Thursday night welcomed Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker to the den. Friday brings the second and third rounds, and the Detroit Lions currently hold one pick in each. Here are ten players I believe are realistic, prime targets for GM Bob Quinn and the Lions.
The Ohio State safety would fill the biggest hole on the defense, a safety to play with Glover Quin. He’s smaller at just under 6’ and 200 pounds, but Bell embraces the “safety” part of his job description quite literally. It’s hard to find him out of position and Bell quickly closes to the point of attack with good angles and balanced agility. He’s more of a coverage-oriented safety and Detroit might be seeking more of a physical presence as Quin is the same sort. He might not make it to No. 46.
If the Lions are indeed looking to add a more thumping presence at safety, USC’s Su’a Cravens fits the bill. Some NFL teams see him as a linebacker, where he saw action for the Trojans. He visited with the Lions on an official team visit.
At 6’1” and 226 pounds, the former 5-star recruit straddles the line between LB and safety. His run support is top notch, as Cravens pins back the ears and wallops runners as he crashes gaps. He’s instinctive with the play in front of him and can range to either sideline. In coverage, Cravens will make you miss James Ihedigbo. Enough said on that. He’s a viable option at 46, more viable if they move back a bit.
Should Detroit go in a different direction in the second round, Duke safety Jeremy Cash figures to be a consideration in the third at No. 95 overall. Cash was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year for his ability to terminate plays all over the field. He’s 6’ and 212 pounds but looks bigger than that in person with a rippled physique. Like Cravens, run defense is his forte. He’s a little more methodical and not as explosive of an athlete, not does he have the same quickness of range. I wish he were a little more instinctive but the counter to that is Cash is almost never caught way out place.
Keep in mind the Lions have a former Duke teammate in Laken Tomlinson on the roster, and they also just added his former Ohio State (Cash transferred after a year) recruiting classmate Taylor Decker. That familiarity can only help in the vetting process.
Another in the hybrid safety/LB group, Killebrew hails from Southern Utah. He terrorized the FCS ranks at 6’2” and 217 pounds, starting all four years and earning a Senior Bowl berth. In Mobile he definitely showed better range and closing burst than Cash.
The issue with Killebrew is he’s very all-or-nothing. The eye discipline just isn’t strong, and he can be late to pick up on where and when he should be. Also, there is no speed other than full speed. That’s great when chasing down a play or filling against the run, but in space it often means he runs right past the point of attack because he can’t break down his speed under control. He’s a candidate at 95, though he might not last that long.
A potential curveball is Notre Dame CB KeiVarae Russell. He fits the “Patriot Way” profile with his athletic metrics and there is a definite connection between the Lions and the Irish; half the coaching staff and most of the front office was in South Bend for their pro day.
Russell was very good in 2013 but had to sit out ’14 as part of an academic scandal. When he returned the rust showed; in early games he was tentative and looked slow to read and react to his coverage mark, often flat-footed and stiff-legged off the line. That got better as he worked back into playing shape, both physically and mentally. He’s strictly an outside corner as he doesn’t play with great agility and gets lost in traffic over the middle. While he’s not tall at 5’11”, he does show good physicality and run support.
One of the best players still on the board, almost everyone expected the talented Alabama defensive tackle to hear his name called Thursday. His fall could be a real boon for the Lions at 46 overall.
Reed can play any gap scheme in any front, from the 0 thru 3 techniques. His best fit is as the 1-tech in Teryl Austin’s defense. He’s physical, he’s nasty and he’s got a very high football IQ on the interior line. I doubt he makes it to 46, but then again I doubted he would make it out of Thursday…
My first choice at No. 46, I would have taken the Baylor defensive tackle at 16. I think that highly of the uniquely skilled and weight-room loving nose tackle. I’ll be shocked if he makes it to 46; it says he the Kansas City Chiefs take him with their acquired pick in the 30s.
Reed’s more celebrated teammate has a lower overall ceiling but a very high floor as an interior presence. He’s a facilitator, a player who soaks up blocks and eats gaps so those around him can make plays against both the run and pass. He creates, just not for himself. Putting him inside Ziggy Ansah could propel Ziggy to new heights. Robinson is precocious in age even though he looks like he might have grandchildren already. He’s definitely in play at 46.
Penn State has a few defensive players who will be drafted in the next two days. The best of them is Johnson, a man mountain on the inside. Johnson is a power pig, a bull rusher who doesn’t go backwards and plays with exceptional leverage. He stood out with his power in Mobile, drills I can tell you firsthand the Lions coaches watched up close and personal. He doesn’t have the lateral range or presence of a Billings or Reed but might actually be better than them in playing heads up on the nose. If he’s still there at 95 I think he’s a very serious candidate even if Detroit takes another DT in the second.
The one offensive player on the list, Notre Dame center Nick Martin should be on the board at 46. I rated him higher than Ryan Kelly, who was a very real possibility at 16. His technique and savvy in the pivot is outstanding. Moreover, he’s a feisty leader and adept at making line calls–the two biggest issues with current center Travis Swanson. Martin, whose brother is a standout guard for the Cowboys, fits well in a power scheme where he doesn’t have to fly around the edges on pulls and traps. He’s your high school football coach’s favorite player on this list.
I think we’ll see at least one of these players become Detroit Lions in the coming hours. Don’t expect Myles Jack, Kevin Dodd or Reggie Ragland, all for medical reasons. It’s a shame because I would love Ragland in the middle of the defense, but the enlarged aorta is a flag.