With defensive tackle Damon Harrison being released recently, the Detroit Lions might find his replacement on Day Three of the 2020 NFL Draft.
An already weak defensive line for the Detroit Lions got a bit worse last month with the team releasing former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Damon Harrison. Harrison’s main role with the Lions was to stuff the run and prevent interior linemen from creating running lanes. But due to injury concerns and general regression, Harrison and the rest of the line got pushed around more often than not last season.
According to Football Outsiders, the Lions had one of the worst defensive lines in the league in 2019 when it came to stuffing the run. Detroit was ranked 23rd against run blocking and only stuffed 12 percent of runs, a mediocre rate that put them in dead last in that respective category.
In order to take this mediocre and make it a respectable one, the Lions’ defensive unit needs to focus on stopping the run, and that starts with finding Harrison’s replacement as that anchor on the front line.
Fighting in the trenches for one of the staunchest defenses in college football last season, Leki Fotu of Utah could be an ideal replacement for Harrison that would only cost the Lions a fourth-round draft pick. Over the past two seasons, Fotu totaled 61 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Those numbers don’t jump off the page compared to first round prospects like Derrick Brown, but it proves that Fotu is more than willing to play his role and build a wall to block running lanes, even when that often means being double teamed and not racking up tackles.
While he can be a little slow out of his stance and lacks the upfield quickness to make downfield tackles, at 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, he carries a large frame well, shows a strong motor in both practice and in games, and is dominant against single blocks.
While Fotu isn’t a perfect prospect, he has the upside to develop into an NFL starter, which is a rarity to find out of fourth-round linemen, as Logan Lamorandier of SI.com said in his recent seven-round mock draft.
"“In terms of value, Quinn is able to grab a two-down player who is vitally important to their defense. Patricia needs a big body to fill multiple gaps and hold up against double teams. Without sound gap control upfront, it makes the Lions relatively unathletic linebackers jobs much more difficult.”"
Head Coach Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme places a crucial importance on the interior linemen taking up multiple gaps to help linebackers roam free and make plays.
It was a tough pill to some Detroit Lions supporters to swallow when fan favorite Harrison couldn’t stay healthy and return to his Pro Bowl status this season, but Fotu should be able to fill in his shoes on a much cheaper contract.