I’m live in St. Petersburg this week to catch the practices for the 91st annual East-West Shrine Game. And while I’m evaluating talent on the whole, I can’t help but think of which players would look good in the Honolulu Blue and Silver.
Martin Mayhew often tapped the Shrine Game players in the middle and late rounds. Among those recent picks include:
- Devin Taylor
- Theo Riddick (as a wide receiver)
- Corey Fuller
- Nevin Lawson
- Larry Webster
- Michael Williams
- Chris Greenwood
Obviously that’s a hit-and-miss group of middle and late-round picks. That’s what the Shrine Game is all about, the third day of the draft and prime undrafted free agents signed immediately after the draft.
After two days of practices, these guys stood out as guys I think new GM Bob Quinn might gravitate towards. Quinn is not here, but new Director of Player Personnel Kyle O’Brien (whom I spoke with for a couple of minutes) and all the scouting staff have been in attendance.
With the First Pick
Siaosi Aiono, C, Utah–I’m a believer the Lions need to upgrade the interior offensive line, and it appears the new regime concurs. O’Brien has been visible watching the linemen do drills at every practice session, and one of the scouts is often a few feet away scribbling notes furiously. Aiono has had an uneven performance for the West, but by all accounts he is one of the smartest and respected players here. The 23-year-old Aiono has played guard and center but center is his better position. With Travis Swanson coming off shoulder surgery and a pretty underwhelming season at center, addressing the position in the middle rounds makes a lot of sense. Aiono projects as a fifth or sixth rounder, not the most agile pivot but a guy who does not move backwards either.
Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois–Regardless of what happens with Calvin Johnson, the Lions need some young wideout talent with size in the pipeline. Allison has proven the problem at Illinois was coaching, not talent. He’s thrived here, showing long speed but also the ability to shorten his gait and be effective on shorter routes. The hands and body control are above average. He’s already better than Corey Fuller in my eyes. Because his production was up-and-down and he didn’t catch poorly thrown balls well from Wes Lunt at Illinois, his stock is artificially low. Buy now, get paid later.
Cody Core, WR, Ole Miss–Like Allison, Core is a 6’2” wideout who didn’t put up the numbers relative to the talent level last fall. For whatever reason, he just never had chemistry with Rebels QB Chad Kelly and withered playing in the shadow of first-rounder Laquon Treadwell. That has changed in East practices, where Core has consistently run great routes and flashed strong hands. He’s got the sudden speed on longer routes to separate and the length and leaping ability to win with the ball in the air. Core has also stood out in special teams drills and earned coaching kudos for his blocking. NFL-ready No. 3 wideout with speed in the fourth round? Yes, please.
Darion Griswold, TE, Arkansas State and David Morgan, TE, UTSA–one of, if not the biggest hole on the roster right now is a blocking tight end. Griswold and Morgan are both standouts for their size and blocking. Morgan is a little bigger at 6’4” and 262 to Griswold’s 6’3” and 253, but Griswold has more speed when he releases into routes. I rate their blocking as equal, and both have also shown quite reliable hands. Because neither projects as a major contributor at a position that is perhaps the weakest of any in this class, they should represent real value in the sixth or even seventh round. I’d be happy with either.
Mike Jordan, CB, Missouri Western–Corner is probably the lowest position of immediate need in Detroit, and that has essentially been confirmed by my interactions with some Lions–and Bears–folks here. Still, guys built like the 6’, 200-pound Griffon and with his ability to turn and run don’t grow on trees. He’s a developmental talent, one I know the Lions have met with at least twice already. His run support has stood out in the limited team drills for the West team.
Mike Rose, DE/OLB, North Carolina State–For those clamoring for a younger, upside-laden version of Darryl Tapp on the Detroit roster, the 6’3”, 270-pound Rose is your guy. He’s bounced between playing end and linebacker here, and from what I’ve seen he’s better at end with his powerful arms and aggressive nature. A relentless motor and pretty impressive chase gear definitely translate well to the next level. I haven’t focused a lot on him but this is another guy I know the Lions have met with, both after practice and at the team hotel.
Justin Simmons, S, Boston College–The rangy, 6’2” Simmons is a good bet to be the first Shrine Game player drafted, and if the Lions want him they’ll have to move up into the 50-70 overall range. He just might be worth the move. Aside from his lightning-quick closing burst to the ball, he’s a naturally charismatic leader and displays a very high football IQ. That is something the new Lions management values incredibly high.
Antwione Williams, LB, Georgia Southern–Williams is a yoked-up inside backer, over 6’2” and 247 rock-solid pounds. He moves and flows well, and he attacks the run with the same sort of force and downhill aggression as Stephen Tulloch in his healthy prime. As Tulloch is well past expiration date, tabbing a similar, younger version in Williams in the fifth or sixth round makes sense. He isn’t ideal in coverage but has generally shown awareness and the ability to stay on his toes to move and react quickly.