Lions doing some pre-draft due diligence on intriguing defensive tackles

After a run of cornerbacks coming in for top-30 visits, the Detroit Lions have shifted to the interior defensive line a bit.
Illinois v Minnesota
Illinois v Minnesota / David Berding/GettyImages

As the Detroit Lions fill out their allotment of "top-30" pre-draft visits, a run of cornerbacks coming to Allen Park (seven by the latest reported count) has been highlighted.

But according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Illinois defensive tackle Jer'Zhan "Johnny" Newton has had a visit with the Lions. Earlier in the week, Birkett reported Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Hall had a pre-draft visit as well.

Hall had 24 total tackles last season, with two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. For his career at Ohio State he had 10 tackles for loss and six sacks. He earned a nice 84.8 pass rushing grade from Pro Football Focus last season, with 29 pressures. He has notably added 10 pounds since the college season ended (now 290 pounds), and he is regarded as a Day 2 prospect.

Newton (6-foot-2, 304 pounds at the NFL Combine) won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2023, as he tallied 7.5 sacks, 52 total tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss (43 quarterback pressures, according to PFF). In 2022 he was arguably better, with 62 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks (59 pressures, according to PFF). The comp Lance Zierlein of has for Newton is Javon Hargrave.

2024 NFL Draft: Do the Lions really need a defensive tackle?

The Lions have Aidan Hutchinson and Alim McNeill (pending a new contract) as the long-term anchors for their defensive line. In terms of a defensive tackle to pair with McNeill, free agent signing DJ Reader should fill that void nicely. But he's not necessarily a long-term answer, coming off the second torn quad tendon of his career.

In a broader sense, the Lions need depth at defensive tackle. Benito Jones left in free agency. While Levi Onwuzurike was healthy last season, he hardly played (132 defensive snaps) and it's unclear if he'll be able to take on a bigger role. 2023 third-round pick Brodric Martin barely saw the field as a rookie, and he's very raw.

4 draft picks the Detroit Lions gave up on too soon. 4 draft picks the Detroit Lions gave up on too soon. dark. Next