The Senior Bowl has been good for several players. I’ve been doing my best to pay attention to the reports and stock of players in attendance this year.
The Lions like to take the Best Available. That could be the best tackle, or backer, or running back. If they have a need and can get the best player at that position then I consider them to be a real prospect to consider. I don’t think they will go for a corner this year unless they truly feel they are getting an elite talent. That leaves a player like Prince Amukamara in consideration but if they could get the top line backer prospect in the entire draft then history tells me that they will go that direction.
Von Miller is emerging as that guy. Anyone that has seen Von play knows he can rush the quarterback from almost anywhere on the field. At 6’2″ and 237 pounds he is not a realistic defensive end or outside line backer prospect. He just doesn’t possess the size he would need in the NFL.
His college numbers are impressive but it is obvious that he must transition to the line backer spot if he wants to be a starter in the NFL. Transitioning from a rush specialist to a strong side line backer in a 4-3 scheme is a very significant transition for most players. The athletic skill set is very different. There is no doubt Von is an athlete and that he is a real football player but being able to move laterally and have the instincts and quickness to play in space takes different skills.
The Senior Bowl has given Von the chance to give line backer a try. His size is ideal for a 4-3 scheme and his athletic ability and strength appear to be translating. Reports are that Von has made the transition and has far exceeded expectations. He has shown the ability to cover underneath and the instincts to read and respond. He has also proven two other important things. Most importantly, he has the physical skills to play the position. The next most important thing you look for in a player is whether or not they can respond to coaching. I think it’s safe to say Von has shown he is capable in both regards and that makes him a very real prospect for Detroit. He fits a need, has elite skills, has elite intangibles it appears, and will likely be one of the best available players when Detroit is drafting. If he lasts that long.
I’ve talked about Akeem Ayers, mainly because I had two major questions about Miller. Whether he could play line backer and whether he’d be available when they pick. Right now it looks like it’s a matter of whether or not he’ll be on the board. If not, maybe that makes Prince fall to Detroit.
Nate Solder is another guy that I think will be a top 5 pick before it’s all said and done. I know the four letter network wants to call him a mid first round selection but the best left tackle in the draft with impressive physical attributes will turn into a top 8 pick. You can bet on that. If he keeps up his impressive play and does decent at the combine he’ll be a top 8 lock, probably even a top 5 pick.
I’m rooting heavily for Solder, the better he does the more likely a player of greater need will drop. It’s also nice to know that a really good tackle prospect could be there in the mid first round. The positional value would make him an interesting pick if it came to that. I highly doubt it will but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.
The coverage of Cameron Jordan may help the Lions as well. He is moving up the draft and becoming one of the best 3-4 end prospects in the draft. That may make him a top 10 pick if he continues to show well. I think his strength numbers at the combine will be the deciding factor for many teams. If he has the strength he could sneak up to the top 10.
Two other players to watch in the middle rounds are Demarco Murray and Terrence Tolliver. Murray is underrated in my opinion. I have him as a sleeper prospect right now. I think he can be a feature back. He has the ability. He has had some injury concerns that are costing him in draft status. I think he could be a nice player in the third or fourth rounds if available. I could see him getting drafted in the second though.
Tolliver is interesting because the opportunities weren’t really there in LSU for him to make a big name for himself so he’s tougher to judge. Character concerns are significant as well. Again, in the middle rounds Tolliver strikes me as one of those receivers that could turn into a real starter or a solid rotational receiver that you have to account for. He has the physical tools and has shown he can turn it on. I would be very interested in him in the third or fourth rounds as a No. 3 receiver in Detroit.
So Von Miller in the first followed by Murray and Tolliver in the third and fourth respectively. Second round, I would hope one of the next level corners are there. Aaron Williams and Jimmy Smith are guys I’m keeping my eye on. Williams is a bit under the radar and Smith is very raw. His coach-ability and workout/combine numbers will have a significant effect on his draft position.