Lions won't be deterred from drafting an undersized defender
Allen Park — Bigger, faster, stronger. That's what every NFL general manager is searching for when building their roster.
But not every college prospect checks those boxes, and as Detroit Lions' general manager Bob Quinn pointed out at his pre-draft press conference on Thursday, there are many defensive players in the upcoming draft class who are considered less than ideal in some facet.
"There’s a lot of defensive players in this draft that might not fit the exact model of the size, speed for each position," Quinn said. "But I think when you watch their film, they’re really good players. They might just be a little small for their respective positions."
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The job of a good general manager and coaching staff is to find ways to utilize that talent. And even though it's an extreme example, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has proven the best players aren't always going to fit the preconceived mold for their positions.
"This game nowadays in the NFL, it’s a third-down game," Quinn said. "It’s a sub-game, we’re in nickel defense 75 percent of the time. So, some of these guys that are a little bit smaller, you kind of have to step away and say, ‘What can they do on third down and what can they do on nickel defense,’ since we’re in it so much. I think it’s an important thing to kind of always sort of evolve as the league evolves."
The conversation on unconventional defensive players will need to begin as early as the first round for the Lions, when they could be looking at LSU linebacker Devin White or Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver as possible options with the No. 8 pick.
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The Lions have previously stated a preference for larger linebackers, but the 6-foot, 237-pound White makes up for his smaller frame with exceptional speed and coverage skills, which carries added value in the modern NFL where most teams pass more than they run the ball.
As for Oliver, he's following paths blazed by Donald and Geno Atkins, undersized but explosive interior linemen who are just as capable of winning matchups and disrupting the backfield with their quickness as their power.