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5 Michigan football players the Detroit Lions could select in the 2019 NFL draft

Wolverines have several players expected to be taken in this week's draft

Zach Gentry, David Long and Chase Winovich could all be targets for the Detroit Lions in the 2019 NFL draft. (Getty Images)

DETROIT – The 2019 NFL draft is just days away, and there are a number of options on the table for the Detroit Lions at No. 8 overall.

Bob Quinn could play it safe and select a defensive lineman, make a splash with a quarterback or even trade down to acquire more picks. The Lions had a busy offseason and addressed several needs in free agency, giving them some flexibility when the draft begins.

The Lions haven't drafted many Michigan football players over the years, though they selected center Graham Glasgow and quarterback Jake Rudock in 2016. That could change this year, as the Wolverines have a handful of players who would fill needs.

Here's a look at five Michigan football players the Lions could select this week.

1. LB Devin Bush

Linebacker Devin Bush runs down a Maryland ball carrier (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images).

Michigan's top linebacker was already considered a first-round pick before the NFL combine, then he exploded up draft boards with his excellent measurables.

Detroit badly needs linebacker help. After using the No. 21 pick on Jarrad Davis in 2017, the Lions haven't selected another linebacker in the draft, and the position wasn't addressed in free agency.

Bush could end up being the best linebacker in this draft class. He has elite speed and sound tackling ability, as he showed by leading the Michigan defense with 79 tackles in 12 games.

In three seasons, Bush totaled 194 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks for Michigan, adding an interception and 15 passes defended. He's a playmaker, and the Lions desperately need someone like Bush in the middle of the defense.

As NFL offenses evolve to incorporate more speed and sideline-to-sideline action, Bush is the perfect centerpiece to a defense. His speed and instincts can't be taught.

Quinn would most likely have to stay at No. 8 or stay in that range to land Bush.

2. DE Chase Winovich

Chase Winovich celebrates during a game against Rutgers at HighPoint.com Stadium on Nov. 10, 2018, in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

Trey Flowers was the biggest free agent to join the Lions this offseason, but the defense still needs another disruptive end. That's Winovich's specialty.

During his final season at Michigan, Winovich picked up 17 tackles for loss and five sacks to give him a total of 44.5 tackles for loss and 18 sacks in his final three seasons. That type of production vaulted Winovich from special teams contributor to NFL-caliber defensive lineman.

The Lions have made a point of selecting high-character guys in the draft, and Winovich certainly fits that mold. He's got a nonstop motor and never takes plays off. He's got a chip on his shoulder and cares about winning.

Winovich would be a great fit across from Flowers.

Most experts believe Winovich will fall to the second round, so the Lions could possibly get him at No. 43 overall. Hypothetically, if the Lions selected Bush in the first round and Winovich in the second round, the defense would look much stronger heading into 2019.

3. TE Zach Gentry

Zach Gentry of the Michigan Wolverines makes a 25-yard reception for a first down against Markus Bailey of the Purdue Boilermakers to set up a 4th quarter touchdown in a game at Ross-Ade Stadium on Sept. 23, 2017. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

This feels like a perfect fit for Gentry and the Lions, both in terms of need and resources.

Detroit went into the offseason with a massive hole at the tight end position. They signed the best free agent tight end available in Jesse James, and that should give them even more flexibility to target a project tight end with high upside.

People in the area know Gentry's story. He came to Michigan as a four-star quarterback and was almost immediately switched to tight end. Jim Harbaugh caught some criticism for the move, but it's worked out for Gentry, who's expected to be on an NFL roster in September.

Since he's only been a tight end for a few years, Gentry is raw at the position. He's had issues with drops and route running, but he's also shown promise in those areas.

Most importantly, it's impossible to teach Gentry's size and athleticism. When he was catching the ball, he was one of Michigan's most important targets in the passing game. At 6-foot-8, Gentry would be one of the biggest tight ends in the league.

Since James is already tabbed as the No. 1 tight end for the Lions heading into next season, they can afford to chase upside and bank on Gentry improving and becoming a matchup nightmare at the NFL level.

If the Lions wanted to target one of the top tight ends in the draft, they would have to use a first- or second-round pick. There are plenty of other needs on this roster, so it would make sense to wait and take Gentry with a later pick. If he reaches his potential, he could end up being as productive as the others at a much lower cost.

Gentry is expected to be drafted in the sixth or seventh round, and the Lions have four picks in those rounds -- No. 184, No. 204, No. 224 and No. 229. Those late picks are lottery tickets, and the Lions should use one to take Gentry, just in case.

4. CB David Long

A.J. Taylor of Wisconsin can't come up with a catch defended by David Long on Oct. 13, 2018, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Lions have a franchise cornerback in Darius Slay, but they're still searching for someone to be the Robin to his Batman.

Everybody except the Lions knew that player would not be Teez Tabor, but they still saw fit to use a second-round pick on the Florida corner in 2017. Last year, safety Tracy Walker was the only secondary player selected by the Lions.

Justin Coleman signed with the Lions this offseason to be the richest nickel cornerback in the NFL, but the Lions could still use more help out wide.

Long was arguably the best cornerback in college football last season, posting the lowest opponent quarterback rating when targeted and fewest yards per play when targeted, according to Pro Football Focus.

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown puts his cornerbacks on islands in order to get pressure on the quarterback, and Long was up to the challenge, dominating his one-on-one matchups.

At 5-foot-11, Long doesn't have great size for a cornerback, and that's why he's falling to the third round, according to most experts. If the Lions could get him with No. 88 overall, it would bolster a secondary that already looks pretty strong.

5. DE Rashan Gary

Rashan Gary of the Michigan Wolverines is congratulated after a sack during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Michigan Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan beat Cincinnati 36-14. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

One of the most polarizing draft prospects of the year took another hit Tuesday, as reports emerged that Gary might be dealing with another shoulder injury.

Gary was the anti-Winovich during his time at Michigan. The most talented player on the field pretty much whenever he played, Gary's abilities didn't always translate to production. He was a good pass rusher and run stopper, but not quite the dominant force many expected from the former No. 1 overall high school recruit.

That's not to say Gary shouldn't be a high first-round pick. His talent could make him the best defensive lineman in this class, and even when he wasn't stuffing the stat sheet, Gary was opening up lanes for Winovich and their fellow pass rushers.

He's a really good player with a high ceiling, but now, with possible injury concerns, it feels less likely the Lions would take him at No. 8 overall.

If Quinn finds a trade partner to move down in the draft, Gary would be a high upside pick later in the first round. He's a player every team would like to draft, but could also slide down the board Thursday if nobody's willing to take the risk.

If their first two picks stay at No. 8 and No. 43, it doesn't look like the Lions will land Gary. He's probably going to go somewhere in the middle of that range.

When healthy, though, Gary would give the Lions a terrifying defensive end combination when lined up across from Flowers.


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