankle injury lingers. It’s a little too obvious that arguably the best defender on the Lions and best pass rusher in the league will make the team.

Kerry Hyder

Last season’s breakout performer and team sack leader (8.0) will be back. 2016 was his first season converting from defensive tackle to defensive end. With a full season under his belt, watch out for him to make more strides after fizzing out after a hot start.

Cornelius Washington

Availability isn’t his strength, but boy is he a freak of nature. If he can remain in the lineup, he has a real chance of shining as a base end, which is his most natural fit. Experience as a 3-4 defensive end will serve him well as a run stuffer on the edge and as a pass rusher on the interior.

Anthony Zettel

The momentum from his rookie is certainly carrying over to the early portions of 2017. This Penn State alum has the versatility and experience to kick inside (started at defensive tackle in 2015) and rush the passer on third down. Year two should be a breakout year now that he is better acclimated to defensive end.

Brandon Copeland

You can never undermine the value of special teams, and he is a stud on the coverage units. Every year, someone finds a way to outshine him, but he still sneaks his way on the roster. The Lion of Wall Street is even getting some serious reps at linebacker, so 2017 could finally be his coming out party in Detroit.

Alex Barrett

Not too many people are familiar with the undrafted free agent from San Diego State. Being under-sized (6’3”, 255 LBS) made him go overlooked, but it didn’t stop him from being one of the top 3-4 defensive ends coming out of college in 2016. The transition from the interior to the exterior of the defensive line isn’t something he should have a problem with overcoming.


The further down the line you get, the thinner the depth and talent is. It isn’t tough to sniff out the stragglers who won’t survive the roster cuts.

Armonty Bryant (PUP)

Being injured on top of being suspended four games only spells doom. Although insanely productive when available, he has been wildly unreliable. The only way I could see the Lions keeping him around is if the situation at defensive end is an absolute disaster, which could very well happen.

Pat O’Connor

Eastern Michigan was incredibly lucky to have this defensive end. The seventh round rookie has tons of production over his collegiate career (166 tackles, 34 TFL, 20.0 sacks, 7 FF). He isn’t quite NFL-ready and would greatly benefit from a redshirt year on the Lions’ practice squad.

Next: Detroit Lions pass defense: From worst to…strong?

Jeremiah Valoaga (PUP)

Based on looks, the undrafted free agent from UNLV looks the roll of a defensive end. A culmination of injuries, academic issues and violation of team rules left him in the dust during the evaluation process leading up to the draft. Right now, his chances to cling onto the roster, let alone the practice squad, are minimal.