Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Oregon meets Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl in what is the de facto 3rd place game in the convoluted BCS machinations. Oregon has the more prominent cadre of NFL talent, but KSU features two of the more underrated prospects in the nation.
DE #96 Dion Jordan: This is a player very much in play for the #5 overall pick, if he lasts that long. Jordan is a 6’7”, 245 pound athlete with very long arms and lots of quick-twitch muscle. He plays both end and linebacker in Oregon’s defense, and he has been known to drop in coverage in zone blitzes and run step for step with slot receivers. Jordan is very quick and uses a great first step to create space for himself as a rusher. Teams have had some success running right at him, as he doesn’t have much anchor strength and plays high as a function of being so tall. His primary NFL attribute is rushing the passer a la Aldon Smith, a very similar athlete. Watch Jordan close on the ball and the quarterback, and see how he fares when playing in tight quarters. How well he does in those areas are the biggest difference between Jordan going #3 or #30.
T #74 Kyle Long: Late this week Long accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, which means the cat will be out of the bag on one of this draft’s top sleepers. He is aptly named, long at 6’7” with very long arms. You might have heard of his dad, Howie, and younger brother Chris. The Florida State transfer (where he played baseball, not football) doesn’t have much experience and his technique needs work, but the raw physical potential is very good. The Lions are in relatively good shape on the offensive line, but Long is worth considering because he can play both tackle and guard and his best football is ahead of him. One note: he left FSU because of substance abuse issues, which is a legit concern the Lions need to take seriously.
RB #24 Kenjon Barner: He is the latest in the line of straight-line speed Duck backs, but Barner is his own runner. He isn’t afraid to dip the shoulder or break back inside, though he lacks bulk at just 190 pounds. His open field speed is very good, and he has that proverbial extra gear when being chased. If you want a similar replacement for Jahvid Best from the 4th or 5th round, Barner is your guy though he’s not quite as fast. Pay attention to how he catches the ball and how decisively he attacks the edge.
LB #47 Kiko Alonso: Alonso is a long and productive backer with a good nose for the ball. He will remind Lions fans of DeAndre Levy, though a little less rangy to the outside. Alonso is the kind of player who makes things happen thanks to great awareness and quick reaction. He picked off four passes and recovered a fumble this year after kicking off 2012 with a dominating performance in the Rose Bowl. There are character flags present, however. He’s more of a late-blooming athlete, having grown to 6’4” and filled out while adding flexibility. Those two factors likely hold him to being a 3rd or 4th round pick. He will have a lot of chances to show his versatility against Collin Klein.
S #20 John Boyett: You won’t actually see Boyett in this game, as he had knee surgery in September to repair two torn patellar tendons. He is a coach’s son with an outstanding football IQ and excellent tackling form. If his knees get healthy, Boyett could be a late-round steal; this is a player who was no worse than a 2nd round talent heading into the season. He was a better all-around prospect than Patrick Chung. Consider this more of a heads up for when you hear his name as someone interviewed and worked out by the Lions in March.
P #49 Jackson Rice: I never advocate drafting a punter, but Rice has the leg and directional ability to merit priority free agent status. He was better in 2011 but finished 2012 strongly.