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Lions draft preview: Edge rusher not top priority

The Detroit News
Dante Fowler Jr.

This is the seventh in a series of Lions position previews for the NFL draft. Today: Edge rushers.

Even after losing defensive end George Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Lions are confident in their depth at that position heading into 2015.

But with general manager Martin Mayhew typically following the "best player available" philosophy, the Lions could still target an edge rusher in the upcoming draft.

On paper, the Lions have plenty of pass rushing depth. Behind starting defensive ends Jason Jones and Ezekiel Ansah, the Lions return veteran Darryl Tapp, third-year Devin Taylor and second-year Larry Webster, who didn't play in 2014 after the Lions drafted him in the fourth round. The Lions also signed veteran Phillip Hunt, who played for the Eagles in 2011-12 but missed the last two years after tearing his ACL in the 2013 preseason.

In addition to those ends who will compete for playing time, the Lions drafted Kyle Van Noy in the second round last year, and he's an outside linebacker with the size to play on the line if the team needs.

But, with the loss of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on the interior, the Lions could choose to build up the edge of their defensive front and veer away from their recent focus on the interior. Whether the Lions would do that with their first-round pick at No. 23 with other needs like offensive line and cornerback remains to be seen.

"If you want to go edge guys, it depends who you're talking about," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said. "Some of these guys may not be there at that point."

* Go through the gallery above or go here for Josh Katzenstein's top 10 edge rushers in the NFL draft.