In his third mock draft of the offseason, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper once again has the Detroit Lions addressing its defensive line, projecting Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan to the team at No. 20.
“This pick is all about projection, as Bryan is a freakish talent who didn’t produce to his ability at Florida; he had only 5.5 career sacks,” Kiper writes. “But there were games (turn on the Texas A&M tape from 2017) in which he looked like a top-10 pick. He would play 3-technique for the Lions and new coach Matt Patricia. Bryan is raw, but he could be a star given time (and coaching) to develop. Linebacker and cornerback should be options for Detroit here, and running back shouldn’t be out of the question.”
If the Lions believe they can maximize Bryan’s potential, the addition would certainly carry appeal. The 6-foot-4, 291-pounder showcased his impressive strength and athleticism at the combine, running the 40 in under five seconds, while putting up 30 reps on the bench.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared Bryan to New Orleans Pro Bowl defensive lineman Cam Jordan, highlighting the prospect’s potential versatility. That could work well with what the Lions are trying to establish throughout its defense under Patricia.
“Talented defender with rare athletic ability and play traits,” Zierlein writes. “Bryan’s lack of production is due to a lack of instincts and feel for the position and he’s still in a developmental phase as a prospect. Bryan played inside at Florida but has the size and talent to play inside or outside. His instincts and feel are below average, so his development could take time, but when he is a finished product, Bryan has the ability to become a disruptive, highly productive talent with a very high ceiling.”
The Lions’ current depth chart puts them in good position to develop a prospect. Following the addition of Sylvester Williams in free agency, they’ve got three experienced interior linemen under contract, in addition to multiple edge rushers with the ability to slide inside on passing downs.
In this latest mock, Kiper has the Lions passing up other potential defensive line fits such as Boston College’s Harold Landry and Michigan’s Maurice Hurst, who is more polished than Bryan, but still carries concerns after an irregular EKG held him out of the combine.
Hurst recently competed at his pro day after being cleared by doctors at Michigan and Harvard.