Lions’ draft pick LB Julian Okwara joins brother Romeo in Detroit

Julian Okwara has always been competitive with his older brother, Romeo. Now the brothers will play on the same team in Detroit.

It was a nice touch, as the TV cameras showed the brothers hugging when Julian’s name was announced when the Lions selected him in the third round of Friday’s NFL draft.

At the NFL Combine in February, Julian said it would be great to play for the Lions because he could get free rent from his brother. 

“It’s awesome I’ve always dreamed about this, it’s a dream come true, I’m pretty much speechless, still letting it marinate. I’ll wake up tomorrow and let it set in,’’ Julian Okwara said on a conference call on Friday night. 

And, yes, he still plans on a year of free rent from Romeo.

Okwara, who played at Notre Dame just like his brother, was the 67th overall pick of the Lions on Friday night.

Edge rusher was one of the Lions’ biggest needs and Okwara (6-4, 248 pounds) should be able to step in. 

“They’re getting a relentless pass rusher, a great defensive end who wreaks havoc in the backfield. I’m looking forward to learning on and off the field,’’ Okwara said. “I’m a dominant player, I’m looking forward to bringing a championship to Detroit.’’

Athlon Sports had him slotted as the fifth best outside linebacker in the draft.

Athlon reported: “He flashes exceptional skills in the pass rush, with good get-off and the heavy, active hands to beat blocks and enough flexibility to turn once he’s softened the edge.’’

In nine games for the Irish in 2019 he had five sacks, seven quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.

His brother Romeo, a defensive end, was undrafted. He originally signed with the N.Y. Giants and was claimed off the waiver wire by the Lions on Sept. 5, 2018. He had 15 starts and led the Lions with 7.5 sacks. In 2019 he had one start in 14 games with 1.5 sacks.

Earlier on Friday night the Lions drafted running back D’Andre Swift (Georgia) in the second round (35th overall).

Later in the third round, the Lions drafted offensive guard Jonah Jackson (Ohio State).

Lions waive Anthony Zettel; awarded DE Romeo Okwara via waivers

Zettel had 6.5 sacks in 2017

In the past two years, Lions GM Bob Quinn has proven that he is not shy about dumping his own draft picks.

It happened again on Wednesday when Quinn waived defensive end Anthony Zettel who was a sixth-round pick in Quinn’s first draft class in 2016.

The Lions were awarded DE Romeo Okwara via waivers from the New York Giants. Okwara, 23, played in six games for the Giants in 2017 due to a knee injury and finished with no sacks. As a rookie he played in all 16 games with four starts and one sack. He was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2016.

In 2016 with Kerry Hyder out, Zettel started all 16 games and was second in sacks (6.5) only to Ziggy Ansah (12).  As a rookie he played in 13 games with no starts.
Zettel, who is from West Branch, Mich., was listed as Hyder’s backup on the depth chart released this week.

In the final game of the 2017 season, the defensive line starters were Zettel, Ansah, A’Shawn Robinson and Akeem Spence who was traded to the Dolphins in May. Ricky Jean Francois and Sylvester Williams are expected to start at defensive tackle with Robinson as a backup. Hyder and Ansah will start at defensive end.

The Lions open the season on Monday night against the New York Jets.