Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
As you eat all the leftovers from Christmas and try to figure out where you can possibly fit all that new stuff into your home, there are some quality football games on Dec. 26th. One of them is the Holiday Bowl featuring Baylor and UCLA. Both these teams have a couple of players the Lions, and others, will look at come April.
#56 DE Datone Jones. At 6’4” and 278 pounds, Jones is ideally built to be the heavy, strongside base end in the Lions defense. He’s even better as a 3-4 end, which the Bruins run more often than not, but has that coveted versatility to play outside in the base D and slide inside as a nickel rusher. Jones is very impressive physically, rocked up with muscle on a large frame. He does a very good job at keeping low pad level and explodes off the snap, almost always seizing control of the action. He doesn’t have great edge speed but has a sneaky burst when he gets an opening, and his bull rush is very good when he gets into the tackle quickly. Watch him use his hands; he has a very powerful jolting punch, but he will miss with it at times and get himself sideways. If you’ve watched Sammie Lee Hill in Detroit, Jones has the same issues with overextending and getting sideways when he needs to anchor, and it leaves him vulnerable to straight-on runs and trap blocks. It’s less of an issue for an end than a tackle, but it’s still a problem that will keep Jones from going in the top 50 picks. He could be an option with the Lions 3rd round pick if he lasts that long.
#60 G Jeff Baca. The senior played tackle early in his Bruins career but moved inside to guard. And that’s the thing with Baca, because at 6’3” and 298 pounds, he has the height of a guard but the bulk of a tackle. That’s not to say he’s small or lacks strength, but Baca is a classic G/T tweener. He is noted for his leadership and intelligence on the line, able to make all the calls. Bruins fans lament his knack for untimely penalties, and he missed time early in 2012 with a head injury. Baca figures to go in the 6th or 7th round and serve as a 6th lineman with the potential to start at guard if he can add some functional bulk.
#21 CB Aaron Hester. The Lions have a distinct interest in taller, longer corners and Hester fits the bill. He is 6’1” and a well-built 205 pounds, and he understands how to use his length to disrupt passing lanes. When he uses inside technique, Hester is good at blocking the sideline throw. He lacks long speed and only has average quickness, and is better when closer to the line of scrimmage. Hester was much better as a junior than a senior, where he appeared to try and do too much. One feather in his cap: Hester is a very good open field tackler. Watch him close to the line when he’s matched with blazing Terrance Williams.
Keep an eye on punter Jeff Locke, who is not likely to be drafted but will definitely get a fair shot in a NFL camp next summer. Locke has a huge leg and consistently gets excellent hang time. As an added bonus, he’s an exceptional kickoff specialist and has made a handful of long field goals in his Bruins career.
Running back Jonathan Franklin will be drafted in the 3rd-5th rounds but would be eminently redundant with Mikel Leshoure in Detroit. If you are one who likes to look ahead, check out LB Anthony Barr, who will be a preseason top 50 prospect next year.
#2 WR Terrance Williams. Lions fans will want to watch Williams only as a reference for when he’s lined up on another team in 2013 and beyond. The speedy Biletnikoff Award finalist will be taken sometime between when the Lions pick in the 1st and 2nd rounds. Williams has very impressive straight-line speed and good length. He actually reminds me some of Titus Young as a receiver, physically capable of being an excellent downfield threat but needing polish with his feet and concentration. Williams is faster and smarter than Young and is far from the vapid malcontent, but I digress. Enjoy Williams for what he is, keeping in mind he will be mocked to the Vikings in the first round in many upcoming mock drafts.
#78 C Ivory Wade. He is an imposing presence with wild hair, James Harden-esque beard and gigantic pythons of upper arms. Wade played center in 2012 but his better NFL future is at right tackle, where he played his first three years. He is very strong, having put up 37 reps on the bench at 225 and his name dots the Bears weight room walls in both squats and cleans. At 6’4’ and 312 he is much better suited to play tackle than center, though he did provide excellent pop inside. His two predecessors at center, JD Walton and Philip Blake, both stuck in the NFL. Watch him in pass protection and getting out to the second level in the run game, skills that he can use as a potential replacement for Gosder Cherilus at right tackle. Wade will be on the board in the 7th round and is a fair name to remember as a potential Mr. Irrelevant. He would be someone the Lions should strongly consider as a priority undrafted free agent. As a personal note, I know his HS Coach in Dickinson, TX and that might overly influence my positive opinion.
As with the Bruins, the Bears have some promising talent heading back to school next year that is worth watching. Notable in that group is LB Eddie Lackey and G Cyril Richardson, who will enter 2013 as one of the top 3 guards in the country.
Lions fans local to Michigan might recall WR Darryl Stonum, a former Wolverine who went back home to Texas after being charged with multiple DWIs. Stonum will not play but will be mentioned by the commentators as someone the Bears were counting on for added offensive punch. It’s very unlikely he gets drafted but he could wind up in a camp based on his lanky speed and return specialist potential.