Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
I’m heading to St. Petersburg for Shrine Game week, the oldest postseason All-Star game and a good place to look at later-round talents and priority free agents from the college ranks. Here as some of the guys I will be watching closely to see how they fit with the Lions, as well as the rest of the NFL.
Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Miss: A fixture in my Top 100 all season, Collins is a highly undervalued prospect. That happens when you play on the worst football team in the nation, but it wasn’t Collins’ fault. A big part of Collins’ draft fate is how he measures. Listed at 6’4” and 239, he looks more like 6’2” and 225, though he played defensive end very effectively at that size. He moves like a safety and projects best to the NFL as a 4-3 SAM backer, where he can blitz and work in coverage against tight ends and fullbacks. Collins figures to be the first player drafted from this Shrine Game class.
David Bass, DE, Missouri Western: Just last year a Griffon burst onto the scene during Shrine Game week and continued his success in the NFL. Greg the Leg Zuerlein made the jump at kicker, and David Bass has the chance to do it as a pass rusher. He has great bulk at 270 pounds and lit up D-II for 39.5 sacks by using both power and quickness. If he proves he can hang with the bigger boys, Bass is a player the Lions could target at the top of the 5th round. I’ve only seen highlight clips thus far, so I’m looking forward to the extended look in practices.
Devonte Holloman, OLB, South Carolina: JaDeveon Clowney made the greatest play ever in the Gamecocks bowl win over Michigan, but Holloman really stood out as well for his ranginess and closing speed in space. In watching SC games I see a lot of Justin Durant in Holloman, a speedy, lanky-but-physical, fundamentally sound tackler. Much like Durant during his Lions tenure (he’s a free agent), the biggest problems for Holloman are at getting off blocks and being aware of the ball. I want to see his instincts and shedding ability in mano-a-mano drills. He’s another 5th or perhaps 6th round option.
Travis Howard, CB, Ohio State: Howard has the length the Lions covet at 6’1” and upgraded his play in his senior season, showing a better nose for the ball and more willingness to get physical. He is one of those late-blooming players that could wind up being a better pro than collegian. If he shows he can keep his butt down and change direction with fluidity, he could play his way up to the 6th round.
KeJuan Riley, S, Alabama State: Riley is a coverage specialist of a free safety from a conference where teams like to air it out. I saw him play once against Prairie View A&M, and he completely dominated the action with an INT that he returned like Deion Sanders, a forced fumble and a couple of body-rocking hits that separated receiver from football. The level of competition in St. Pete will be significantly higher, and I want to see how well he swims in the deeper pool. Good late-round sleeper with upside.
Cooper Taylor, S, Richmond: The Lions have talked about coveting size in the secondary, and Taylor certainly has size. Listed at 6’5” and 235, he’s bigger than a lot of linebackers but is definitely a safety. He started as a freshman at Georgia Tech and made 2nd team All-ACC as a true frosh, before injuries and an irregular heartbeat forced his transfer. Taylor can blitz and he uses his size very well. Range and agility are the biggest question marks.
Dann O’Neill, T, Western Michigan: Okay, he’s probably not a draftable NFL talent, but I am openly rooting for O’Neill. He is a Michigan transfer from Grand Haven, MI, and I officiated in a couple of his high school contests when I still lived in Holland. He’s every bit of 6’8” and looked very good in the WMU games I’ve seen the last couple of seasons. He also happens to look more than a little like the wrestler Ultimate Warrior without makeup.
Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M: Michael was the big loser in the rise of Johnny Manziel, as the Aggies opened up the offense and played to the strengths of the Heisman winner. This week will be a good chance for Michael to prove he has the burst through the hole and the ability to function in the passing game. Recurring knee injuries water down his stock, and Michael could be a late-round value if he checks out medically.
Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech: With Shaun Hill potentially departing, the Lions are in need of a backup quarterback with enough developmental upside to merit a roster spot (read: not Kellen Moore). Cameron is a little bigger than Moore and very accurate, leading the nation in completion percentage much of the year. Arm strength is his biggest question, so I’ll be listening for the zip and watching the velocity on sideline throws. He projects right now as a 5th-6th round pick
Dylan Breeding, P, Arkansas: This will be my 7th year attending postseason all-star games, and believe it or not watching the punters in practice is one of the real highlights every time. Breeding has a monster leg and showed some aptitude for directional kicking. He won’t be drafted, but every team brings in at least one punter to challenge the incumbent in camp and Breeding is a guy with a legit chance of unseating someone like Nick Harris.
Be sure to check here for daily reports on all the practice action, as well as tidbits from the player’s hotel. For a complete list of players at the Shrine Game and all other All Star games, check out this handy tracker from our brother site, BuffaloBillsDraft.com!