Detroit Lions 2016 Draft Overview: Defensive End

In this series, I’ll be looking at five college players that might get drafted by Detroit position-by-position, breaking down the positives and negatives of each player and projecting if Detroit were to take them, which round they would be taken in. The position I am looking at today is:

Defensive End

Coming into 2016, Detroit only has three defensive ends on its roster: Ziggy Ansah, Kerry Hyder and Devin Taylor. Jason Jones, Corey Wootton and Darryl Tapp are all unrestricted free agents and have yet to find a home. Bringing back Jason Jones would be big for Detroit as they would have three capable starters at the defensive end position. Tapp and Wootton didn’t do much, if anything in their time with the team last season. Detroit could be willing to not re-sign any of these guys and look for a fresh face in the draft, with Devin Taylor showing sparks last year of being a possible starter. Defensive end is not a big need for this team; with three players already under contract, they should only be looking for a guy or two to be a backup. Unless Jason Jones re-signs with the team, then Devin Taylor will be the starter on the opposite side of Ansah. Could Detroit take someone in the draft to help the defensive end position or will they look at free agency to fill this tiny hole? Let’s look at what Detroit could do in the draft.

Defensive End Options:

1. Bronson Kaufusi (BYU)

Bronson has some good handwork. He is able to knock down the blockers arms and break free for the sack. He uses a spin move that blockers just don’t know how to defend. He turns up the motor on run plays and charges really hard into the line of scrimmage to try and stop the play. He does however get sucked into the blocker and can’t get free when he is blocked on an angle. When he rushes the quarterback on the edge and gets free, he takes a longer corner turn than normal. He doesn’t quit on plays and will run down field to try and make the tackle, just like our beast defensive end Ziggy Ansah. Bronson had his best season in 2015, ending with 57 tackles, 18.5 for loss, 10 sacks, an interception, two pass deflections, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. His career at BYU was a good one, ending with 169 tackles, 42.5 for loss, 25.5 sacks, two interceptions, 14 pass deflections, six forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Bronson is projected to be a third/fourth round pick. Detroit could take him in the third round if they don’t plan on signing a free agent by the draft. Bronson wouldn’t start, but could be a good guy to bring in as a backup and on situation plays.

2. Jason Fanaika (Utah)

Jason has the smarts to come low off the snap and get leverage on the blocker. His go to move is the up and over as he moves his arms over the blocker, getting the quick advantage with it. When it comes to the point of attack, he can hold himself well. As a defensive end though, he is big and heavy. At the combine he was 271 pounds, seems more like a defensive tackle than an end. His weight had an affect on him, making him look sluggish at times and he took some plays off. When he is blocked and a ball carrier is incoming, he is able to stop the block and go right for the player with the ball. Once he gets past the blocker, he finds a way to finish the play. Fanaika only played for two years at Utah, ending with 105 tackles, 20 for loss, nine sacks, an interception, four pass deflections, a fumble recovery and three forced fumbles.

Detroit taking Fanaika in the fifth round would be a good pick. He does have the risk with the weight issue, but we can work with him and get him in shape. It could also be a big reason why we pass on him – look at Nick Fairley. I believe though that he could get drafted in the middle rounds, control his weight and be a good backup to any team.

3. Shawn Oakman (Baylor)

Talk about a tale of two different years. Shawn Oakman was the most talked about player in the Cotton Bowl in 2015 because of his size and many Big 12 fans and others already knew about him. He had a monster year in 2014, some saying he could be the next best defensive end in the draft. 2015 though, Oakman came back down to earth and had a disappointing season which saw him drop from a possible first round pick, to now a fourth round pick at best. Oakman has the size, being 6 foot 8, weighing 287 he is huge compared to other potential picks. He has powerful hands and with his massive arm length, he can create bull rushes easily. While he is huge, his upper-body is the only strong point in him. His legs are skinny and don’t have the power and strength like the rest of his body. He only knows how to bull rush, not do any other types like other defensive ends. Due to his height though, he is able to attempt to stop the running back on plays that go to the outside. If he can put the time and effort into becoming a better player, he could be a steal in the draft. Oakman finished his career at Baylor with 128 tackles, 46.5 for loss, 17.5 sacks, three pass deflections and fumble recoveries and eight forced fumbles.

Oakman in the fifth round is another good option for Detroit. He could be like Ansah, a raw type of guy who has the talent to be a good player, he just needs some help on the body a little bit. While he wouldn’t be a starter, if he improves and creates that strength in his legs and can be a better defensive end by learning different ways to attack etc. he could possibly start in the future.

4. Lawrence Thomas (Michigan State)

Athleticism is big for this defensive end. A former linebacker converted defensive end, Thomas has the motor to play on the line. Thomas has a strong lower body, and uses that to propel himself to finding the ball carrier and looks to take him down hard. He knows his upper body isn’t as strong and works at improving it. While he is a hard worker, he doesn’t produce much. His spin move doesn’t work to get free and when he rushes to get to the quarterback, he doesn’t seem to have a plan on what to do. Thomas is unselfish and does the dirty work so the linebackers can get in quicker. Thomas’ career at Michigan State ended with 72 tackles, 9.5 for loss, six sacks and pass deflections, and a fumble recovery.

Thomas falling to the sixth round is very possible and it would be a good spot to snag him up. He is going to have to improve his upper body though if he plans on playing in the NFL. Being athletic is nice as a defensive end, but if you don’t have the power with it, you just become a body on the field.

5. DJ Pettway (Alabama)

Pettway can strike the blocker with an upward blow. His bull rush has some power and punch in it with quick speed. He can read play action and zone reads well as his awareness is very good. While he does have power, he doesn’t have the athleticism to go with it. He didn’t play much in college, so not much is known about him as he was buried deep in the depth chart. When playing though he has powerful hands to control the edge. He can fill the middle of the road for the back, forcing them to go to the outside. Pettway ended with 48 tackles, 12.5 for loss, seven sacks, and five pass deflections in his career at Alabama.

Pettway in the seventh round could be a good pick. He would be a low risk pick in the seventh. Sure he hasn’t played much but taking him in the seventh and work him up to a number four spot on the depth chart, possibly number three in a few years and that pick looks like a great one. Worst comes to worst, he doesn’t work out and gets cut, not many seventh round picks make the team to begin with.

There you have it, another installment in this series. Next I will be looking at offensive tackles. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter@BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for myfantasysportstalk.com and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.