ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions addressed a need on the defensive line when thy drafted defensive end Austin Bryant in the fourth round (117th overall) to kick off Day 3 of the 2019 NFL draft today (Saturday).
The Lions traded the 111th pick to the Atlanta Falcons for picks 117 and 186. They had given up pick 184 on Friday to move up and draft safety Will Harris.
“It feels great to be a Lion,’’ Bryant said on a conference call shortly after the pick.
Bryant (6-foot-4, 271 pounds) is the third straight defensive player drafted by the Lions but the first on the line. Three of his Clemson defensive line teammates were drafted in the first round — Clelin Ferrell (Raiders), Christian Wilkins (Dolphins) and Dexter Lawrence (Giants).
Bryant was part of Clemson’s two-deep rotation for his entire career, finishing with 153 tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, 32 quarterback pressures, four pass breakups, two caused fumbles and an interception in 1,807 snaps over 51 games (29 starts).
In 2018 he earned most outstanding defensive player honors in the Cotton Bowl with three tackles for loss, including two sacks, among his six tackles against Notre Dame. In the national championship game against No. 1 Alabama he contributed three tackles, one for loss.
He tore a pec muscle in November and played through the season, undergoing surgery in January.
“Recovery is going well, I should be cleared here soon. I have a few more weeks left on my rehab but everything is coming along great,’’ Bryant said. “Shouldn’t be any setbacks, I’m ready to get to work.’’
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s analysis of Bryant: “Long-limbed base end with moldable potential as a rusher, but a lack of play strength and balance finds him on the ground way too often. Bryant offers potential as a rangy edge rusher with the length to separate and turn the corner, but he might not offer up enough rush talent to overcome his struggles in holding the point against the run. He has starter’s traits and backup talent, but he could end up as a future starter if he gets his strength right.”
Bryant had outstanding junior year, per NFL.com, and followed it up with another solid year in 2018 helping Clemson win a national title. He was third-team all-ACC with 44 tackles, 14.5 for loss and eight sacks.
He graduated in December with a degree in management.
In the first two days of the draft the Lions selected tight end T.J. Hockenson (Iowa) in the first round, linebacker Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii) in the second round and safety Will Harris (Boston College in the third round.