Over Looked Prospects That The Detroit Lions Might Have Interest in.
Every year there are a few players that pop up out of the blue during the draft process. They may not have been highly touted coming into the offseason, but for one reason or another stood out during the scouting period. Now they have been pushed out of obscurity and into the pre-draft spotlight, looking to land with an NFL team. Detroit has been one of the more aggressive teams in getting out and meeting these prospects during the pro day process.
They’ve cast a very wide net in their selection process with a scouting budget ten times larger than it was in the previous regime, and are now honing in on a select few players in this category. If you want to get a better idea of what the Lions are thinking of doing in the upcoming draft you should definitely get to know these players a little better.
Brian Allen, Cornerback, Utah
In such a deep cornerback class there are going to be a few prospects that people forget about. A strong argument could be made that Brian Allen might be the best one of that forgotten group. Converted to corner from wide receiver when he got to Utah, Allen has a massive frame for the position at 6’3 215 lbs. Combined with a 4.48 40 time and a blazing 6.64 three-cone drill, he clearly matches that size with rare speed and athleticism that shows up in his film, making for a unique prospect.
On top of that, while one would think he would lose some strength through insanely long arms and a seemingly thin frame, Allen showed otherwise on tape, loving to get physical with opposing receivers and then backing that up with an impressive 15 reps on the bench press. Now make no mistake, Allen is still raw at the position with only four years of cornerback experience. He needs work to fix his tackling, improve on locating the ball in coverage, and to better read receivers routes so he doesn’t get lost in coverage.
The good news with that though is those areas are exactly what Terryl Austin and the Lions defensive staff are tailor made to correct. Allen’s size and athletic profile are like something out of the defensive coordinator’s fever dream for what he is looking for in an outside CB2 complement to Darius Slay. If they can manage to coach Allen up and correct some of his aforementioned flaws, Allen could be a phenomenal secondary starting option at a shocking discount.
I currently have him as my #17 cornerback with a fourth round grade. Should he be there at pick 127 and Detroit has not yet addressed the cornerback position the Lions should snap him up comfortably.
Tarell Basham, Defensive End, Ohio
If you’re looking for a jack of all trades for the defensive end position in this draft then Tarell Basham is your guy. Want a player to set the edge and stop the run? He can do that. If you want someone with a bag full of pass rush tricks that can get home to the quarterback, Basham led his conference with 11.5 sacks last year. He can even drop back into coverage and run with tight ends and running backs in space, something of definite interest to Terryl Austin should he want to continue to run exotic blitz looks in the future.
There are going to be two keys to Basham’s success at the next level; can he continue his level of performance in the NFL coming from a low-level conference, and can he continue to refine his skills. While the MAC isn’t a massive step from the NFL like say division two or three is, it’s still a lower level of competition than most of division one ball and he will need to prove he can still produce in the big leagues.
The best way he can do that is by polishing his skill set as he has a tendency to lean on superior athleticism and strength to get the job done a little more than some would like. If he can learn to use his hands more effectively and refine technique he has the ability to be a fine starter at the next level with DE3 status day one. He’s the # 10 defensive end on my board and I expect him to go anywhere from the late second to the mid-late third based on team’s grading and positional fits. He’s worth a thought in the second round, but I think the place the Lions would pull the trigger on him is the third round.
Jimmie Gilbert, Linebacker, Colorado
Jimmie Gilbert played as a 3-4 outside linebacker during his time in Colorado, however, his role should change at the next level. As the ‘joker’, or primary pass rusher, in Colorado’s defense, he showed elite fluidity, speed and a knack for getting to the quarterback, racking up ten sacks and a whopping six forced fumbles in his senior year. At a mere 230 lbs and a fairly maxed out, lanky frame though he would fit much more naturally as a 4-3 WILL linebacker at the next level.
While this may not seem like a natural transition at first he has shown all the traits that would suggest he could fit well there: namely solid coverage skills, sideline to sideline game speed, and strong tackling technique. He showcased all of these traits in positional drills that Bill Sheridan, Detroit’s linebackers coach, ran him through leading the Lions contingent to ask him for an interview. Needless to say, limited reports indicate they came away fairly impressed.
Most important though is his elite athleticism which he presented at the Colorado pro day. Despite not being invited to the combine, Gilbert put up what would have been top 5 positional numbers in the 40, vertical, and three cone, and top ten results in the broad jump and shuttle. That being said however his one major flaw is related to the test not yet mentioned: the bench press. Gilbert only did twelve reps on the bench, good for second to last when compared to combine results and it showed that this result wasn’t necessarily an outlier in his tape.
He gets some leeway as he has absurdly long arms with a six and three-quarter-foot wingspan but he needs to add at least five pounds of functional upper body strength. This should not be much of an issue after an NFL strength program though and will improve his issues with missed tackles against larger opponents and issues shedding blocks in run support. After a little coaching up Gilbert could potentially grow into a Deandre Levy replacement with much higher upside on the blitz and a specialty in stripping the football.
At the very least, he has the ability to be a nice backup linebacker and the hybrid defensive piece as well as a quality special teams player. He’s my number 18 outside linebacker and I expect him to come off the board in the late sixth round.
Antony Auclair, Tight End, Laval
Out of all the tight ends in this historically deep class, you’re almost certainly not going to know less about one then Canadian Antony Auclair. Auclair played his football at Laval university in Quebec where he showcased freakish athleticism and an NFL level skill set, dominating his competition. After backing that up with a nice performance at the East-West Shrine Game he became a prospect to definitely take note of.
At 6’6 255 lbs, he’s above prototypical size and moves very fluidly with nice hands. He also has experience operating in a variety of stances, from H-back to Y-receiver, to a traditional in line look. On top of that his blocking isn’t half bad for a rookie, making up for what he lacks in technique with power and attitude. Auclair is going to be a little rough around the edges due to his lower level of competition and his lack of solidified technique, that is a given.
However, he has one of the highest ceilings of any tight end in this class, and should he reach his potential is a no-brainer starter. I currently have him listed as my number eighteen tight end with a seventh-round grade, however, his stock could fluctuate wildly as we get closer to draft day and more teams bring him in for in-house visits.
#Lions DT Coach Kocurek at Old Dominion today, Rashaad Coward is a nice DT sleeper.
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) March 17, 2017
Rashaad Coward, Defensive Tackle, Old Dominion
If you were to just check online rankings and do a quick google search before you reading on about this player you probably would have taken a second to question why I put Rashaad Coward on this list. CBS has him listed as the 938th ranked prospect in their top 1000 prospects list coming from the lightly recruited Conference USA school Old Dominion, and if you type him into a search engine you aren’t exactly going to get a ton of pre-draft insights into his strengths and weaknesses.
I couldn’t even get a fair use picture of him for the article. Nevertheless, I saw the Lions sent their defensive line coach all the way out to Virginia solely to watch this guy so I figured I would turn on the tape. What I found was an absolute monster. Coward is 6’5, 325 lbs, runs about a five second 4o, and plays with an old school mean streak that would give Ndamukong Suh a run for his money.
Needless to say, he’s quickly becoming my favorite late round prospect. Now he’s not going to blow anyone away with his pass rush at this point, he’s more of a space eater that can push the pocket, but has the athletic ability to develop some of those skills. He also can take the temper a little too far sometimes, leading to some issues with flags but he has reeled a lot of that in over his time at the collegiate level.
End of the day he’s a bit of a raw guy that you could tack on to the back end of the defensive tackle rotation day one and develop into something potentially very exciting down the road. He fits exactly what the Lions are looking to do and seeing him lined up along Ashawn Robinson for potentially years to come is an intriguing thought should he reach the potential I believe he has a few years down the road. Coward is my number twenty-one defensive tackle and I expect him to go in the seventh round.