The Detroit Lions 2014 NFL Draft Watch List gives you college football players to watch who could be on the Lions’ radar next spring.
Senior Bowl – 4:00 p.m. (EST) – NFL Network
The Senior Bowl is the National Football League’s premier senior showcase event. It annually features the country’s best senior collegiate football players and top NFL draft prospects on teams representing the North and South that are coached by two NFL teams. Every NFL franchise sends down a heavy contingent of personnel evaluators and coaches to primarily watch the practices leading up the game and conduct interviews. The Lions are no exception and were key beneficiaries of the opportunity to coach the South squad in last year’s Senior Bowl, ultimately selecting participants Ziggy Ansah and Larry Warford.
Here are some prospects on the offensive side of the ball at positions of need for the Lions to watch in this weekend’s game:
Jordan Matthews (#87), WR – Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews, who has labored somewhat in obscurity on Vanderbilt, has been gaining national attention as of late and with good reason. The three year starter has been the most prolific receiver in SEC history, finishing his career with 262 receptions, 3759 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns. At 6-3, 206 lbs., Matthews possesses prototypical size and has proven durable, never having missed a game due to injury. Though he lacks the elite speed to consistently create separation on vertical routes, Matthews is a heady player who just finds a way to get the job done. He utilizes his big body well to shield defenders in traffic, and he also has the length to climb the ladder and out-muscle defenders on jump balls. Where Matthews excels is his ability to settle down in soft spots versus zone, presenting a large target for his QB with the reliable hands to consistently move the chains. While he may not have the tools to stretch the field vertically, Matthews has potential as a solid complementary receiver who can be had on day two.
Josh Huff (#1), WR – Oregon
Josh Huff enjoyed a breakout year in his final season at Oregon, finishing with 62 receptions for 1140 yards and 12 touchdowns. What really put Huff on my radar screen was his standout performance against Oregon State where he enjoyed career highs in receptions (nine), receiving yards (186 yards) and touchdowns (three). At 5-11, 211 lbs., Huff possesses a muscular, compact frame with the strength to beat press man. He showcases nice burst out of his breaks and the speed to separate on vertical routes. Perhaps most intriguing is the way he utilizes impressive body control and hand-eye coordination to make acrobatic catches versus tight coverage. Though he needs to improve his consistency and focus, Huff could surprise. He’s likely an early day three selection, but could work his way into the back end of day two if he times well at the combine.
Jared Abbrederis (#4), WR – Wisconsin
A former walk-on who started his college career as a QB on the scout team, you can’t help but root for a prospect like Abbrederis. Through hard work and smarts, Abbrederis has managed to rise from former walk-on to entering his senior season with a productive 2059 career receiving yards and 16 career touchdowns on his resume. He’s also an effective special teamer, with an 10.7 punt return average. Abbrederis enoyed a productive senior season with 78 receptions for 1081 yards and seven touchdowns. Though he lacks elite speed, he has enough quickness to get behind the secondary (as evidenced by his career average 15.5 yards per reception. Abbrederis uses quick footwork and crisp routes to create separation working underneath routes and has very reliable hands. For a team that will likely be on the lookout for receiving depth (again), Abbrederis provides a nice later round option.
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 51 games along the offensive line for the Sooners, 18 at left guard and 33 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.
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 39 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 redirect 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.