I’ve been live in Indy for the last two days, soaking in the annual NFL Scouting Combine. The Detroit Lions have been taking in the workouts, the medical evaluations and the player interviews as well.
With the First Pick
The Lions are allowed to interview up to 60 of the over 300 prospects in town, each for 15 minutes. It’s a brief glimpse into the character, but it also gives the team a chance to see if the personality fits with the coaching staff.
Here are the players confirmed from various sources, some in person, to have met with the Lions so far:
- Michigan State C Jack Allen
- Mississippi State LB Beniquez Brown
- Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler
- Duke S Jeremy Cash
- Michigan State OT Jack Conklin
- Washington State OL Joe Dahl
- TCU WR Josh Doctson
- Notre Dame WR Will Fuller
- Stanford QB Kevin Hogan
- Grand Valley State DE Matt Judon
- Virginia Tech DT Luther Maddy
- Georgia WR Malcolm Mitchell
- Mississippi DT Robert Nkemdiche
- Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
- Alabama LB Reggie Ragland
- Alabama DT Jarran Reed
- Alabama DT A’Shawn Robinson
- Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith
- Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
- Harvard OT Cole Toner
- Arkansas OG Sebastian Tretola
- Arkansas RB Jonathan Williams
Butler is one of the most intriguing. The team has vetted him extensively, from sending a scout to see him play and practice to meeting with him several times.
The 6’3”, 325-pounder is a natural 3T, though he does have experience playing the 4i as well. His long arms and initial quickness are both very impressive. Overall his game needs polish, but Butler has proven coachable during the Senior Bowl. He said he models his game after Muhammad Wilkerson and Gerald McCoy. Butler is definitely in play for the No. 16 overall pick.
Nkemdiche is an interesting case. In terms of physical potential he’s unquestionably one of the most blessed players in this draft class. But he never really produced on the field, posting just 19 TFLs and 8 sacks in three years as a starter in the SEC. Then there is the bizarre hotel room incident which led to his suspension at the end of the season.
In his Combine presser, Nkemdiche confirmed the rumors that teammate–and potential No. 1 overall pick–Laremy Tunsil was in the room with him. While the admission was necessary, it rubbed many the wrong way to treat a teammate and friend. There are other issues floating around with him and his family, too. It will be interesting to see if the Lions keep him on their draft board with the potential flags flying.
Jaylon Smith would not have been available at No. 16 if not for his knee injury, but now the picture has grown considerably darker for the speedy Irish LB.
I asked a Defensive Coordinator of a different team about Smith and he told me his team will not draft him at all. I do not know if the Lions have made that conclusion yet. I wrote about Smith’s potential to the Lions recently here.
Should the Lions opt to look at wide receiver in the first round, and there are some in the national media who think they will strongly consider it if Megatron is gone, a name to watch is Michael Thomas from Ohio State. He’s bigger, faster and more explosive than LaQuon Treadwell from Ole Miss, and also out-produced him despite playing with more talent around him to siphon away opportunity. I have it on good authority the Lions will be well-represented at the Buckeyes’ Pro Day on March 11.
As appears to be the growing trend with the new regime, the Lions staff has been quite tight-lipped about their intentions or even thoughts towards any players.