Defensive tackle is going to be a position of need for the Detroit Lions as the draft and free agency approach over the next two months.
And next week’s NFL combine is another chance for Detroit to really take a look at some of the tackles in the draft. While it’s unclear what new general manager Bob Quinn’s strategy will be when it comes to the interior of the defensive line heading into the draft, the Lions have taken a defensive tackle in five of the past seven drafts.
Here are some tackle prospects the Lions could watch closely in Indianapolis next week.
Jarran Reed, Alabama (6-3, 311): Very strong against the run and has size to be a force in the middle of a defense. He went to Alabama after two years at East Mississippi Junior College. While with the Crimson Tide, he had 112 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and seven passes defended. His pass rush could be a question, though. He has been slotted in most early mock drafts right around Detroit’s No. 16 selection. He’ll likely have to answer questions for his DUI from 2014, but he became one of the Crimson Tide’s leaders last season.
A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama (6-4, 312): He is built extremely well and is a formidable run-stopper who can come in immediately and make a difference there. He made 133 tackles in three seasons with 22 tackles for loss, five passes defended and nine sacks. He was one of the best tackles in his class coming out of high school in Texas. According to this AL.com story, he wants to be a broadcaster when he’s done playing.
Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech (6-3, 300): He could play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 and should be available for the Lions at No. 16. His versatility could make him enticing to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin as well. He had 170 career tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He had nine quarterback hurries in his career. He played football, basketball and track in high school.
Sheldon Rankins, Louisville (6-1, 304): He might not have imposing size, but that hasn’t mattered to Austin in the past (he campaigned for Aaron Donald in 2014). He should be available for Detroit at No. 16 and could be under consideration there by the time the spring comes around. He had 58 tackles last season, including 13 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Willie Henry, Michigan (6-3, 311): If the Lions go with another position in the first round, Henry could be available in the second round (or potentially in the late third round) for the Lions. He hasn’t always put up the biggest numbers, but he’s an athletic tackle who played basketball in high school. He had 86 career tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, including 6.5 last season. He also played in an NFL system the majority of his career under former Baltimore defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. His teammates at Michigan, according to this MLive story, call him “Big Earl.”