The Detroit Lions might have found themselves another impact player at the start of Day Three, just like they did last year with Da’Shawn Hand.
Last year, the Detroit Lions used their first two selections on the offensive side of the ball landing left guard Frank Ragnow and trading up for running back Kerryon Johnson. In the third round, the Lions secured their secondary by picking safety Tracy Walker, who is projected to become the starter in his second season.
But the real gem of the draft was found in the fourth round. Having traded their original fourth-round selection to acquire the aforementioned Johnson, Detroit traded a future third round pick to get back into the round. It was a hefty price to pay, but the dividends started paying off immediately.
Following their second-straight trade with the New England Patriots, the Lions grabbed Alabama defensive end Da’Shawn Hand with the 114th overall selection. Hand would go on to post 27 combined tackles, 3.0 sacks and force two fumbles his rookie season.
Hand was considered one of the best players to come out of last year’s draft regardless of round. He was named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie Team and should be a pivotal part of a talented rotation in Detroit for the foreseeable future.
So what are the chances the Lions would find another talented defender like Hand in the fourth round of the draft in back-to-back years? Pretty good actually, that according to one insider. Detroit’s selection of Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant in the fourth round (117th) of the 2019 NFL Draft could bring about a case of déjà vu for fans of the Motor City.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press selected Bryant as the one rookie other than first-round pick tight end T.J. Hockenson who will have the most impact in his first season. Here’s Birkett’s explanation as to why …
"” … Bryant could be a Da’Shawn Hand-like sleeper, an experienced college player who contributes in a variety of ways when he gets to the NFL. He won’t have more than four or five sacks, but that’ll be enough to outproduce every rookie not named Hockenson.”"
During his final two seasons in college, Bryant was the model of consistency. As a junior, he posted 50 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and an interception. Last season, Bryant recorded a nearly identical 45 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in the powerhouse conference that is the ACC.
After that kind of production for one of the top college teams in the country, why did Austin Bryant fall all the way to Day Three of the draft? According to NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein, Bryant’s weaknesses include balance issues, being slow off the snap and possessing a lack of play strength. But Zierlein does admit he believes Austin could be an NFL starter if he is able to build more strength.