The Detroit Lions 2015 NFL Draft Watch List gives you college football players to watch each who could be on the Detroit Lions’ radar next spring, with a particular focus on positions of need.
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USC (#20) vs. Utah (#19)
10:00 pm EST – Fox Sports 1
Leonard Williams (#94), DE – USC
The 2013 All-American is likely to be one of the highest rated players on NFL draft boards next spring. AT 6-5, 300 lbs., Williams’ prototypical size, along with his rare combination of quickness and power, provides him with the versatility to play either the three technique (4-3 pass rush defensive tackle) or five technique (3-4 defensive end). Voted USC’s Defensive Lineman of the Year for his play in 2013, Williams finished his sophomore season with five sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and 73 total tackles, which is ridiculously high for a defensive lineman.
Through seven games this season, Williams has amassed 45 tackles, five tackles for loss, four and a half sacks and one interception. The superfluous number of tackles is testament to the high level of intensity with which Williams plays the game. He’ll be gone by the time the Lions are on the board, but number 94 is one to watch nonetheless.
Hayes Pullard (#10), ILB – USC
The Lions are always looking to infuse leadership into the organization, and the redshirt senior from USC would fill that role quickly. A four year starter, two-time team captain and leader both on and off the field, Pullard would be able to provide immediate production for the Lions. He’s instinctive and studies film hard so he can read, react and consistently get a jump on the play. Though he’s a bit light to play inside at 6-1, 235 lbs., Pullard has sideline to sideline range and adequate cover skills to play outside.
He’s proven to be productive, finishing 2013 with a team-high 94 tackles, five and a half tackles for loss an one interception. He hasn’t been asked to rush the passer much, but possesses the acceleration and burst to be productive in this regard. At worst, you’re getting a solid, versatile back-up who can produce on special teams. At best, you’re getting a Deandre Levy type player who may end up outplaying his draft status. The Lions may look Pullard’s way when seeking linebacker depth on draft day
Nate Orchard (#8), DE – Utah
At 6-4, 255 lbs., Orchard is a bit of a “tweener” in that he’s on the light side to play defensive end in a 4-3 and lacks the experience in coverage to make a quick conversion to OLB. There’s still a lot to like about the senior captain for the Utah Utes, though. For starters, Orchard can flat-out rush the passer. In only six games, his 10.5 sacks is second best in all of FBS (four of which came against #25 ranked UCLA), while his 13 tackles for loss ranks third best.
Although he needs to add size and strength to help convert speed to power, many of his sacks are made on second effort. Orchard has potential to enter the league as a situational pass rusher in a 4-3 or the potential to play outside in a 34 front.
Eric Rowe (#18), DB – Utah
The Lions need help in the secondary and like their safeties big and fast – Eric Rowe fits the bill in both regards. At 6-1, 201 lbs., Rowe has good size and 4.39 speed. In addition to his stellar measureables, the senior safety has loads of experience under his belt, entering his fourth season as a starter.
The productive defender has amassed 232 total tackles over the course of his career, showing the versatility to play both corner and safety. A heady defender with size and speed, Rowe could end up surprising at the next level.