NFL draft: Would Michigan's Rashan Gary be a good fit for the Detroit Lions?

Edge rusher among many of Lions' draft needs

Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary lit up the NFL combine this week. (Getty Images)

DETROIT – The NFL Combine has come and gone, and now the draft is only seven weeks away.

After a bad 5-11 season under first-year coach Matt Patricia, the Detroit Lions will have the eighth overall pick in this year's draft. They have a long list of needs, including linebacker, edge rusher and tight end.

One of the players being projected to the Lions frequently is Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary, who was one of the standouts at the Combine.

The 6-foot-4, 277-pound Gary ran an impressive 4.58-second 40-yard dash, ripped off 26 bench press reps, got 38 inches on his vertical jump and covered 120 inches on his broad jump. He finished the three-cone drill in 7.26 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle run in 4.29 seconds.

Defensive lineman Rashan Gary, of Michigan, checks his time after running the 40-yard dash during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2019, in Indianapolis. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In all, the Combine showed us what we already knew: Gary is an elite athlete with a rare combination of size and speed.

It's no surprise Gary is a projected top-10 pick after being the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the 2016 recruiting class. As a five-star out of Plainfield, New Jersey, Gary was coveted by every major program in the nation, eventually picking Michigan over Clemson and Auburn.

Nobody has a higher ceiling than Gary among NFL draft prospects, but is he a good fit for the Lions?

Throughout his college career, the stigma around Gary was that he was an excellent player who didn't quite translate his abilities into elite production. But anyone who watched Michigan football on a regular basis could see how he affected the No. 1 defense in the country.

He finished his career with 10.5 sacks, 24 tackles for loss and 137 total tackles in three years. Though the massive sack expectations never quite formulated, Gary was regularly facing double teams and opening up opportunities for teammates, such as Chase Winovich, Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson, to clean up in the backfield.

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)

The Lions certainly need a dominant edge rusher, especially since Ezekiel Ansah is no longer part of the equation.

Romeo Okwara just signed a two-year deal, but the other starting spot is open with Ricky Jean Francois' future unclear. Detroit has some skill at defensive tackle -- led by Damon Harrison and A'Shawn Robinson -- but Gary would complete a solid defensive line.

The Lions have a history of selecting high-ceiling defensive linemen early in the first round. They took Ansah with the No. 5 pick in 2013, Nick Fairley with the No. 13 pick in 2011 and Ndamukong Suh with the No. 2 pick in 2010.

Gary will be a good fit wherever he lands, but he perfectly fits the mold of the type of player Bob Quinn has targeted during his time in Detroit.

Gary has never had off-the-field issues and he was a leader in the Michigan locker room. He's a safe pick who will almost certainly start from the get-go as a rookie, and he's a star in the trenches.

Sound familiar? Yeah, that's the new Lions way.

There are plenty of different ways the Lions could go with the No. 8 pick, and several high-level edge rushers available at the top of the draft.

If it's Gary who goes to Detroit, it won't be a surprise. He's the type of reliable, good character player Quinn likes, and if that potential evolves into production in the NFL -- which many people expect -- the Lions will get one of the best players in the draft at a position of need.

Then again, they could just pick a tight end.


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