Detroit Lions 2014 NFL Draft Watch List: Senior Bowl Defensive Prospects


Dec 21, 2013; Albuquerque, NM, USA; Washington State Cougars safety Deone Bucannon (20) returns an interception in the second quarter against the Colorado State Rams during the Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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 conduct interviews and watch the practices leading up to the game.. 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 defensive prospects at positions of need for the Lions to watch in this weekend’s game:

Chris Davis (#11), CB – Auburn

A two year starter at cornerback, Chris 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.

Deone Bucannon (#20), SS – Washington State

The AP First Team All-American senior safety led the Pac-12 Conference with 109 tackles, tied for fourth in the conference with five interceptions and added three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Durable, experienced and ultra-productive, Bucannon is the NCAA’s active leader in career solo tackles, tied for second in career interceptions and fifth in career tackles. At 6-1, 200 lbs., he has excellent size and the striking power to deliver game changing hits on ball carriers. He’s also instinctive, possessing good ball skills as evidenced by his 14 career interceptions. If he tests well at the combine, Bucannon could be an early second day selection.

Ahmad Dixon (#6), SS – Baylor

The third year starter, returning two-time All-Big 12 honoree, All-America and Thorpe Award candidate moved back to safety for his senior year after starting at nickel back for the last two seasons. Dixon’s outstanding speed (4.39) gives him the ability to get to the sideline from one-deep alignment, and he possesses the quick feet and fluidity cover receivers all over the field. At 6-0, 205 lbs., Dixon has the size to bang around inside the box and has proven to be a physical, reliable tackler, with 207 career tackles entering 2013. Smart, aggressive, experienced, tough and fast, Dixon has all the necessary attributes to be a very good starter at the next level and is a likely day two selection.

Jimmie Ward (#15), FS – Northern Illinois

The extremely productive Ward has been flying under the radar playing in the MAC conference, but scouts are buzzing about his potential. A three year starter, Ward has 320 career tackles, 26 passes defended and eleven interceptions. At 5-11, 192 lbs., Ward is a bit on the small side, but it’s his ability in coverage that makes him such an intriguing prospect. Ward showcases the fluid hips and quick feet to play tight man coverage on receivers in and out of their breaks or close quickly when playing zone. He has the speed and range to hold up in single high or two deep, and he possesses impressive ball skills, as evidenced by his eleven career picks. Though it would be nice to see a bit more consistency from him versus the run, he clearly has the tackling skills to be productive in this regard if he can clean up his technique. Ward is a solid day two selection with the ability to contribute on special teams immediately and become a starter early in his career.