Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
It was a warm and interesting week in St. Pete watching the Shrine Game practice sessions and meeting some of the players and agents in the hotel. While I was there for a more general overview, some players stood out as being a potentially good fit for the Lions. The Shrine Game generally features players taken in the final three rounds and priority free agents, though a handful of players could go as high as the late second round.
I wrote positives about Richmond safety Cooper Taylor every day, he was consistently one of the most impressive players on the field. At 6’4” and a solid 229 pounds, Taylor has incredible size for a safety but he is not stiff; he demonstrated the ability to quickly change direction with fluid hips and fairly loose ankles. He is very comfortable and confident in zone coverage situations. The biggest issue for Taylor is the reason why he left Georgia Tech, where he started as a highly recruited true freshman. He has a heart condition that required surgery. There should be no reason for his medical evaluation to go poorly, but it’s still something that has to be factored in. Taylor is a viable 3rd round talent but the medical issues and limitations in man coverage, plus coming from a FCS program, could drop him into the 4th or perhaps the fifth round.
Another small school standout is David Bass, a very active defensive end from Missouri Western. Bass has good initial burst and excellent quickness with his hands and feet. The jump from Missouri Western to the NFL is pretty big, but he has the athleticism and drive to make it happen. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bass performs very well at the Combine, and that would almost certainly force the Lions to use their 3rd round pick on him. That’s a little higher than I would prefer, but Bass has the potential to make that look like a steal in time. One coach I talked with along the sidelines told me that Bass reminded him of Willie Young with a more consistent motor.
In keeping with the small school theme, Howard LB Keith Pough certainly intrigues. He brings nonstop positive energy and intensity and has a very natural charisma and leadership to him. Physically he reminds of a slightly taller Justin Durant, and should Durant depart via free agency the rangy Pough would be a good candidate to replace him. He is the kind of player who is either going to blossom into an immediate impact starter a la Lavonte David or Colin McCarthy or else not survive his second training camp. From what little I’ve seen of his college tape and this week he is a superior football player with better athleticism than Tahir Whitehead, who is essentially the Lions’ 4th round pick this year.
Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges is another player the Lions should keep in mind. Hodges is sort of the anti-Pough; he’s not a dynamic athlete and doesn’t wow you with splash plays, but he showed uncanny instincts in the practice sessions. He also demonstrated good inherent awareness in zone coverage, which reinforces his game tape from Penn State. Hodges would be a mid-round candidate to replace free agent DeAndre Levy, though I will be surprised if Levy doesn’t return.
I’m a strong advocate of drafting an offensive lineman every year, and if the Lions are looking for one late in the draft I would recommend Jordan Devey from Memphis. I caught him playing against Rice and Houston this year and thought he was draft-worthy, and his practice week reinforced that belief. He held his own at left tackle, showing decent agility and the ability to mirror. Devey also showed enough toughness and pad level while playing left guard to merit a look there. As a 6th or 7th rounder, Devey would represent a good value for a guy who could immediately be a 7th lineman with some potential.
In an earlier Lions-only mock draft I selected NC State safety Brandan Bishop with the 6th round pick. Bishop had a solid week and remains someone I wouldn’t mind seeing in the Honolulu Blue and Silver, but he was outshined by college teammate Earl Wolff. Bishop is a little bigger but Wolff is quicker to read and react and very rangy in zone coverage. Based on game tape I watched recently (the Tennessee and UVA games to be specific), Wolff is a better fit for what Detroit needs at the back end. It would take a 6th round pick to ensure getting Wolff. If they miss out there, the Lions could do a lot worse than Bishop in the final round.
Some other players who impressed me with skills that could help the Lions with 6th or 7th round picks, or as priority free agents:
Anthony Amos, WR, Middle Tennessee State
Aaron Hester, CB, UCLA
James Ferentz, C, Iowa
Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina
Sio Moore, LB, UConn
Rashard Hall, S, Clemson
Keenan Davis, WR, Iowa
Wes Horton, DE, USC
Zach Brown, K, Portland State
Nathan Stanley, QB, SE Louisiana