The Detroit Lions’ 2014 NFL Draft Watch List gives you college football players to watch who could be on the Lions’ radar next spring.
BCS Championship: Auburn vs. Florida State – 8:30 p.m. (EST) – ESPN
Here are prospects to watch for in tonight’s match-up:
Kelvin Benjamin (#1), WR – Florida State
With the help of star quarterback Jameis Winston, the redshirt sophomore enjoyed a breakout season, finishing with 50 receptions for 957 yards. At 6-5, 234 lbs., Benjamin has rare size, making him a dangerous red zone threat as evidenced by his 14 touchdowns. Benjamin has deceptive speed with outstanding body control and hand-eye coordination. He showcases strong hands with the ability to pluck the ball from the air and uses his size well to shield defenders in traffic and downfield. Should he decide to come out early, a prospect with Benjamin’s size would present an intriguing option for the Lions on day two.
Lamarcus Joyner (#20), CB – Florida State
One of my favorite prospects heading into the 2014 draft, versatility is also the name of the game for Joyner, who after starting 27 consecutive games at strong safety, transitioned to cornerback for his final season at Florida State. At 5-8, 195 lbs., Joyner lacks the size the Lions are looking for in a cornerback prospect, but he plays big on game day. Joyner finished the season with 64 tackles, six and a half tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions. His excellent instincts and high motor play allow him to be a productive player in spite of his size limitations. In addition to his role as a leader in the secondary, Joyner brings added value as one of the top kick returners in FSU history. Joyner is a likely late day two selection who should be a solid nickel defender and special teams contributor.
Telvin Smith (#22), OLB – Florida State
An underappreciated defender due to his lack of size (6-3, 218 lbs.), Smith had a breakout year in his first season as a starter. With 75 tackles, nine and a half tackles for loss and two sacks, Smith also proved his ability to hold up in coverage by notching three interceptions. Though he struggles holding up versus downhill run blocks if he allows offensive linemen to get inside his frame, Smith would thrive in the Lions’ system where he’s protected up front and free to flow to the ball. He has excellent speed with sideline-to-sideline range and the fluidity to match up with most backs in coverage. Certainly he’ll need to add size and strength to hold up versus stronger ball carriers at the next level, but outstanding athleticism allows him to stay on the field on passing downs, which is critical in today’s NFL. The team that ends up taking a chance on Smith may end up getting a draft day bargain if he responds well to an NFL strength program. I would take a chance on him in the third round, but he will likely go later due to his lack of size.
Bryan Stork (#52), C – Florida State
Senior center Bryan Stork has the versatility teams are looking for, having also spent time at guard and tackle during his 32 career starts. A former high school tight end in a primarily run-based offense, Stork has quick enough feet to be adequate in pass protection, though he does show some stiffness in the hips and struggles to re-direct versus counter moves. At 6-4, 311 lbs., Stork has decent size and is an effective positional run blocker, but doesn’t dominate the head-up defender. However, his experience, versatility and smarts will allow him to make a club as a valuable swing-man with the potential to start if he can continue to refine his technique.
Christian Jones (#7), LB – Florida State
Senior Christian Jones leads a talented line-backing core for the Seminoles. Jones finished the 2013 season with 49 tackles, seven and a half tackles for loss and two sacks. A versatile defender, Jones has experience at both SLB and WLB and played MLB this season. At 6-4, 235 lbs., Jones is a bit slight, but has excellent length which helps him blanket tight ends down the field in coverage. Though he struggles getting off blocks at times, Jones possesses above average speed with good range and the fluidity to pick up running backs releasing out of the backfield. A durable prospect who has been a three-year starter at multiple positions, Jones is a solid day two selection.
Dee Ford (#30), DE/OLB – Auburn
Despite being undersized, Ford has been productive for the Tigers off the edge, finishing with eight and a half sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. Undersized (6-2, 240 lbs.), Ford gets the job done with his outstanding quickness of the snap and explosive burst to close. While he struggles converting speed to power, he showcases quick hands to keep offensive linemen from getting inside his frame and is a high motor player who makes plays on second effort. While his lack of bulk prevents him from being able to anchor well versus the run, Ford’s explosiveness makes him an intriguing option as a situational pass rusher. He probably fits best as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme and will rank as a second day prospect on the draft boards of teams that run that defense. However, he would be a solid choice on day three for a 4-3 team looking for speed off the edge.
Chris Davis (#11), CB – Auburn
A two year starter at cornerback, Davis is best remembered for his stunning 108 yard touchdown run off a missed field goal to hand Auburn the victory in this year’s Iron Bowl. He finished the season with 69 tackles and 13 passes broken up. He possesses decent size (5-11, 200 lbs.), with nice burst and acceleration out of his breaks when breaking on the ball from zone. Davis also exhibits fluid change of direction with the ability to mirror receivers in and out of their breaks on underneath routes, though he will need to time well at the combine to prove he has the long speed to stay with vertical threats downfield. Davis’ immediate value to a team will be as a punt returner, where this season he utilized his outstanding vision and elusiveness to finish with a 20.14 average, second best in all of FBS. An early day three selection, if Davis can run below a 4.5, he may creep into the second day due to his special teams ability and intangibles.