The Detroit Lions 2014 NFL Draft Watch List gives you college football players to watch who could be on the Lions’ radar next spring.
Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State – 8:00 p.m. (EST) – FOX
Here are four prospects to watch for in tonight’s match-up:
Justin Gilbert (#4), CB – Oklahoma State
An experienced cornerback in a pass-heavy conference, Gilbert entered his senior year with 26 straight starts under his belt and an impressive special teams’ resume. His 2012 season was especially productive, with 63 tackles (fourth on the team) and a team-high nine pass break-ups, which put him in the top ten in the Big 12. Perhaps even more remarkable was his production as a kick returner, where he owns the OSU record and is tied for the Big 12 record with five career kickoff returns for touchdowns and is second all-time at OSU and in the Big 12 Conference’s top 10 with 2,228 kickoff return yards (26.5 average). At 6-0, 200 lbs., Gilbert has the size and strength to hold up vs. bigger receivers, yet possesses surprising fluidity for a taller cornerback. Though he’s a little tight coming out of breaks when playing off the LOS, Gilbert is physical in press and showcases decent recovery speed when asked to turn and run. In terms of ball skills, his turnover productivity dipped in 2012 after a five INT 2011 season; however, he’s instinctive and does a good job of attacking the ball in the air, pulling in six interceptions this season. Assuming he times well at the combine, Gilbert will likely be a first round prospect and someone who will certainly be on the Lions’ radar screen.
Michael Sam (#52), DE – Missouri
One of my favorite prospects this season; Sam has enjoyed a breakout year with 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, placing him among the top ten in college football for both categories. With only ten career starts coming into the year, Sam’s play has earned him recognition as a finalist for the Lombardi, Nagurski and Hendricks awards. At 6-2, 255 lbs., Sam lacks prototypical length and bulk for the position, but is able to overcome his lack of ideal measureables with a quick first step and high effort play. Even more impressive, given his lack of size, is his productivity versus the run, where he showcases the upper body strength and arm length to keep opposing linemen from getting inside his frame. Though he may be smallish and not test well at the combine, you can’t overlook his productivity in a big time conference. Sam is probably a day two selection and the kind of prospect who could end up overplaying his draft value at the next level.
Kony Ealy (#47), DE – Missouri
Should he decide to leave school early for the draft, Sam’s counterpart at defensive end, Kony Ealy, will likely be drafted higher (first round) due to his prototypical size (6-5, 275 lbs.). A former All-State basketball player in high school, Ealy exhibits outstanding athleticism for a big man, with surprising quickness off the snap and an explosive close to finish on the QB. His size allows him to set the edge versus the run and he generally gives good effort in backside pursuit, though you would expect a prospect with his measurebles to play a bit more physical. While he probably would benefit from staying in school for another year to improve his hand technique, Ealy’s rare combination of size and speed provides him the versatility to play multiple positions along the line.
L’Damian Washington (#2), WR – Missouri
With a reported 4.39 forty-yard dash and 6-3, 195 lb. frame, Washington fits the trending mold of size/speed receivers coming into the league. Washington is versatile, having started at both the X and Z receiver spot and has explosive, big-play ability as evidenced by his 19.3 yards per reception average and nine touchdowns. Because he hasn’t put up gaudy stats for the duration of his college career, Washington is a day three selection with upside.