DETROIT — When the Lions watched college tape of their eventual first-round pick last year, Ziggy Ansah, another player kept jumping off the screen.
And when it came time to upgrade their defense Friday, the Lions made an aggressive move to bring that playmaker to Detroit.
The Lions traded up five spots early in the second round Friday to draft Kyle Van Noy with the 40th overall pick. They gave up second-, fourth- and seventh-round choices in the deal, and also got a fifth-rounder in return.
Ansah’s close friend and former roommate for road games, Van Noy finished his BYU career with 26 sacks and seven interceptions and should compete with Ashlee Palmer for the starting strongside linebacker job.
“This guy is very versatile, very productive,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. “When you put him on, he’s going to be chasing down ball carriers, he’s got a lot of range, makes plays on the ball in the passing game, sacks the quarterback. He’s just really, really productive and versatile. I think he’ll be a great fit for our defense.”
The Lions were looking for a pass-rushing linebacker to diversify their defense this year, and Van Noy has experience playing outside, in the middle and occasionally lined up on the defensive line during his time at BYU.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he expects Van Noy to be an immediate contributor both defensively and on special teams, and Austin called him “a three-down player.”
“When you look at being able to pressure from different parts of your defense and not always being static, you got to have some backers that have the ability to rush, and I think that’s what he does,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “He gives us that ability, so he can drop in coverage, he can rush, he’s not just a guy when you put him on the field you say, ‘OK, hey, he’s going to rush every time.’ That’s not going to be him. He gives us flexibility that way.”
After a 13-sack junior season playing alongside Ansah, Van Noy saw a dip in performance as a senior. He had just four sacks last year, but Austin said he was self-aware enough to know why his numbers dropped.
“The best players are usually the ones that can self-correct,” Austin said. “That way they know how to get out of slumps, what’s going bad for them, what’s going good and work and get better at it. So I think he’s well-aware of what he needs to do, and I think he will do it for us this year.”
Mayhew said the Lions had “three or four” players targeted at the start of the second round and began calling teams about trading up at the start of the day.
When they took Van Noy, Ansah texted Austin excitedly about the pick then called his good friend on the phone.
“(The call) started off with both of us laughing at each other, so that was a good sign,” Van Noy said. “And then he was just calling me teammate. He’s like a brother to me so it’s good to be back on the same team and be able to go to work and chase the Super Bowl together.”
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