Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
The Lions first round pick at #5 overall was not in Mobile. Nobody (including the Lions) knows who that player will be at this point, but it’s safe to assume none of the talent in Senior Bowl week is worthy of that lofty a draft status. But their second and third round picks, and perhaps a couple of later picks, very well could come from the Senior Bowl rosters. Here are ten players that are definitely in play for those picks.
Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International. He was largely an unknown commodity before the weigh-in, one of those guys that even those of us who scout for a living had only marginally formed opinions. From the minute he walked onto the stage with precisely the right blend of shredded and bulky for a safety at 6’ and 209, he had our attention. His play on the field was just as impressive. Cyprien showed excellent range, decent instincts, and a willingness to get his nose dirty. If you watched the actual Senior Bowl, you saw Cyprien range to the side and destroy a quick flare pass to the RB. The pulse I got in Mobile is that teams are very bullish on Cyprien and he will crack the top 40 overall. If he falls to 36, and he might not, you better believe the Lions will have big interest. Also of note on Cyprien–his agent is Drew Rosenhaus, who is the master of the “help me here and I’ll help you there” games with front offices. The Lions need some of that kind of backscratching, and both Stephen Tulloch and Louis Delmas also happen to be represented by Rosenhaus.
Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State. Poyer is another player whose draft range appears to be the 25-40 overall realm, which puts the Lions in play at the top of the second round. Poyer has a lot of very good tape with the Beavers, a scheme-diverse corner who is good at getting his hands on the football. He thrived in jam drills but also showed the ability to run hip-to-hip with receivers down the field. Poyer also demonstrated he can tackle and has good ball awareness. I wrote earlier that corner is not as pressing of a need as many believe, but I also advocate taking the best potential impact talent. That could be Poyer at #36.
Alex Okafor, DE, Texas. If Detroit opts to go in a different direction from pass rusher at #5, the Texas wrecking crew comes into play at #36. Okafor was hit and miss at Texas but played very well in the middle of their season before getting nicked up, and he flat-out dominated Oregon State in their bowl game with 4.5 sacks and three other tackles for loss. Okafor would fill Cliff Avril’s role as LDE, and he has a similar sort of game, using the power to set up the speed.
Datone Jones, DE, UCLA. I’m going to put this out right away: based on two years of game tape at UCLA Datone Jones is not worth anything more than Detroit’s 3rd round pick. He was wildly inconsistent, only bringing the violence and aggression with his hands sporadically and often seeming content to focus on the mano-a-mano battle with the blocker instead of the larger game. But he brought the pain and intensity on every rep, every day and was the most disruptive pass rusher all week. He’s got great size at 6’4” and a chiseled 280 and likes to play physical. I don’t want him at 36, but at 67 Jones is definitely a good candidate even if another defensive lineman was already picked in the first two rounds. Should the Lions ever convert to a 3-4 or hybrid D, Jones is even more appealing.
Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana. Speed. I am speed. Alford has that Lightning McQueen quality to him. He demonstrated fluid movement and excellent burst. He is shorter than ideal at just under 5’10” but he’s not small and plays bigger than he’s listed. Alford also brings big value as a return specialist; he nearly took the opening kickoff of the game to the house, and he was very natural all week in practice fielding punts and kicks and attacking seams with his speed. That pushes him into 3rd round consideration, even though his best role in the NFL is redundant with Bill Bentley. Also of note: Alford has Crohn’s disease, which could drop his value and impacts durability.
Duke Williams, S, Nevada. Williams was a standout at the Shrine Game practices and he had no problem making the jump in competition to the Senior Bowl. While his size isn’t ideal at 5’11” and a stocky 201, Williams showed good range and a real desire to hit anyone with the football in their hands. Two things I liked about him from watching Nevada games: he’s an excellent open-field tackler and he doesn’t get beat over the top. The problem in selecting Williams is that he’s a real reach at 67 but probably will be gone by the 4th pick of the 5th round. If he’s still on the board there, I’m not sure there is another player I would take over him.
Montori Hughes, DT, Tennessee-Martin. I’ll keep it pretty simple with Hughes: he’s a more talkative, consistently intense Sammie Hill. I know the Lions have invested a great deal at the defensive tackle position already, but Hughes is a player whose best football is ahead of him and he wants it badly. Like Duke Williams, 67 is probably too high and the top of the 5th might be too late. That Tahir Whitehead deal had damn well better pay off quick, Mr. Mayhew…
Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State. Harper wouldn’t exactly fill the role of the underwear stain that is Titus Young, as he is neither top-end fast nor overly quick. But just as he did at K-State, Harper consistently got separation on shorter routes all week and caught anything thrown near him. His route running and savvy are NFL-ready out of the box, and he’s also a devastatingly effective outside blocker. The lack of speed (he’ll run in the high 4.5s) should have him available in the 5th round. It’s not exactly the kind of wideout many really want for the Lions, but he’d look awful good on 3rd and short and in the red zone, where his ability to get separation and seize the ball away from his body are real assets.
David Quessenberry, OL, San Jose State. Drafting offensive line becomes more of an imperative if Gosder Cherilus departs, and Quessenberry would make a good value pick in the 5th round. He was a tackle at San Jose State but primarily played guard in practice sessions. Other than one drill on Wednesday, he looked pretty comfortable inside despite having ideal build (6’5”, 81” wingspan, 10.5” hands) to play tackle. He’s a guy you draft in the 5th round and see where he shakes out best in camp competition.
Vince Williams, LB, Florida State. He got overshadowed at Florida State playing behind a talented line, but Williams showed some real playmaking flair and good instincts all week. Williams also looked visibly faster in person than on game tape even though he is thickly built at a hair over 6’ and 245 pounds. The lateral agility isn’t ideal but he compensates by being patient and not taking himself out of the play. His coverage and blitz skills were much better than advertised during drills all week, and in team drills he showed his opportunism by getting his hands on 4 passes and recovered a fumble. He came to Mobile as a late 6th-mid 7th round pick, but if the Lions want him they’ll need a little luck for him to fall to their pick at the top of the 6th.