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Film review: Scouting new Lions nose tackle Danny Shelton

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Over the next couple of weeks, we're planning on taking a closer look at several of the Detroit Lions' key offseason additions. We will watch tape from three 2019 games for each player and provide a brief scouting report to better familiarize you with the new additions prior to the 2020 season. 

Player: Defensive tackle Danny Shelton

Age: 26 (Aug. 20)

Measurables: 6-foot-2, 345 pounds, 32-inch arms, 34 bench press reps

Experience: A three-year starter at the University of Washington, Shelton was named a first-team All-American as a senior after he recorded 93 tackles (16½ for a loss), nine sacks and five fumble recoveries.

Shelton was selected in the first round of the 2015 Draft (No. 12 overall) by the Cleveland Browns. In three years with the team, he appeared in 46 regular-season games, including 44 starts. He quickly established himself as a solid run defender, but the pass-rush ability he showcased his final college season didn’t port to the pros.

After a coaching change, the Browns traded Shelton to the New England Patriots. He played a rotational role his first season, starting just once. He re-signed with the team for 2019 and arguably played the best football of his career, recording 61 tackles and three sacks in 16 games (14 starts).

Defensive tackle Danny Shelton signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Lions this offseason.

Tape studied: at Washington (Oct. 6), at Philadelphia (Nov. 17), at Houston (Dec. 1)


► Shelton obviously has the mass to handle banging around in the interior 25-40 snaps per game. He has an extremely powerful lower body, which isn't easily moved, even with the steady diet of double teams he sees each week. 

► The lower-body strength also helps him contribute as a pass rusher. He regularly showed the ability to push blockers backward into the quarterback's space. 

► Shelton isn't fazed by cut block attempts, stepping around and through the contact. Overall balance is above-average as Shelton rarely finds himself on the ground despite operating in areas of heavy traffic. 

► Although he hasn't had much success with the skill during his career, he consistently makes an effort to get a hand in the passing lane when his rush stalls. 


► Beyond an effective bull rush, Shelton has few other tools in his pass-rush tool box. His first step is average and he certainly doesn't have the quickness to spin out of blocks. Additionally, he rarely attempts any kind of swim, rip or swat while working with his hands. 

► Hardly surprising, given his lack of open-field speed, but Shelton isn't going to make many plays that aren't in his immediate vicinity. He offers almost nothing in backside pursuit. 

► Shelton struggled against elite competition. The Eagles rarely required double teams as three-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce consistently handled the one-on-one matchup with superior leverage and technique, surprisingly driving and/or sealing Shelton out of his run gap on multiple snaps. 

How he fits in Detroit: Shelton is unquestionably a two-down defensive tackle. If the Lions follow the Patriots' usage, the defensive tackle will rarely see the field on third downs longer than 2 yards, or any obvious passing situations on early downs, including two-minute drives. 

In terms of versatility, Shelter primarily lined up directly across the center (0-technique) or off the center's shoulder (1-technique). He was occasionally used as a 3-tech, between the guard and offensive tackle, but given his lack of pass-rushing prowess, it's not his ideal alignment. 

The easiest way to envision the role Shelton should play in Detroit is a direct replacement for Snacks Harrison, who was released earlier this offseason. Despite his pedigree as a former first-round pick, Shelton isn't nearly as good as Harrison was at his peak, but the new addition performed at a higher, more consistent level than Harrison did in Detroit a year ago.


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers