The Detroit Lions 2015 NFL Draft Watch List gives you college football players to watch who could be on the Detroit Lions’ radar this spring, with a particular focus on positions of need.
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Senior Bowl – Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 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 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.
1. Preston Smith (#91 ), DE – Mississippi State – SOUTH
The 6-6, 270 lb. senior defensive lineman for Mississippi State was relatively unheard of prior to this season, but has become known for wreaking havoc in the backfield. Smith has always been solid against the run, however he’s flashed the athletic ability to even drop into coverage this season, which provides defensive coordinators with versatility. He tallied one touchdown, two interceptions, 48 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, nine sacks, two pass breakups, 15 QB hurries, two forced fumbles, and two blocked kicks during the 2014 season.
Smith made history this past season by being named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week three straight times, a feat never before accomplished and his best football may still be ahead of him.
2. Eric Rowe (#18), DB – Utah – NORTH
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 260 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.
3. Lorenzo Mauldin (#94), OLB – Louisville – SOUTH
Lorenzo Mauldin, the 6-4, 252 lb. former defensive end who switched positions to linebacker when Louisville went to a 3-4 offense this past season, had been turning heads in the ACC. Mid-way through the 2014 season, CBS Sports’ Jerry Hinnen even included him in his top five rankings for the Heisman Trophy.
Last season, the pass rusher was ranked #19 nationally in sacks, having accumulated nine and a half for 2013. In 2014, Mauldin had 51 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, six and half sacks, and 11 QB hurries. Had he not been plagued by a hamstring injury toward the end of the season, he most likely would have surpassed his sack record from the previous year.
4. Laken Tomlinson (#77), OG – Duke – NORTH
The Jamaican native didn’t step onto a football field until high school, though his size, work ethic and leadership qualities resulted in multiple scholarship offers upon graduation. Tomlinson, one of five active ACC players to have earned both first team All-ACC and All-Academic honors, will no doubt bring more to a team than just on-field skills. Durable and tough, Tomlinson has started 51 consecutive games, helping the Blue Devils score 390 points this year, the third most in program history.
He has anchored an offensive line which lead the country in fewest tackles for loss per game allowed with just 3.15. The unit had surrendered just 13.0 sacks, tied for the 8th fewest in the nation. The 6-3, 320 lb. Tomlinson has everything you’re looking for in an offensive lineman: size, experience, smarts and toughness and will likely end up starting at the next level for years to come.
5. Nate Orchard (#99), DE – Utah – NORTH
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 2014, his 19 sacks were second best in all of FBS (four of which came against #25 ranked UCLA), while his 21 tackles for loss ranks fifth 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.
6. David Cobb (#37), RB – Minnesota – NORTH
Cobb has been a durable and productive back for the Gophers over the two seasons, and his 1,626 yards (single-season record) and 13 touchdowns (tied for third most in a season) were a big reason for Minnesota’s 8-4 season. In a year where Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah stole the spotlight in the Big Ten, Cobb quietly rolled up 145 yards and three touchdowns against D-IA semifinalist Ohio State.
Although he lacks explosiveness, Cobb is a physical runner with good size (5-10, 220 lbs.) who is surprisingly fluid for a big back. He showcases nice vision and enough elusiveness to slip initial defenders and consistently picks up tough yards after contact. In a draft class that’s filled with talented running backs, Cobb will likely end up being a late second day-early third day steal.
7. Senquez Golson (#21), CB – Ole Miss – SOUTH
One of my favorite prospects leading up to the 2015 draft, Senquez Golson will no doubt drop down several rounds due to his size (5-8, 178 lbs.). However, the diminutive cornerback played much bigger than his size in a big-time conference, proving he has what it takes to make it at the next level. An absolute ball-hawk, Golson led the SEC and finished second nationally with a school record-tying 10 interceptions this season. An explosive athlete with the quick feet and agility to blanket receivers all over the field, Golson would excel working from the slot. His size may drop him off of some team’s draft boards entirely, but Golson has the skill-set to outplay his draft status at the next level.