(Independent scout and draft expert Josh Liskiewitz will contribute regularly to RoarReport.com in the days, weeks and months leading up to the annual NFL draft. To determine Josh's street cred, check his bio beneath the article -- Thanks, Ed.)
This year's Senior Bowl is absolutely loaded with talent. Troy WR Jerrel Jernigan has dropped out due to an injury he suffered during his bowl game, but most every other top senior in the country will be attending. Here is a quick list of just some of the prospects the Detroit Lions will be paying close attention to, and where at this point they are most likely to be drafted.
Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado 6-2 3/8 - 202
Considered by some scouts to be the top pure CB talent this year, this is Jimmy Smith's opportunity to shine. Few corners his size possess his level of speed and fluidity. Scouts love his physical play in press coverage, but this week he needs to prove that he can be just as proficient in off man and zone coverage.
If Cameron Jordan lasts until pick No. 13 in the draft, Detroit needs to run up to the podium with his name written on the card, no questions asked. While he does not have an elite, Freeney-esque burst off the edge, he is plenty quick off the ball and possesses outstanding strength. He would be a perfect strong side DE for the Lions, as he would is a dominant run defender, as well as a solid pass rusher from both LDE and under-tackle. With a big week of practice in Mobile, he will firmly assert himself as a top 10 pick.
While he doesn't have elite strength, Derek Sherrod is an excellent athlete who is able to consistently set his man off the snap because of his surprising quickness. He flashes the footwork needed to cut off the edge, as well as seal the corner when run blocking. If he shows more consistency with his shuffle in Mobile this week he could become the clear #2 OT in this draft class, behind only Anthony Castonzo.
The weigh-in will be crucial for Rodney Hudson, as he is considered an undersized interior line prospect that needs to switch from guard to center because of his college playing weight. Base on film study, if he were 20 lbs heavier he would be a sure fire first rounder. He plays stronger than his size would suggest because of his excellent leverage, aggressiveness, and technique. He is an outstanding athlete that can easily get out into space on screens and pulls, as well as immediately get across his man's face at the snap toproperly execute reach blocks.
Because of his victory over cancer last year, Mark Herzlich will certainly be one of the media's favorite players in Mobile. Scouts however are also intrigued, as he played like a first round prospect as a sophomore at BC before his sickness. He is a thick linebacker that flashes the speed to pursue sideline to sideline, as well as cover TEs man to man in space. He has the aggressiveness and burst to play in any system, but could be an excellent strong side linebacker candidate for Detroit. While an impressive showing in Mobile will help his stock, it's the medical testing at the combine that will be key for him.
I list Ras-I Dowling as a defensive back because the big question going into this week is whether he is a better fit at CB or safety. While he is big and physical, he at times looks a bit stiff in transition, causing him to lose ground when he flips his hips. He does, however,flash the instincts and burst to break and close effectively from off coverage, a skill that few college DBs possess. Detroit has a need at both positions, so expect them to pay close attention to his play.
Injury struggles kept James Brewer from realizing his full potential in college, but there are some that believe when healthy he is a better prospect than 2009 Hoosier teammate and rookie LT standout Rodger Saffold. He clearly has the bulk to play on the outside, but he also flashes the quick feet needed to protect the edge. Current Lions brass does not seem to feel they need to spend a high draft pick in order to find their future blind side protector, so if Brewer can hold his own against the big boys this week he makes a lot of sense in the third round.
Shareece Wright may be best know as the guy that got crushed by Stanford QB Andrew Luck while returning a recovered fumble, but he clearly has the skill set to contribute at the next level. On film, despite lacking elite speed he was a fluid athlete that could change directions and accelerate to the ball. As long as he measures above 5100 and looks like he can add bulk to his thin frame he will be a late day 2 consideration.
While Kendric Burney is short and lacks blazing speed, he makes up for it with his aggressiveness and instincts in all types of coverage. As an added bonus, he is super aggressive against the run and is an excellent tackler. If he has a productive Senior Bowl week and runs no slower than 4.55 at the combine, he will quickly move up draft boards.
Josh Liskiewitz has been an independent scout for four years, the last two with GM Jr as a college scout. He is a self professed "film junkie," watching upwards of 50 hours of film per week year round on hundreds of NFL prospects. He credits Russ Lande, former NFL scout and founder and president of GM Jr Scouting LLC, with aiding in the development of his foundation in scouting and unique perspective on football.