Detroit Lions 2015 NFL Draft Watch: Combine Preview – Juniors Part 2
The Detroit Lions 2015 NFL Draft Watch 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.
Now that we’ve profiled senior prospects (more), it’s time to highlight additional players who caught my eye during the season as we head toward the combine. Today is the second of two installments of our focus on juniors who are invited to the combine.
Melvin Gordon #25, RB – Wisconsin
While it would be surprising to many if the Lions took a running back in the first round, Mayhew’s best player available draft philosophy keeps Gordon in the mix. Gordon burst onto the national scene this season when he (temporarily) broke the FBS single game rushing record with 408 yards against Nebraska. The Kenosha, Wisconsin native finished his senior season with an astounding 2587 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns.
The 6-1, 213 lb. running back boasts adequate size, however NFL scouts will note that prospects with similar high-cut frames have been susceptible to injury as they tend to run upright, exposing their frame. Comparable in style to Jamal Charles, Gordon is a gliding runner with exceptional flexibility and body control. He has good vision, is instinctive, works off blocks well, and exhibits rare acceleration traits. When the hole opens, Gordon exhibits the ability to stick his foot in the ground and punch through with the burst to separate from second level defenders. Though he possesses average power, he consistently fights hard for yards after contact. Gordon will likely be a late first day selection.
Andrus Peat #70, OT – Stanford
The athletic left tackle from Stanford has started the last two seasons for the Cardinals, earning numerous All-American accolades for his play in 2014. At 6-7, 316 lbs., Peat possesses ideal size and length for a starting NFL tackle, with the quick feet to shuffle and mirror defenders with ease in pass protection. Possessing a strong base and powerful upper body, Peat is capable of anchoring against the bull rush, though he does tend to play a bit upright at times and will need to continue to refine his technique.
Peat also showcases the ability to be effective in the run game, with the power to create movement as an in-line blocker and the mobility to hit second level targets in space. Overall, Peat has the necessary tools to play both tackle positions well at the next level. While there are areas for improvement in terms of technique, prospects with Peat’s size and athleticism don’t last past the first day.
Arik Armstead #9, DE – Oregon
Arik Armstead, a 6-8, 295 lb. senior defensive end for the Ducks, is hard to miss on defensive line. Not only does elite his size make him a standout, the former Oregon basketball player possesses rare movement skills for such a big man.
Deceptively explosive, Armstead consistently fires off the snap with the speed and leverage to gain instant leverage versus downhill run blocks. A push-pull defender, he uses long arms and powerful hands to stay off blocks and make plays. Armstead needs to continue to improve his pass rush arsenal and hand technique as he will often struggle finishing. Still players with his size and athletic ability are rare, even by NFL standards. The pay-off could be huge for an NFL team that is in need of defensive lineman and willing to gamble a bit. Armstead could likely play in either scheme, but his best fit would be as a five-technique in a 34 front.
Mario Edwards Jr. #15, DE – Florida State
NFL scouts are always left playing catch-up on juniors, but it’s hard to miss prospects who have performances like Edwards did against Virginia this season. The defensive end for the Seminoles dominated the match-up against the Cavaliers with a career high nine tackles, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a sack. Despite missing a few games this season after a concussion and an MCL injury, Edwards finished with 44 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, three sacks, five passes broken up, and two forced fumbles on the season.
Known for his ability as a run-stopper, Edwards uses his large frame to set the edge and exhibits strong hands to shed blocks on contact. As a pass-rusher, power is the name of the game for Edwards. Though lacking the ideal flexibility and burst preferred to rush the blind side, Edwards’ ability to drive opposing linemen back and collapse the pocket as a bull-rusher would make him an effective base end in a 43 front. At 6-3, 294 lbs., Edwards could kick inside, but his ‘tweener’ traits makes him a bit of a project depending on scheme and fit.
Malcolm Brown #90, DT – Texas
In his second season as a starter, junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown emerged as one of the top defensive tackles in the nation. Brown’s productive 2014 campaign (62 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and six and half sacks) earned him consensus first team All-American honors and likely resulted in his decision to leave school early and enter the draft.
At 6-2, 320 lbs., Brown is a stout run defender who can anchor at the point of attack, slip blocks on contact and effectively clog the middle. While he lacks the first-step quickness of the premier pass-rushing defensive tackles in the game, Brown’s surprising agility and solid motor allow him to be disruptive against the pass as well.
Brown’s experience playing NT, DT and DE in 4-3 front, as well as NT and DE in a 3-4 make him a versatile prospect who can be productive in all facets of the game. The Brenham, Texas native will be a mid to late first day selection and has been a popular choice for Lions in recent mock drafts.
PJ Williams #26, CB – Florida State
Williams, another junior corner for the Seminoles, has a penchant for showing up big in big games, as evidenced by Defensive MVP performance in Florida State’s 2014 National Championship win over Auburn. Widely seen as one of the most consistent defensive backs in college football, Williams finished the 2014 season with 74 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one interception.
At 6-0, 196 lbs., Williams possesses not only ideal height and weight, but desired speed to start on the outside. At his best in Press, he uses strength and long arms to re-route receivers off the snap. Williams flips his hips with ease and showcases the ability to stay in a receiver’s hip pocket on vertical routes. An instinctive defender, Williams also looks to be a willing defender in run support. There is little not to like about the former Vanguard Knight four-star, who will likely be drafted in the range where the Lions are currently slotted to make their first round selection.
Landon Collins, #26, SS – Alabama
A stalwart on special teams over the early part of his college career, Collins enjoyed a break-out season his sophomore year after being pressed into action due to injury. The consensus five-star recruit and ESPNU’s number one safety coming out of high school, Landon played to form this season finishing the season with 90 tackles, three and a half tackles for loss and three interceptions.
At 6-0, 222 lbs., Collins has outstanding size for the position, yet possesses enough speed and fluidity to hold up in coverage. Stout against the run, Collins attacks the alley hard and is a solid open field tackler. The size/speed prospect also demonstrates a high football IQ in terms of both his read-react skills and the versatility to play both safety positions. If he’s on the board, the Lions will consider drafting him with the intent of replacing an aging Ihedigbo.