The Lions tied for the second fewest sacks in the NFL last season, then released their sack leader over the last two years in Devon Kennard. So they kind of sort of needed to add some pass rushers this offseason.
They signed Jamie Collins, who will help. Ditto Danny Shelton and Nick Williams. That trio accounted for 16 sacks in 2019, well more than half of Detroit's total. But entering the draft, the Lions' lack of playmakers off the edge remained a concern. Then Detroit spent its first two picks on CB Jeff Okudah and RB D'Andre Swift.
So they kind of sort of needed to add some pass rushers, uhm, soon.
Bob Quinn and the Lions had their eyes on a few at this point, one in particular. But they had little faith Notre Dame's Julian Okwara would be on the board when they picked again early in Round 3.
"We kind of went in saying, 'Listen, we love Julian as a player. He fits our scheme, we know his brother.' All that stuff kind of helped. But ultimately after we took Swift, we’re sitting there staring at him and we’re like, 'There’s no way. There’s no way in 32 picks he's going to be there,'" Quinn told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
Not that Okwara was the only player they were watching. "There were probably four or five that we really liked," said Quinn. Penn State's Yetur Gross-Matos, Iowa's A.J. Epenesa and Tennessee's Darrell Taylor come to mind. Fortunately, Okwara stayed on the board.
"I was getting nervous as the picks went off. We kept going back, 'Hey, Okwara’s still there. Okay, Okwara’s still there,'" Quinn said. "And then it was an easy send-in-the-pick when he was available."
In Okwara, the Lions are getting a long, athletic, twitchy player off the edge. He's said to have a higher ceiling than his brother Romeo, who led Detroit in sacks in 2018. They're also getting a confident player. A 'dominant player,' Okwara said after Detroit took him No. 67 overall.
"I love to win games," he said. "I’m looking forward to bringing a championship to Detroit."
We'll see about that.
What the Lions can count on for now is a jolt to their pass rush. Okwara might be the most important member of their draft class, considering the hole he can fill in today's NFL. While he likely won't be much of a factor against the run, he stands to make quarterbacks uncomfortable from the jump.
Which is why the Lions were quite comfortable picking him when they did.