With the loss of 3 defensive tackles this offseason and the addition of only two, the Detroit Lions are likely in the market for one. With two of their three defensive tackles on one year contracts, I would expect them to take one in one of the first two rounds. The pre-draft visits that the Lions have had thus far also seems to indicate that they will take one early. Mario Edwards Jr was one of their pre-draft visits which is part of why I have chosen to profile him here.
Edwards played defensive end in college, and according to CBSsports.com, is listed as a defensive end. The Lions list him as a defensive lineman and mockdraftable.com lists him as a defensive tackle. Either way you look at it, the Lions are seeing Edwards’ flexibility as a reason to be interested in him. They question we have to ask is where would they play him? The Lions have several defensive ends under contract already, and very few defensive tackles, which leads me to believe they like him as a defensive tackle. The problem with that is his size which I will look at below.
Mario Edwards Jr stands at 6’3′ and weighs 279lbs. He is arguably too small to play defensive tackle but perfect size for a defensive end. It is not out of the question though that the Detroit Lions ask him to gain 11 pounds and play as a light pass rushing defensive tackle at 290lbs. He could easily add clean weight in the weight room during the offseason to get to that point. They could also just play him as a situational defensive tackle. The interesting thing though is that Martin Mayhew spent some time at Florida State scouting and there are several good prospects there. He could have been scouting one player, and liked what he saw from Edwards.
Mario Edwards posted great numbers at the combine for a defensive tackle.As a defensive end, they could have been better but as a defensive tackle he looks good. Below are his combine numbers.
|40 Yard Dash
||3 Cone Drill
||20 Yard Shuttle
As you can see above, Edwards has good speed for a defensive tackle. By comparison, Nick Fairley had a similar 40 time to what Edwards had. Edwards’ bench press numbers are equally as impressive as the best at this years combine was 37, meaning Edwards’ 32 is among the best. The most impressive is his broad jump. His 120 inch broad jump shows that he has incredible power in his legs and is very explosive, two features that the Lions desperately need with Ndamukong Suh leaving town this offseason.
The people at mockdraftable.com have a nice breakdown of where prospects rank based on individual combine numbers to other players at their position both in this class and in other classes. Edwards actually ranks quite well against this year’s class. He is in the 99th percentile for his broad jump, and he ranks in the 96th percentile for both his 40 yard dash and his hand size. He is comparable to Sheldon Richardson, Tank Johnson, and Lamarr Houston.
Edwards uses his hands and arms well to keep blockers at a distance, allowing him to both maintain vision and shed blocks quickly. He has an explosive first step and has a powerful upper body that allows him to get to the quarterback. Edwards also have very good acceleration and patience as a rusher. Some of his weaknesses limit his pass rush, though are correctable at the next level. He is very slow off the ball, routinely mistiming the snap. He plays with poor pad level and takes bad angles in his rush. He only has one pass rush move, which is a power rush. He is very raw, but has plenty of room to grow. Due to his flexibility on the defensive line, he is projected as a second or third rounder but could slip in the draft in favor of more polished players. NFLDraftScout.com’s Derek Stephens thinks that Mario Edwards Jr is best suited as a 3-4 defensive end or a 4-3 defensive tackle.
Given all that we have seen, Edwards could be an excellent addition to the Detroit defensive line, provided that he is coached to get a better jump on the snap and develops better pass rush moves. His ability as both a run stopper and pass rusher allow the Lions to plug him in and let him go, as opposed to substituting him in and out during passing downs or expected run plays. He sounds like a Jason Jones type of player as Jones can play both tackle and end and is well rounded in both run stopping and pass rushing. If Martin Mayhew selects an offensive lineman in round one, it would be easy to see him target Edwards in round two or three, depending on how the draft plays out.