The Detroit Lions 2014 NFL Draft Watch List gives you college football players to watch who could be on the Lions’ radar next spring.
East-West Shrine Game – 4:00 p.m. (EST) – NFL Network
The East-West Shrine Game® is the longest running college all-star game in the country. Though it doesn’t attract the top talent of next week’s Senior Bowl, there is plenty of NFL caliber talent in the East-West. In fact, more than 100 players from last year’s game signed with professional football teams in 2013.
Here are some prospects to watch in this year’s game:
Jeremy Gallon (#80), WR – Michigan
U of M fans will be familiar with the diminutive receiver who had a big season for the Wolverines, finishing with 89 receptions for 1373 yards (eighth in FBS) and nine touchdowns. Gallon’s biggest issue is his lack of size (5-8, 189 lbs.), but he has potential as a slot receiver, showcasing nice quickness in and out of his breaks. Though he’ll struggle to beat press coverage, Gallon exhibits the ability to stretch the field (15.43 yards per catch average) when he gets a clean release and has excellent hands. He’s an underrated day three selection who could surprise.
Max Bullough (#44), ILB – Michigan State
Though the three year starter and two-time team captain was suspended for the Rose Bowl, there’s no denying his productive college career. The two time All-Big Ten First Team selection (2012 & 2013) has 299 career tackles in 53 games, including a team-high 40 consecutive starts and ranks 11th in MSU history with 30.5 tackles for loss and eight career sacks. Bullough is an extremely heady player who consistently reads keys and finds the football quickly. What he lacks in terms of elite speed, he makes up for with instincts and sound angles, showcasing the ability to run down ball carriers along the perimeter. He’s a bit stiff in the hips and may struggle to match up in coverage, but appears to have enough range to be effective on short crossers in underneath zone. His best fit is probably as an ILB in a 3-4 scheme, but he has the smarts, instincts and enough athletic ability to be a capable backup in a 4-3 scheme. Bullough has potential as a late day two selection for teams running a 3-4 scheme or early day three for a team running a 43 front.
Cassius Marsh (#93), DE – UCLA
The senior defensive end doesn’t get the attention of his heralded teammate Anthony Barr, but Marsh has enjoyed a solid career for the Bruins, with 13 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss and 149 tackles. Though he lacks elite explosiveness off the snap, he has good size (6-4, 268 lbs.) with a strong upper body and good hand play to stay off pass blocks. Marsh is most effective setting the edge versus the run, consistently playing with good leverage to anchor versus downhill run blocks. Perhaps his best attribute is his motor, which always runs hot – Marsh always gives top effort from snap to whistle. He’s a solid day three selection whose best fit would be as a LDE in a 4-3 scheme.
Gabe Ikard (#64), C – Oklahoma
Dominic Raiola is in his 13th season and the final year of a four-year contract. Though he played what may be the best season of his career, the Lions still need to start looking for a younger replacement in the draft or free agency. One such possibility is Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard, who has started 49 games along the offensive line for the Sooners, 18 at left guard and 31 at center. Despite lacking ideal size (6-3, 298 lbs.), Ikard was named All-Big 12 First Team in 2012 and 2013 by Coaches and AP and is a highly intelligent player both on and off the field, receiving his degree in May of 2013 with a 4.0 GPA. Ikard sets up quickly off the snap and utilizes sound angles and leverage to neutralize bigger defensive linemen. He’s light on his feet, moves to the second level quickly and looks natural in space. Most importantly, Ikard showcases the competitive attitude so necessary for an offensive lineman to be successful in the NFL. However, he will need time in an NFL strength program to add the necessary bulk and strength to anchor versus defensive linemen at the next level. Ikard is expected to be a day three selection.
Hakeem Smith (#29), SS – Louisville
Smith, a four year starter and four time all-conference selection, is one of my favorite “diamond in the rough” players heading into the 2014 draft. With 290 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 22 passes defensed and five forced fumbles, Smith has proven to be a consistent, productive and durable player in the Louisville secondary. At 6-1, 180 lbs., Smith is a bit on the light side, but is rangy with good movement skills and the speed to get to the sideline from deep alignment. Though he didn’t create a lot of turnovers over the course of his college career, his ball skills have steadily improved. Smith is a solid day three selection with some upside.
Devon Kennard (#42), LB/DE – USC
Kennard, who started at MLB his sophomore season and made the switch to defensive end for his junior year, returned to action after missing the 2012 season with a torn chest muscle. Coming into 2013, Kennard had 135 career tackles, including 13 tackles for loss and four sacks. He more than doubled that sack total (nine) during the 2013 season, where he also added 13 more tackles for loss. Though he possesses just average first-step quickness, Kennard plays with good leverage and enough power to set the edge versus the run. He uses quick hands and nice lateral fluidity to create disruption in the backfield. While he doesn’t possess ideal size (6-2, 250 lbs.), his experience at MLB allows him to hold up when dropping underneath in coverage. Lacking elite athletic characteristics, its Kennard’s intensity and effort that allow him to be a productive player. His best fit is probably at OLB in a 34 front; however, with added size he has potential as a rotational base end in a 4-3 scheme. He’ll be a mid-day three selection.