Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cordarrelle Patterson will not escape the first 16 picks

Written by Tiger Hebert

Tonight I watched NFL Network's Game Changers: Wide Receivers.  I know that these shows are designed to put the players in the best light prior to the draft, but I still find this show to be valuable to watch each year.  In tonight's episode they had Kenny Stills, Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Da'Rick Rodgers and Cordarrelle Patterson.

A lot of people, myself included, have viewed this years draft class to be a down year for wide receivers.  Not that the group won't be good, but that there appears to be a lack on the top end blue chip players.  That may or may not be true, but this episode of Game Changers definitely had guys with the ability to produce at the next level.

The consensus top wide receiver in the group is the Tennessee Volunteers' Cordarrelle Patterson.  At 6'2, 216 lbs Patterson ran a superb 4.42 official time in Indianapolis.  He added a 37" vertical and a 10'8" broad jump to further display his explosiveness.  No one really needed to see his measurables in Indy to know that he is an electrifying playmaker though.  All they would have to do is watch any of his 2012 game tape as he dominated the elite competition that is the SEC conference.  His 1,858 all purpose yards and 10 all purpose touchdowns show that he was Tennessee's most dangerous weapon.

Now there are some concerns with Patterson.  He only played for one year at Tennessee after transferring in from Hutchinson C.C. (JUCO).  Additionally, as he was only at a top tier program for one season, and his route running is far from polished as well as some of the finer nuances of the position, like down field body control when covered.  These are things that he will need to learn from savy veterans at the next level, but if he is committed to his craft he will be fine.

Beyond his obvious physical skills, Patterson has tons of upside.  Scouting reports and film confirms that he is a natural hands catcher and that he does have the body control to adjust to poorly thrown balls.  Coaches have said the Patterson also possess impressive football intelligence, which will be vital for a rookie in one of the NFL's most difficult positions to learn.

Another aspect of Patterson that teams will like is the fact that his swag is off the charts, even compared to the other wide receivers on the show with him.  Confidence will not be an issue for Patterson, which is going to be important with the pressure to immediately produce, that comes with being a top 15 pick.

One other small thing that I found interesting was how he reacted during the dialogue portions of the show.  Steve Mariucci was asking the players how often the went back to the huddle and told their QBs that they were open.  Each of them laughed as they said 100% of the time.  However the conversation continued to how they would react if the ball was completed elsewhere.  At this point a few of the receivers said if it doesn't come to them it was incomplete.  Mostly they were laughing, but Cordarrelle responded twice by saying something to the effect of, "you guys are diva's."  This whole exchange was funny and light-hearted, but I liked his response, because it showed that even though he wants the ball in his hands, that he is a true team-first player.

There is a pro-player comparison that I want to make, but it will surprise people.  Not because it is hard to see, but because it is an NFL player that plays a different position.  In fact, every time I watch Patterson with the ball in his hands, I see player who used to wear an orange jersey and had braids hanging out the back of his helmet.  That player is the former Texas Longhorns' running back Jamaal Charles.  Charles is only 5'11 and 199 lbs, but he is an explosive home-run threat every time he touches the ball.  Despite being bigger at 6'2, 216 Patterson runs with a very similar lean and body control.  His movements in the broken field are strikingly similar to Charles'.  The only thing that I would like to see more of is Patterson getting North-South quicker, because in the NFL those running lanes will close much faster.

I know that many people will find a pro player comparison of a future NFL wide receiver to a current NFL running back to be odd or even useless, but the bottom line is that Patterson is a nightmare when the ball is in his hands like Charles.  He may not rank as highly as Julio Jones, AJ Green or Dez Bryant, but I believe that he could prove to be just as, if not more explosive after the catch than any of them.

Cordarrelle Patterson will not escape the top 16.

Possible destinations: #8 Buffalo Bills, #9 New York Jets, #11 San Diego Chargers, #14 Carolina Panthers, #16 St Louis Rams.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jarvis Jones disappoints with 4.83s Forty

Louis Bien - Mocking the Draft.com

Georgia Bulldogs outside linebacker Jarvis Jones opted not to work out at the NFL Combine, making his showing at today's pro day all the more important. For a moment, that gamble appeared to have backfired as Jones apparently pulled a hamstring running the 40-yard dash.
Athens Banner-Herald beat writer Marc Weiszer and 247Sports reporter Gentry Estesreported the hamstring tweak as it happened. It doesn't appear to be a huge issue, though, because Jones ran the 40 again without a hitch as Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph and Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported later.
Unfortunately, Jones probably didn't achieve the time he was looking for. Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald reported Jones at a 4.85 in the 40-yard dash. By comparison, linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo ran 4.53 and 4.50, respectively. Likewise, Jones put up underwhelming numbers in the broad jump, recording 9'3" and 8'7" on his two attempts according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jones did look good in position drills according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.
Jones is the 2013 NFL Draft's third-rated outside linebacker prospect as ranked by SB Nation's Dan Kadar, and projected to go ninth overall in the first round to the New York Jets in Matthew Fairburn's latest mock. As mentioned, Georgia's pro day was important for Jones to establish his physical skills and post strong workout results in front of a host of NFL team scouts who didn't get the answers they were looking for at the combine. Whether he remains in the Top 10 will depend on how much stock scouts put on his Pro Day numbers.
More highlights:
Defensive tackle John Jenkins also ran well, posting a 5.1 in the 40-yard dash according to Ledbetter. Considering he weighed in at 346 pounds at the Combine, NFL scouts had to be impressed.
Cornerback Branden Smith was not invited to the Combine, but he tested very well for pro scouts, running a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash and jumping 10'8" in the broad jump. He led all players among reported scores.
Running back Richard Samuel was also able to show off his explosiveness, jumping 10'5.5" in the broad jump.
Cornerback Sanders Commings tested very well at the Combine, but sat out the bench press portion of the event. On Thursday, he put to rest any questions about his strength by putting up 23 reps of 225 pounds, according to Pauline.
Defensive tackle Kwame Geathers reportedly looked strong during drills, and said afterward that he has dropped his weight down (!) to 335 pounds.
Cornelius Washington showed off his versatility by participating in linebacker and defensive line drills. He apparently performed well enough to get daps from New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Star Lotulelei medically cleared for Pro Day workout

Giffin Gota - Mocking the Draft.com
As NFL pro days hit their last major push as March winds down, Wednesday's schedule features one of the 2013 NFL Draft's top prospects in Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Lotulelei was forced to miss the NFL Combine after getting diagnosed with a heart condition. He will be a full participant in the Utes' pro day, however, after he was cleared to resume workouts in late February. The 6'3, 320-pound tackle is the position's top-ranked prospect in SB Nation's rankings by Matthew Fairburn.
Once widely considered the draft's top overall propsect, Lotulelei has some work to do at Utah's pro day to ease the minds of NFL teams and reestablish himself in the loaded position group that is the defensive line. He is currently projected to be taken 13th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Fairburn's latest mock draft.
Tennessee's pro day features a group of offensive players that figure to garner plenty of interest from the NFL. Quarterback Tyler Bray remains a mysterious prospect -- though SB Nation has him as the draft's fifth-best QB -- and will try to follow up a strong showing at the NFL Combine to further increase his stock.
Wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter are both top 10 prospects in Fairburn's wide receiver rankings for SB Nation, and will likely be jockeying for a potential spot in the first round of the draft. Former Volunteer wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, after getting kicked out of Tennessee's program due to failed drug tests and then joining Tennessee Tech, will also work out on Wednesday. He sits atop Optimum Scouting'ssmall school draft board.
At Virginia Tech, wide receivers Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller, along with offensive lineman Nick Becton and linebacker Bruce Taylor, will try to stand out at the Hokies' pro day.
North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon, the third-ranked quarterback prospect by SB Nation, could continue to attract attention from NFL teams who think he might fit their specific system.
Elsewhere, both Baylor and the Ohio Bobcats -- with offensive lineman Eric Hermanand defensive lineman Tremayne Scott -- will have scouts hovering over their respective pro days. Western Kentucky, although defensive end Quanterus Smith may not be able to showcase his skills, will feature prospects such as tight end Jack Doyle and offensive lineman Adam Smith.
Other schools holding their pro day workouts Wednesday include Ball State, Central Florida, Ohio and Sacramento State.

2013 NFL Draft: Compensatory Picks

Matt Verderame - Mocking the Draft.com
The NFL announced the 32 compensatory picks for this year's draft, giving teams the final answer to where they stand heading into April.
The big winners from Monday's announcement were the Houston Texans, who scored the highest compensatory pick at No. 95 overall in the third round to go a along with a sixth-round pick. The Kansas City Chiefs also earned a third and a sixth, and the Tennessee Titans earned picks in the third, sixth and seventh rounds.
The Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens earned the most compensatory picks, with four each. The Falcons earned a pick in the fourth as well as three seventh-round picks, while the Ravens earned picks in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco 49ers were given a fourth-rounder and two seventh-round picks to add to an already huge bounty of draft picks. You can check out the full list of 2013 compensatory picks here.
TeamNo. of PicksRounds
Arizona Cardinals0-
Atlanta Falcons44, 7, 7, 7
Baltimore Ravens44, 5, 6, 7
Buffalo Bills0-
Carolina Panthers0-
Chicago Bears0-
Cincinnati Bengals27, 7
Cleveland Browns0-
Dallas Cowboys0-
Denver Broncos0-
Detroit Lions27, 7
Green Bay Packers15
Houston Texans23, 6
Indianapolis Colts17
Jacksonville Jaguars0-
Kansas City Chiefs23, 6
Miami Dolphins25, 7
Minnesota Vikings0-
New England Patriots0-
New Orleans Saints0-
New York Giants17
New York Jets0-
Oakland Raiders16
Philadelphia Eagles17
Pittsburgh Steelers16
Saint Louis Rams0-
San Diego Chargers0-
San Francisco 49ers34, 7, 7
Seattle Seahawks27, 7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers0-
Tennessee Titans33, 6, 7
Washington Redskins0-
The picks are given out based on which players a team lost in the previous offseason to free agency. From there, the pick depends on how much the player was on the field, how well he performed and his salary. The third round is the highest selection that can be awarded.
Last year, a total of 15 teams received compensatory draft picks. The Raiders were the only team to get a third-round compensatory pick.
It is also worth pointing out that the compensatory picks can not be traded under any circumstances. The team granted the slot has to draft a player right then and there.
For example, Brandon Carr was signed away from the Kansas City Chiefs by the Dallas Cowboys last year. Carr went on to be a full-time, high-caliber starter, which netted the Chiefs a compensatory third-round pick.
Some might sneeze at the idea of a compensatory selection, blowing it off as being the bottom of the barrel. But not so fast pal, I'll give you a few examples.
Linebacker Miles Burris of the Oakland Raiders was taken with a fourth-round comp pick last year and developed into one of the best rookies in football, making 96 tackles and starting 15 games.
In 2011, the New York Giants snagged Jacquian Williams from South Florida, and he became a key player in bringing Big Blue another Super Bowl championship that season.
The year before that, the Green Bay Packers landed offensive tackle Marshall Newhousein the fifth round, now a nice tackle for the Pack.
Don't sleep on the compensatory picks.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Scouting Combine Observations: Defensive Line & Linebackers

Written by Tiger Hebert

  • Dion Jordan showed he is every bit the freak athlete that we thought he was.  Not only did he run fast, jump high, etc., but he looked like a natural in the different bag drills.  He bends surprisingly well for someone of his height.  The only knock on Jordan is that he is too light right now to play a traditional end role in the NFL.
  • Barkevious Mingo has question marks concerning his effort and production, but his workouts were exceptional as expected.
  • Ezekiel Ansah flashed the elite athleticism that we expected with a 4.63 forty and a positional best 1.56 10-yard split.  Ansah also put up a decent 21 reps, considering his arm length (35.18).  Ansah will not escape the top 15.
  • The "Eastern Block", Margus Hunt wowed everyone with his combination of size and athleticism.  The Estonian stands 6'8 and 277 pounds.  He benched an amazing 38 times, especially with such a long frame, and ran an official 4.60 which is one of the fastest among defensive ends.  The big question about Hunt is why there was minimal production at SMU, outside of his nearly record setting 17 blocked kicks. 
  • DaMontre Moore, as I previously mentioned, was a huge disappointment over the last few days.  He only repped out at a pathetic 12 bench presses.  His forty time was terrible at 4.95, which was slower than defensive tackle Shariff Floyd.
  • Bjoern Werner was rather average among the defensive ends.  He did have 25 reps, but his 40 was officially 4.83 and his 10-yard split was a respectable 1.66.  Ultimately I need to study more tape on Werner because his production seems solid, but I think he will be over-drafted in April.
  • Florida Gator defensive tackle Shariff Floyd raised concerns with his tiny little arms which only measured in under 32 inches, but when he did the rest of his workouts, his talent was on display.  He looked very fluid in his drills, enough for Warren Sapp to comment on his ability to really flip his hips and run.  He also had an impressive 4.92 forty while being 300 pounds.   Floyd seems to be a lock for a top 10 pick come April.

  • Khaseem Greene will need to rely on his production and game tape, because he disappointed during the combine.  The former safety ran a pedestrian 4.71 while putting up just 17 reps.  Fortunately he did have a 1.62 10-yard split though which should help.
  • Zaviar Gooden is a player that I am high on and his stock continues to rise with an impressive combine showing.  He ran a sub 4.5 forty, 27 reps and a 34 inch vertical.  You see the explosiveness and athleticism, the question will be why his production dipped after his impressive sophomore season.
  • UConn's Sio Moore did not run quite as well as I anticipated as he was in the mid 4.6 range, but he had better size than I realized at 6/1 245 with 33.58 inch arms, so that makes up for the speed difference.  He also had a very good 10-yard split like Greene at 1.62.  With this size and 29 reps on the bench, I think Moore is a good fit for both 4-3 and 3-4 teams and could go as early as the 2nd round.
  • I don't want to over-analyze Manti Te'o's workout at the combine, but it is work taking a look at.  His forty was slow as expected, but I am not sure that many people thought he would run in the 4.8s.  Again he is much quicker than fast, and he showed it with a decent 10-yard split of 1.62.  I am curious as to why Manti declined the bench.  This may not be anything, but it does concern me that he didn't feel prepared to display his strength.  He did show decent lateral agility and the quickness in his drills, but his feet didn't look as clean as they could have been.  I don't know if this is an issue or if he was just dealing with nerves and anxiousness.  If I were to make a pro-player comparison at this point in the process, I would have to liken Manti to Rey Maualuga.  So I looked up Rey's combine performance and I found his numbers for the most part to be in the same range as Manti.  I believe Manti is better in pass defense where Rey is more a thumper, but ultimately I think they both fall to the second round and do not have the same impact in the NFL that they did in the college ranks.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mecial test reveals heart condition for defensive tackle prospect Star Lotulelei's

Star Lotulelei, Isi SofeleAP
Star Lotulelei, a defensive tackle from Utah who is widely viewed as one of the best players in this year’s draft, was found to have a heart condition when examined at the Scouting Combine.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Lotulelei’s left ventricle is pumping at 44 percent efficiency, below the normal range of 55 percent to 70 percent. As a result, Lotulelei will leave Indianapolis without going through any workouts.
Lotulelei’s condition was discovered via an echocardiogram conducted as part of the normal Combine medical evaluation. He will now return home to Utah to undergo more tests.
ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. ranks Lotulelei as the No. 1 overall player in this year’s draft, at any position. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock calls Lotulelei the second-best defensive tackle in the draft.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Scouting Combine Observations: Offensive Skills Positions

Texas A&M's Chrstine Michael

Written by Tiger Hebert
  • Geno Smith still has many question marks about his accuracy but he showed that not only was he incredibly productive in college, but he is a much better athlete than many people may have realized.
  • Overall, the quarterback group seemed to lack any players that really stood out from the crowd.
  • Tavon Austin was blazingly fast running an unofficial 4.25 with a final "official" 4.34.  Austin showed excellent burst and long speed as was expected, but his 40 time was even better than advertised.  Further he showed excellent hands seemed natural in positional drills, he may not escape the first round.
  • Texas A&M's Ryan Swope surprised with a much faster 40 time than many expected when he ran a 4.34 with a 1.47 split, showing he could be more than just a possession receiver at the next level.
  • Denard Robinson's best time was 4.4, but more importantly he showed better hands than what were on display at the Senior Bowl.  He will still be a project player taken in the later rounds, but this improved his stock.
  • Overall the running back group was a bit of a let down to me, because I expected that with the abundance of smaller backs that we would see more burners today.  However many of the players that I thought would torch the 40 ran in 4.5s or higher.  
  • Only two running backs ran sub 4.4 forties today.
  • Arkansas running back Knile Davis became relevant again today after putting on a show.  The 227 pound back ran an official 4.37 and did 31 reps on the bench.  If he can prove that he has put his medical problems behind him, teams will really need spend more time evaluating him and why he struggled so much in 2012.  
  • Christine Michael is a player that I find very intriguing.  He has red flags for have some off the field issues, including having issues with his coaching staff at Texas A&M.  Without knowing the details it is hard to tell if there is a lack of maturity or if the player can be trusted, but his talent is unmistakable.  Today he ran a 4.54 at 220 lbs and had an impressive 1.51 second 10-yard split.  He also hammered out 27 reps.  One thing that stood out beyond the numbers was watching him run through the positional drills.  He ran angry, even during the drills.  This guy might be a huge risk, but I think he could be special.     
  • I did not really know anything about Johnathan Franklin, but apparently I will be watching some film now after watching and hearing about him today.  Former NFL coach Jim Mora Jr., who coached him at UCLA gave a glowing endorsement of the young man.  He said Franklin reminded him of a running back that he coached in the NFL named Warrick Dunn.  He said that he was like Dunn both as a running back, but more importantly as a person.  Saying that Franklin was the most impressive combination of talent and character that he has ever coached in his 30 years of experience.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Scouting Combine Observations: Offensive Line

Eric Fisher - Central Michigan 

Written by Tiger Hebert

Here are just a few thoughts and observations regarding I have after watching the scouting combine.

  • Many people seems to think that Eric Fisher is catching up to Luke Joeckel, and they may very well be correct.  Ultimately the game film will determine who ends up as the drafts top tackle, but Fisher just looks the part more than Joeckel to me.  However, I think both players will be anchors on their respective lines for years to come.
  • Lane Johnson was generating a lot of buzz over the last few weeks and after seeing his impressive athleticism today I can see why.  I do not have any familiarity with his game film though, so I can't really speak to that yet.  However the crew on NFL Network seem to think that he is a lock to go in the top 10 now.
  • Oday Aboushi had a disappointing day where he only put up 17 reps on the bench.  For a big man to run as slow as he did (5.44) and to only put up 17 reps with arms that are under 34 inches should raise concerns.  He was more of a mid-late round guy to begin with and his performance did nothing to help that.
  • Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pinebluff took the gold in the underwear olympics today as he put up 41 reps and posted an unofficial 4.65 forty with a 1.64 10-yard split, all of which are incredible for a 306 pound man.  Ultimately the tape will be the true evaluator of his ability, but he definitely improved his stock today.
  • DJ Fluker is a massive dude who definitely looks like he has the tools to be a dominant player in the NFL.  I also feel good to here Mike Mayock confirm what I was saying about Fluker last week when he said that Fluker would ideally be an RT in the NFL.  Fluker's feet were not great, but that was to be expected.  What wasn't expected was that he would would put up 21 reps, but keep in mind that he is doing those reps with 36.68 inch arms, which makes the reps that much harder.  
  • Reid Fragel may not have hurt his stock today, but I was expecting him to be a better athlete for a former tight end.  Unfortunately he only ran in the 5.10 range.  However, he did pump out 33 reps.
  • Warmack and Larry Warford are arguably the #1 and #3 guards in the draft and on paper they look like they would have hurt themselves as they were both pedestrian with runs in the 5.5 range or better and 10-yard splits north of 1.8, but in the positional drills they looked fluid and natural, and reminded everyone that it is all about what they do on the field.
  • Johnathan Cooper is a name that is starting to be in the conversation a lot more in the last month as a premiere player, potentially a top 15, top 20 pick.  It isn't common to see guards taken so early, but Cooper is so good that he is even giving Chance Warmack a run for his money as the best at their position.  Cooper may or may not be the better player, but he only helped solidify himself with a great showing today.  His feet were fluid and he showed a great base in his drills.  He was nasty on the bench throwing out an impressive 35 reps and having a 1.73 10-yard split.  This guy is big, powerful and explosive, and he will be a stud in the NFL.
  • I was interested in finding out more about Brian Winters out of Kent State.  He has a good size at 6'4, 320, and seemed like he may be a good value on the inside in the later rounds, but he has surprisingly short arms at 32.68 inches, and he only did 9 reps.  Apparently they announced afterward that he had to stop because of a pectoral cramp, but this deems a second look by scouts on his pro day.  He did not participate in the other drills, so March 6th will be a big day for him.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Houston Texans Draft: Needs and Greeds

By: Colin Cook

No one can say the Texans had a "bad season". They did make the playoffs and win the Wild Card game, but aside from never having a losing playoff record, the Texans' final six or seven weeks of the 2012 season have been...well, abysmal.

The first twelve or thirteen weeks were absolute magic for Texans fans, as they put every team they played against on blast, dominating every aspect of the game. Sure, Matt Shaub had targeted his tight ends more often than any time in his career. Sure, they led the league in 'time of possession' with their ground attack led by the spry Arian Foster. But the Texans' offense, on the whole, was not showy.

In my years of being a fan of this team, I've come to expect us to kick field goals more often than scoring touchdowns; to the point that whenever we're in the other team's thirty yard line, and it's third down, I'll usually walk away and do something else while the field goal and commercials take place.

Since Eric Wilson was traded to the Raiders, the offensive line has definitely struggled to protect Schaub, and even though he is one of the least sacked quarterbacks, that added pressure would definitely force him to rely on the 'easier' tight-end passes.

Offensive Needs:

Before the Texans run off to find a true #2 wide receiver to co-star beside Andre Johnson after a career season, they need to fix that offensive line problem. It isn't as bad an o-line as, say, the Eagles, but you never want to let a crack in a dam get too big. The Texans need to solve this problem as soon as possible, especially with Shaun Cody's back injury.

Offensive Greeds:

I trust and believe in Matt Schaub 100%. Even after his highly erratic final six or seven weeks of the season, he is definitely one of the league's best quarterbacks, not only as a player but as a human being. As much as I hate to say it, and as much as the organization hates to say it (they gave him a four-year contract extension) Shaub's time may be coming. It may just be the aforementioned offensive line issue, which is why this isn't a 'need', but Schaub's erratic play was just heartbreaking to watch. To see us go from a #1 seed to playing in the Wild Card again was just terrible. Not that I'm blaming Shaub, but he did contribute.

The defense of the Texans, however, is a solid wall. Can you run through a solid wall? Nope; you can only beat yourself against it until you manage to break through a weakened spot. But how else do you get past a solid wall? Well, you can always throw the ball over it!!

Defensive Needs:

Oh my goodness, how can our secondary be so tremendous and then become so atrocious week-by-week? If you watch the game tape of the Texans' loss to the Packers, you will see Aaron Rodgers and his wide receivers making plays that are miraculous at best. Against the Patriots and Tom Brady, you can see the same thing. Now, I said the same thing before their losses to the Patriots, "If we can use our awesome pass rush to put pressure on these quarterbacks, they'll be bad!".

It didn't work. Our secondary is definitely improving, but as good as Wade Phillips is at blitzing, their coverage seems to be the weakest point on this team. And you know what they say about a team and it's weakest link...

Defensive Greeds:

Far be it from me to say that a dirty play by the Jets affected our defense by knocking Brian Cushing, but did you notice that, every week, the commentators kept using a merry-go-round of names for our linebackers? Yeah, that's because the injuries piled up so high we had to pull players off of free agency just to play. Brian Cushing is the burning soul of our defense, any Texans' fan will tell you. The team clearly plays at a higher level with him around. Then Brooks Reed went down. And then Dobbins...

This is probably the most worthless thing to ask for, but the defense cannot get the injuries that they did this season. Even the secondary was running on empty! Alan Ball? Who is that?! Granted, our defense played like champions week in and week out (there are YouTube videos that back up that statement) regardless of the injuries, but you can never rely on second-string players in a starter world.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2013 Detroit Lions Offseason Strategy: The NFL Draft

Written by Tiger Hebert

The playoffs have raced past us and the Baltimore Ravens are the newly crowned champions.  The Super Bowl itself was a game that I really appreciated, because it was a game of two tough and physical teams fighting it out for the ultimate goal.  Now everyone understands that these were not the 2000-2001 Ravens, but they are still a physical in your face team.  I know that it is the offense that carries them and not the defense anymore, but this is still a blue collar team.  The 49ers on the other hand are just short of a punch in the mouth.

I understand fully that the NFL has evolved into more of a passing league, but the reality is that to be consistently relevant in the NFL you must invest into your offensive and defensive lines.  Everyone knows the Lions' secondary has been awful, that the receiving corp is a joke, and the running game is abysmal but there are two things that can make all of those other areas better.  The offensive and defensive lines.  If the Lions want to be a legitimate team who is in contention year after year, they need to build a solid foundation.

The Lions started building what was supposed to be a fear evoking front four when they signed Kyle Vanden Bosch and traded for Corey Williams.  Then they drafted Ndamukong Suh, and lined up him next to rising star Cliff Avril.  The following year they added luxury pick Nick Fairley. and opposing offenses were supposed to waive their white flags in fear of the Silver Crush.

Now just to be clear, I am not criticizing the strategy at all.  In fact, I like the approach.  I just don't like the execution of the plan.  Fortunately, the team will not be saddled with KVBs contract anymore now that he was let go, but Suh's contract is like a millstone around the teams proverbial neck.  Unless he restructures his contract, he will be counting just over $18 million against the cap in 2013 and 2014, over 15% of the teams cap space for just one player.  Now I understand that there was not much that they could do, because this is an old-CBA rookie deal which grossly overpays young players, but the impact goes beyond that.  The following year, the team used the 13th overall selection to draft Nick Fairley.  I was more than skeptical about the drafting of Fairley because of the character concerns, especially when the team had many more far pressing needs throughout the roster.  Instead they grabbed a backup defensive tackle.  Now Nick has actually been quite impressive showing flashes of brilliance, but unfortunately up to this point, they have only been flashes.  

On the offensive side of the ball, it has been eve worse.  The team did make a great move to acquire Rob Sims when he was let go from Seattle a few years back, but that was the only impressive move prior to the drafting of Riley Reiff.  Instead of making a big splash, they opted to draft project players like Jason Fox, who may or may not ever become a starting caliber player.  The team did work the waiver wire to snag players with a high ceiling like Bill Nagy, but again the team still doesn't know what they have with that acquisition.  So in 2012, they trotted out the same five starters across the offensive line, with Backus and Sims being the teams top talent.  Unfortunately this left the oft over-matched Dominic Raiola and Stephen Peterman to handle the business at center and right guard.  Statistically speaking, this group looks good on paper, allowing so few sacks despite the record setting number of pass attempts that were made in 2012, but make no mistake this group is a liability.  Matthew Stafford has developed happy feet and his pocket presence has actually gotten over the last season, and is is because he doesn't trust the guys that are paid to protect him.

The running game is an even bigger mess.  If you watched any film of the Lions running game, you know that Mikel LeShoure left tons of yardage on the field this season.  There were several occasions where the offensive line created massive lanes, sealing on the second and sometimes event he third level, but he was unable to make the plays for a variety of reasons, leaving chunk plays un-made.  These were the plays that Joique Bell regularly seemed to make.  Those running lanes were not the norm though, and they were typically when the Lions were running from a passing set, where the defense gave them an incredibly favorable box.  What I mean, is that those were the plays that the team has to make, and has to make them regularly.  The Lions run blocking was actually quite miserable the majority of the time if the opposing defense even had just seven defenders in the box.  This is not acceptable, and it must be corrected.

At this point in the offseason, the Lions made made a few things clear about their roster for 2013.  First off, they acknowledged that this team's talent is not as good as their playoff run in 2011 led most of us to believe.  The team simply does not have enough impact players, and too many mediocre talents.  Martin Mayhew has pointed to the fact that the team has not made enough game changing plays offensively or defensively, and that this needs to change.  This tells us a few things about the Lions talent acquisition strategy at this point.  We should expect that the Lions will focus on speed at running back to fill the void left by Jahvid Best, and that on defense they will focus on pass rushers and ball-hawks.

This does not mean that they won't draft players outside of these positions, but rather when evaluating players, which ones will be more sought after.  This is where a Florida's Mike Gillislee could be rated higher than an equally talented Eddie Lacy, or where Ezekiel Ansah could be favored over a more polished product like Bjoern Werner.  This is also a reason why the team could elect to take a mid-to-late round flier on the player formerly known as "The Honey Badger", Tyrann Mathieu.

So without further ado, let's take a look at some of the positions that the Lions are likely to draft, and which players would fit this strategy in terms of value and draft position.

Running Back
Mike Gillislee - Florida
There is probably no running back in this class that intrigues me more than Gillislee.  His frame is 5'11 and 209 pounds which is a very good build for a speed back in the NFL, which Gillislee clearly is as we will see soon with a potentially sub 4.4 forty time.  In addition to being a home run threat, he runs with more power than you would expect, and he is solid in pass protection.

Kenjon Barner - Oregon
I did not get to see Oregon play this year, so I was excited to see Barner the "Burner" at the Senior Bowl.  He got a lot of playing time, but I did not get a great feel for him.  It seems that every couple of plays the quarterbacks were dumping off a check down to him, but he did flash the play making ability that was common-place in Chip Kelly's high octane offense.  Other than having a reliable set of hands, the jury is still out on Barner.

Andre Ellington - Clemson
Andre Ellington certainly didn't make any Tigers' fans forget about CJ Spiller, but he did prove to be a dangerous weapon in the Clemson offense.  Ellington is an undersized at 5'10 190 pounds, but has show the ability as both and inside and outside runner.  We will have to wait for the combine to see, but most say that Ellington is quicker than he is fast, but he still figures to be a big play threat.

Christine Michael - Texas A&M
I think Michael is a player that is a little bit under the radar at the moment because of the attention that Johnny Manziel and Ben Malena garnered, but I feel that he is better than a lot of people realize.  At 215 pounds Michael has a sturdy frame that should be able to deliver power and handle the rigors of the NFL.  I also think he will open some eyes with better than expected speed and quickness when he performs at the scouting combine.  I think he would be a good change of pace for the LeShoure/Bell combo the Lions have.

Tavon Austin - WVU
Just to be clear, I don't think the Lions have a realistic shot at landing Tavon Austin, nor should they spend the picks that it would cost to move up and grab him.  However, if she slides at all, he would be a amazing addition to the Lions offense.  Austin is a little guy at 5'9 176, but he is lightning in a bottle.  Some scouts have said that he is the most dangerous offensive player in this draft and the best open field runner out there.  He has great vision and instincts to go with his blazing speed.  Despite being listed as a receiver, he would fit a Jahvid Best/Darren Sproles type of role very well for the Lions.

Stedman Bailey - WVU
Stedman Bailey does not receive the recognition of his former WVU teammate, but he is an impressive playmaker.  While he is slightly bigger than Austin, at 5'10 193, he also has electrifying speed as well making him a big play waiting to happen.  He will be a productive slot receiver in the NFL, regardless of where he ends up.

Markus Wheaton - Oregon State
Markus Wheaton may not be a big name, but the senior is a one to keep an eye on.  The former Beaver has good height at 6'1, and has deceptive speed, and his production this season matched where he had 91 catches for over 1,200 yards and 11 scores.  Despite the changes at quarterback, Wheaton continued to produce and will be a quality middle round pick.

Offensive Line
Barrett Jones - Alabama
The current think is that there are three elite offensive line prospects.  Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, and Chance Warmack.  With that being said, they may not be a more valuable offensive lineman in the draft than Barrett Jones.  Jones has great size for a center at 6'5 311 pounds and he has the intelligence to handle all the mental aspects of making the line calls.  More importantly though, Jones has displayed as much versatility as you could while at Alabama.  He has showed the athleticism to play left tackle, the power to play guard, and the brains to play center.  If Jones does in-fact slide to the Lions in the second round, as many project he will, they almost have to take this future All-Pro lineman.

DJ Fluker - Alabama
Continuing with the National Champion Crimson Tide, the next player is the massive DJ Fluker.  At 6'4 355 pounds, Fluker may not have the athleticism to handle the premiere right defensive ends in the NFL, but he grades out to be a dominant force at right tackle.  His size and strength appear to be a great combination and would fit that position well.  If Fluker is available in the 3rd round, the Lions could find an immediate replacement for Gosder Cherilus who is currently an unrestricted free agent.

Manelik Watson - Florida State 
Watson is raw product, who has only been playing organized football for a few years after coming to the states from Manchester, England.  Originally he hoped to use his 6'6 frame to play basketball, but they quickly found a better use of his rare combination of size and athleticism in Tallahassee.  Now at 320 pounds this physical specimen has flashed the ability to dominate in the run game, and flashes the ability to handle pass rushers at the next level as well.  Watson would likely be a project player and would be best suited to right tackle initially, but does have the talent to play on the left side when he is developed.

Kyle Long - Oregon
Because I haven't seen much of Long's play, it is hard for me to know what to think of him.  His namesake alone gives him notoriety, but apparently he is more than just riding on the coat tails of his family.  WalterFootball.com has said that he performed well this year for the Ducks, particularly in the running game, and during talks throughout the Senior Bowl, it was said repeatedly that despite being raw, that they saw something special in him.  Unfortunately, he may be overdrafted because of his lineage, but if he is a mid-late round selection, he could be a great developmental selection.

Defensive End
Ezekiel Ansah - BYU
The projections for where "Ziggy" should and will go are all over the place, and for good reason.  Ansah has been rocketing through the ranks of draftable players since early in the season, and that will only continue as we pass through combine season, where he is expected to wow.  With only one season as a starter for the Cougars, there is little film to go on with Ansah, but his natural ability is undeniable.  I wish that I could have watched his practices at the Senior Bowl, but unfortunately I only saw the game.  However, he did not disappoint when facing the stiff competition that they presented.  There were a few things that were most impressive about his play.  The first is that this dude is fast.  Watching him string out a reverse to Tavon Austin in the open field was eye opening.  The second was that he was a smart and instinctive playmaker.  He naturally got up into passing lanes when he didn't reach the quarterback and he also made an excellent play stripping the ball away from the quarterback, forcing a fumble.  He may be raw, but I think he could be an impact player from day 1 in Detroit.

Bjoern Werner - Florida State
I realize that many experts have Werner to the Lions, and often he is referred to as the 1st or 2nd rated defensive end in the draft.  His production at Florida State certainly puts him in that conversation, but I am just not sold on him as a top 5 pick just yet.  I have to admit that the Orange Bowl is the only time I actually watched him play a full game, but I was just not blown away.  Now my issue with Werner has nothing to do with his ability, but he just was not as aggressive as I wanted to see from an elite prospect.  This could purely be a scheme issue, if his coaches have him focused on contain rather than collapsing the pocket.  I hope this is the case, because that is the only excuse I can make for the amount of time I counted him just standing up during a play.

Damontre Moore - Texas A&M
Moore is a very interesting prospect to me.  WalterFootball.com has had him rated as one of the top defensive ends all season, and he still ranks him as a top 5 talent.  However, the whispers around the league is that Moore's stock is falling.  I heard it mentioned that Moore was not even a first round talent, which I find mind boggling.  Now I need to watch more film on the young man, but the fact that he just changed positions to defensive and switched to the best conference in football, and still dominate makes me question what the heck these scouts are seeing that makes them think this.  Regardless of what the current buzz is on Moore, the reality is that few teams will be willing to pass up a young speed rusher who has notched 26.5 sacks in three seasons, he will not last into the second round unless there are unknown red flags that we don't know about.

Dion Jordan - Oregon
One of the names that has recently gained momentum among defensive ends is the edge rusher from Oregon.  Jordan played in a 3-4 defense, and that is possible his ideal fit, but his pure pass rushing potential is there.  There are question marks about Jordan though because of his size.  His length is incredible at 6'7, but he is only listed at 243 pounds which is lighter than you would like, especially considering his length.  This could make anchoring against the run  very difficult as an end in the NFL.  With his frame adding bulk shouldn't be an issue, but it is a concern.  Additionally, in part because of his defensive role, Jordan has only racked up 12.5 sacks over two seasons, which is not a lot of production from a guy who is projected as a possible first day pick.

Barkevious Mingo - LSU
I was excited to watch Mingo this year, as I thought he was the next great pass rusher.  Unfortunately on each occasion I came away disappointed.  In the games that I watched, he pretty much disappeared for stretches of time.  He is a speed guy with the ability to turn the corner, but the lack of size and strength will put him at a disadvantage too often for him to be a top pick in a 4-3 system.  Walt has suggested on his site the Mingo is better suited to play outside in a 3-4 system and that would be a logical thought, but I have no idea if he has the feet and hips to play in space.  The combine will tell us a great deal about Mingo's future role in the NFL, and perhaps we will see him in a Von Miller or an Aldon Smith type role.

Alex Okafor - Texas
The standout defensive end for the Longhorns is going to be a big time player in the NFL.  He most likely will not be drafted as high as some of the aforementioned players, but he could have an even larger impact than some of them.  Okafor is 6'4 261, but plays with both quickness and power that allows him to deploy an assortment of moves.  The Lions have said they are looking for impact players, and Okafor's production indicates that he fits the bill with 16.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a blocked kick this season.  In addition to his production, he was the only player that routinely gave Eric Fisher a hard time during Senior Bowl practices.  Fisher is currently the second ranked tackle in the draft.

Sam Montgomery - LSU
As I mentioned before, I had a few occasions to watch LSU play this year.  Each time, I was wanting to see what Mingo would do, and each time I came away more impressed with the lesser known Sam Montgomery.  While neither defensive end had the season they hoped for, Sam was more impressive to watch.  He was able to shed blocks more frequently and he made plays in the run game as well as helping collapse the pocket.  I don't think he is a top talent in terms of pass rushing, but I feel that he is a very solid 2nd day pick and that if the Lions go elsewhere in round 1, he could be a good choice in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Devin Taylor - South Carolina
I had heard a lot about this Jadeveon Clowney and got to witness his brilliance when the Gamecocks beat out Michigan in the Outback Bowl.  Yet you couldn't help but pay attention to Devin Taylor.  Taylor by most accounts did not have the production most hoped to see out of him in 2012, but his physical tools are obvious.  At 6'8, 270 pounds Taylor is still anticipated to run in the 4.7 range which is more than impressive. It is not just about the measurables though, as he is a fluid athlete who moves well and seemed capable to get off blocks routinely.  He is not a premiere rusher, but as a mid to late round pick, Devin Taylor could bring a lot of value to a team that wants to bolster its depth on the defensive line.

Jarvis Jones - Georgia
Jarvis Jones scares me.  He scares me that the Lions could select him and opt to create a role for him as a pass rushing linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, and that his injury history will do what it has done to countless Lions draft picks.  It also scares me that the Lions could pass up on the next Von Miller/Derrick Thomas style pass rushing linebacker.  The Spinal Stenosis that caused him to leave USC and transfer to Georgia is a real concern, but there were recent reports this week that he has been medically cleared to play football.  Whether or not there are lingering medical concerns there are other question marks surrounding Jones as well.  It is said that he is not a hard worker and that he doesn't put time into the weight room.  These are more reasons to be leery of this stud pass rusher, because in the NFL if you don't take care of your body, you won't last.  Jones could be well worth the risk, but how many times have us Lions' fans heard that line of thought?

Khaseem Greene - Rutgers
Khaseem is an interesting player because he was a huge factor for the Scarlet Knights defense this year.  He made loads of plays all over the field in both run and pass defense.  Now at only 6'0 236 he is small for an NFL linebacker, so the question is if he will need to be shifted back to his original safety position.  In either position, he could be an impact player for the Lions because they need help in both areas.  With that being said, I don't think they draft a linebacker in the first half of the draft unless he is a proven pass rusher.  In this case, Green looks more than capable, despite his smaller frame.

Sio Moore - UConn
I don't know a whole lot about Sio Moore, but from what I have read he seems to fit the mold of a linebacker who brings legitimate pass rusher ability off the edge.  During his senior season at UConn, Moore tallied 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.  As a mid to late round pick, Sio Moore could add good value to Detroit.

Zaviar Gooden - Missouri
Gooden is a bit of an enigma to me.  He burst onto the scene as a sophomore with great production, but his play has tailed off over the past two seasons.  More of a concern is that fact that he seemed to struggle against the better competition.  It may be too late, but Gooden did help himself by playing well in the Senior Bowl.  He showed good range and instincts, but expect him to still be available as a mid to late round selection at this point.

Jelani Jenkins - Florida
I am really looking forward to seeing Jelani Jenkins during the combine.  He is a young man with an incredibly high ceiling, but potential can get you fired.  Jenkins has excellent speed and a knack for making plays all over the field, but he missed a lot of time due to injury in 2012.  You also have to wonder what prompted his decision to declare for the NFL draft, despite having a disappointing 2012 season.  There could be legitimate reasons, but I will be interested to hear what comes out of the team interviews and how he fares on Wonderlic test.  Hopefully his reasons for entering the draft are good reasons, and not signs of immaturity or worse.  Jenkins is another guy that had a subpar season by most accounts, so his stock is in the mid-late range, and could be a draft day steal.

DeVonte Holloman - South Carolina
There might not be a lot of people familiar with DeVonte Holloman, and quite frankly neither was I until I watched the Outback Bowl.  But when I did start watching the game, it wasn't long before I started to hear his name.  Then again, and again, and again.  Holloman was all over the field making plays against the Wolverines, shutting their offense down for most of the day.  At one point I was confused whether he played safety of linebacker backer of his range.   Holloman may not be a flashy pick and he doesn't necessarily fit the bill as a dynamic pass rushing linebacker, but he could definitely make an impact on this team, even if it was just on special teams to start.

Desmond Trufant - Washington
Marcus Trufant's little brother is making a serious case for being a first round pick in April's draft.  He played well, excelling in man to man coverage all season and showing up big in key moments for the Huskies.  In addition to that, he made his presence felt at the Senior Bowl all week, showing that he had all the confidence and skills needed to play on an island.  Trufant's stock is rising, but if he somehow slips to the Lions in the second round, they may have a tough decision on their hands.

Xavier Rhodes - Florida State
Xavier Rhodes is an interesting player, and one worth keeping an eye on during draft day.  He has a special blend of size (6'2 215) and speed (4.4 range) that you don't find often at the cornerback position.  Now he is another player that did not perform as well in 2012 as he did in 2011, but his ability is there and his upside is pretty impressive.  I doubt Rhodes will fall all the way to the third round, but if he does he will be a bargain value who anyone that grabs him.

David Amerson - NC State
Of all the defensive backs listed here, I think David Amerson warrants the biggest question mark.  After a stellar sophomore season, the junior was all the talk among defensive backs.  Physically he is off the charts at 6'3, 200 pounds with the speed to turn and run deep with receivers.  Then he showed a nasty habit of attacking the ball every time it was in the air, as if it belong to him.  Something was different this year though, and the whole thing never came together.  I don't know if he was dealing with off the field issues or what, but his performance in 2012 was markedly worse.  If there are legitimate reasons for his struggles that is one thing, if it is simply a confidence issue, then that is another matter all together.  Amerson has incredible potential, but some digging needs to be done to find out what happened in 2012.

Will Davis - Utah State
Players from Utah State don't tend to have the luxury of getting much national attention, so when I heard about this corner from Utah State my first thought was, who?  Will Davis is a guy that has really seen his stock rise over the last few months, but it is not a knee jerk reaction.  Yes he played well and competed hard during the Senior Bowl week, but his rise is well deserved for his play as a senior.  Davis is a ball hawk that recorded an interception in five straight games, something the Lions desperately need.  Davis would be a good value in the middle rounds.

Jordan Poyer - Oregon State
Being a little late to the party, I didn't know who Jordan Poyer was until the Senior Bowl.  Even still, during the week leading up to the game, I probably would not have paid much attention until I heard Charles Davis talking about Poyer.  And generally when Charles Davis speaks, I listen.  Charles said that he really like Poyer, and that he just always seemed to be around the ball whenever he watched film.  Charles Davis made the same comment later in the week, and the next thing you know Poyer was tipping a pass up into the arms of his teammate.  Poyer may not be a household name, but when you watch him play, he finds ways to impact the game.  He is the type of player that Mayhew has been talking about.

Tyrann Mathieu - LSU
After the 2011 season there was probably not a more popular or iconic football player in the nation than the Honey Badger.  As a freshman and sophomore, Mathieu had an undeniable impact on the Tigers' defense, as he helped lead them to a National Championship showdown with the Crimson Tide.  Mathieu is far from a prototypical defensive back, as Les Miles staff found a multitude of ways to deploy this defensive play maker.  Mathieu made play after play, and was even a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.  However, everything spiraled out of control in 2012.  He was kicked off the team for failed drug tests, then he got arrested for drugs later in the year.  2012 was a long year for Mathieu, and I think it was an important year for him.  It is hard to know whether a man has changed or not, but there is a well written article on ESPN chronicling Mathieu's journey and his new mindset.  Has he really moved on from his struggles and addiction, I don't know.  Will he ever be the same player he was 2011, I don't know.  But if there is any chance that he will be, he is worth the late round pick it will take to snag him.

Robert Alford - Southeast Louisiana
When players come from a small school or a lower division, you always wonder how they will handle the transition.  Will they be overwhelmed, will they be intimidated, will they be out of their league?  This wasn't the case at all for Alford.  He showed up at the senior and backed up his college resume with a good week or practice and solid performance at the Senior Bowl.  Alford's value also increases because of his ability to play special teams, particularly returning kicks, which he also displayed in Mobile.

Matt Elam - Florida
I don't know if Elam will last beyond the first round, but he would be a tremendous pick-up for Detroit.  Elam's measureables will probably not wow anyone, but make no mistake about it, he is a game changer.  Whether in run support or pass defense, Elam had an impact.  I don't think the Lions have a legitimate shot to land him without trading back into the first, but he could be an instant impact player.

TJ McDonald - USC
I have heard many Lions' fans clamoring the TJ McDonald in the 2nd or 3rd round, and they seem to be on track with right where WalterFootball.com has him slotted at this time.  McDonald is a physical force who is able to play deep center field as well as delivering bone jarring hits.

JJ Wilcox - Georgia Southern
Playing for Georgia Southern has prevented Wilcox from becoming a big name player, but he is starting to gain notice.  His blend of speed and athleticism is opening the eyes of a lot of scouts around the league, especially with his ability to contribute on special teams right away.

Phillip Thomas - Fresno State
We have said that the Lions are searching for playmakers, particularly on defense.  Phillip Thomas was just that in 2012 as he led the nation in interceptions with 8.  In addition to that, Thomas also had 83 tackles (12 for loss) and forced four fumbles.  Thomas is a game changer and would look great roaming the Lions secondary, and he could potentially be available in the mid rounds.

Tony Jefferson - Oklahoma
There are mixed reviews on Jefferson.  There are games where he plays lights out and looks like an NFL caliber safety in both the run and pass games.  Then there are games where he seems to struggle, sometimes against the higher caliber opponents.  WalterFootball.com also said that they were reports that his work ethic in the weight room and practice field were lacking.  If this is the case, then I would just scratch him off the list, but at this point, his talent merits mention.

Jonathan Cyprien - Florida International
Jonathan Cyprien looks like he could be an ideal fit for the Lions, and they could most likely land him in the middle rounds if they haven't addressed safety yet.  He has decent size at 6', 210 pounds and he has decent range.  All reports out of the Senior Bowl are that he helped his draft stock by showing up and competing hard and doing a good job in coverage throughout the week.  Cyprien is also really good in run support and he seems to have a knack for deliver the big shot, as we heard happened all week in Mobile.  Interestingly, Cyprien is also a high school teammate and good friend of Louis Delmas.  This could not only be a great way of instantly having chemistry on the back end of this defense, but it would also possibly help the Lions find a way to keep Delmas from leaving for greener pastures.

Robert Lester - Alabama
At 6'1, 212 pounds Lester has the body type that NFL scouts are looking for at the safety position.  He has the body to bring Alabama's physical style of play to the NFL, and he has the speed to not be a liability in coverage.  However, Lester is not considered the top can't miss safety prospect that he was at the beginning of the 2012 season.  In fact, his stock has pretty much plummeted at this point from potential top 20 pick to what is now expected to be 3rd or 4th round by some scouts.  Lester may have a bright future ahead of him, but 2012 was just not as productive a season for him and he did not stand out at the Senior Bowl, where players like the aforementioned Cyprien made bigger waves.  Even with his stock dropping, the Lions would instantly upgrade their secondary by adding Robert Lester to the mix.