The new Detroit Lions regime has made its philosophy clear when it comes to the draft -- build in the trenches and build the defense.
The top three draft choices for the Lions were centered around building the trenches, with the team selecting either offensive or defensive linemen with each pick. Overall, four of Detroit's seven selections were focused on the defensive side of the ball. One of those selections was 2020 opt-out and defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, out of the University of Washington.
There is no question the Lions have got to improve on stopping the run this season, after ranking 28th a year ago. And that all starts with the interior of the defensive line. It is not the most glamorous of positions, but it is one of the most needed, if Detroit has any hope of stopping opposing running backs.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell wanted to make the interior of the defensive line his own, and he did that. starting with Onwuzurike in the second round. He is neither spectacular against the run or the pass -- seven sacks in three seasons in college. But, he brings a presence to the field.
DT Levi Onwuzurike - 6-foot-3, 288 pounds
Grade: C+ (average)
Film reviewed: (2019) Washington State, California
A physically strong defensive tackle with a leaner frame. Can push the pocket, and can make tackles laterally once the back reaches the line of scrimmage. Longer-looking arms. In pass-rushing situations, he does not have any pure explosiveness at the point of attack. He does show a lot of strength in his arms, and he can extend and lock out. And, by doing so, he can get a solid legitimate push into the pocket. But, he is just not beating the blocks against college level competition. Pushes himself around. Draws some double teams, and at least makes the pocket more uncomfortable for the opposing quarterbacks. By no means is he a guy who can get to the quarterback often -- and in time. Body movements look kind of slow and sluggish, as he works against blockers. He does not even apply legitimate pressure to hurry passes. Just a push into the pocket.
Against the run, he battles, and sometimes is able to come off the block and make a strong tackle laterally once the back is near him at his level. He is not the type of player who is going to blow things up in the backfield. A guy who is more of a force against the run -- 79 tackles the past two years at the University of Washington.
When I compared Onwuzurike to Detroit's third-round selection, DT Alim McNeill, I much preferred McNeill, and I believe he will have a much more productive career.
When I watched him on film, he honestly looked more like a fourth-rounder. There is just nothing "special" or dominant-looking about him that stands out -- not his size, not his average college statistical production and not what he showed on film to justify being a pick in the second round.
I cannot see him going into an even higher level of competition and doing better. If anything, it will be more of a struggle. I mean he can stand his ground, but the Lions need a lot more than that out of a player that they selected that high in the draft.