Championship Weekend is upon us, and it makes a great opportunity to watch some draft prospects in prominent action.
Here are 5 guys to watch on Championship Saturday that the Lions will be watching as well.
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. With Cliff Avril unlikely to return and the aging Kyle VandenBosch perhaps a cap casualty, the Lions will certainly entertain using their first round pick on an impact defensive end. Werner plays with some similarity to a younger VandenBosch, an intense edge-setting strong-side end with good leverage and a nasty disposition. Werner bagged 3.5 sacks in the loss to Florida last week, his fifth multi-sack effort on the season, and he has a solid barrage of moves. Just a junior, most pundits expect the German native to declare. Werner might not last until where the Lions will pick in the first round, but if he’s still on the board expect Martin Mayhew to take a very long look at Bjoern Werner.
Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma. Jefferson has outplayed his perceived skills in 2012, showing better range and quicker reaction in coverage than he did in 2011. Though he’s not tall (5’11”, 210), Jefferson is a good athlete with an excellent sense of timing and good ball awareness skills. That latter trait should carry significant weight with the Lions, who really struggle in that area. He has the ability to match up with the athletic, flexed out tight ends and plays with better strength that his size would indicate, though his lack of height is a detriment. His tackling is generally solid, but what stands out from 2012 game film is his real improvement in pursuit angles and staying off blocks. Jefferson should be available when the Lions pick in the 2nd round, but he strikes me more as a player that would be a much better value if he falls to the 3rd round. With all the injury and contract issues surrounding Lions safeties this year, expect Detroit to address the position before the end of the 2nd day of the draft.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. Another underclassman, the hirsute Verrett has really impressed with his play in his second season in Fort Worth. He is aggressive and savvy in coverage, with 6 INTs and several pass breakups that demonstrate a genuine nose for the ball and keen sense of timing. His play is reminiscent of Bears CB Tim Jennings, a tough, confident, scrappy corner with strong ball skills. My biggest knock on Verrett is that he tries to intercept too many throws and will take himself out of position to make the tackle, but like Jennings this season in Chicago he succeeds often enough to justify the gamble. Verrett is fundamentally sound in run support and projects as a boundary corner in the NFL. If he declares, the Lions would likely have to pull the trigger in the 2nd round as I don’t believe a player with his upside will fall out of the top 64.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UConn. The Cincinnati-Connecticut game carries little national (or even regional) intrigue, but the big (6’1”, 195) redshirt senior is worthy of attention. Wreh-Wilson is a two-time team captain who tends to play best when the pressure is highest. He uses his length well in coverage and has excellent long speed to stay on the hip of most wideouts. As he showed in the Louisville game last week, he has good zone awareness and burst to the ball, picking off future top 10 overall pick Teddy Bridgewater in the end zone. Wreh-Wilson showed real toughness in coming back from a knee injury in 2011 after missing just half the season, though durability is a legit concern. Depending on his medical evaluations and 40 time, which I expect in the 4.42 range, Wreh-Wilson figures to be an option for the Lions in the 4th round.
Daimion Stafford, S, Nebraska. The senior JUCO transfer has been up and down in his two seasons in Lincoln, but has some potential as a late-round diamond in the rough. He is a big hitter who keeps his head up and consistently finishes his tackles. Stafford is opportunistic in coverage but shows tightness in his hips and ankles that limits his lateral range and burst to the ball. His forte is thumping the run in the box, and he has shown the ability to blitz effectively in limited looks. Stafford figures to make his NFL mark as a 3rd safety and special teams ace, sort of a savvier, higher-end Ricardo Silva. He should be an option in the 6th or early 7th round.