2012 NFL Draft: 8 Senior Bowl Players Climbing the Detroit Lions' Draft Board

Dean Holden@@Dean_HoldenAnalyst IJanuary 29, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 8 Senior Bowl Players Climbing the Detroit Lions' Draft Board

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    This weekend houses two football All-Star games.

    The Pro Bowl determines nothing about anything. The Senior Bowl determines the futures of dozens of draft prospects.

    Of course, with the Senior Bowl concluded, we can look forward to the scouting combine, and by then, much of what happened this weekend will be largely forgotten.

    But regardless, the Senior Bowl is a necessary part of the draft process, and if nothing else, it gives a better idea of who to look at as we approach workouts, interviews and the combine.

    For the Detroit Lions, these eight players will likely be getting an extended look from the Lions' front office in the months to come as a result of their Senior Bowl performances.

Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

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    If you're like me, the last thing you want to hear about is the Lions talking to yet another running back prospect.

    Yet that's exactly what took place during the Senior Bowl practices last week.

    The Lions have taken a running back in each of the last three drafts, and even trading up into one of the first two rounds in 2010 and 2011 for Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, respectively, and the running game has barely improved at all over that time frame.

    Reportedly, the Lions are concerned about Jahvid Best's future. Remember, the only reason Best wasn't a top-15 pick in 2010 was his injury red flags. After a horrific season-ending concussion at Cal, Best slipped down draft boards enough for the Lions to be able to trade up for him.

    And things would have been just fine, assuming Best's injury history didn't catch up to him.

    But Best suffered two more concussions last season, seemingly from lighter and lighter contact, and is apparently still dealing with symptoms. Best certainly wants to come back, but he's reaching a point where he needs to think about his future, as the effects of his concussions seem to be accumulating quickly.

    This is almost exactly the same as the dilemma Zack Follett was dealing with last season, weighing his young football career against the threat of permanent disabling injury.

    Follett ultimately attempted a comeback, only to call it a career after a few days of training camp when his injuries continued to nag him.

    Nobody wants to hear this, but the same could happen with Best this summer, and if it does, the Lions will want to be on guard, and they could do a lot worse than Doug Martin, who played solid football all week.

James Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada

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    If you're looking for the unsung hero of the Senior Bowl, look no further than James Michael Johnson, who impressed all week in interviews.

    Johnson isn't likely to explode a lot of metrics at the combine, and he's not as rangy as some other players at his position. But he has a mind for the game, and his ability to quickly diagnose a play makes him faster on the field than he will be in the 40-yard dash.

    That's not to say he's slow, he just doesn't exhibit eye-popping sideline-to-sideline speed.

    Johnson shows versatility, as he has played both inside and outside linebacker at Nevada. Because of his size and sharp mind, he probably projects best to the MIKE.

    Best of all, it's possible he could be available in the third round, where the Lions should be happy to groom their next star at MLB (especially if Stephen Tulloch leaves to pursue grand riches elsewhere). 

Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

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    The more of Janoris Jenkins we see, the less likely it seems the Lions will have a shot at him.

    Jenkins was far and away the best corner at the Senior Bowl, showing good speed, instincts, agility and ball skills. He plays safe, but has the instincts to know when to try jumping a route.

    The only problem with Jenkins is his attitude. He can be a very "me-first" type of player, and those character concerns are perhaps the only thing keeping Jenkins out of the top 10.

    If the Lions think they have a stable enough locker room to tame Jenkins, his talent is indisputable. But considering the issues they had last season, they might not be ready to try taking on a player like him.

Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas

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    If the Lions passing game is missing one thing, it's that shifty slot receiver who catches passes over the middle, Wes Welker-style.

    Many thought that was supposed to be Titus Young's role, but despite his height, he's more dangerous as a deep threat. And Nate Burleson, who once envisioned his role as "the black Wes Welker," has been an effective receiver, but certainly no Welker.

    Joe Adams could be. After a eight-catch, 133-yard performance in the Senior Bowl that had him named the South's Most Outstanding Player, Adams' stock should rise considerably, and he should start drawing some looks on Day 2.

    He may even have grabbed some attention from teams like the Lions, for whom the receiver position is barely a need at all.

Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia

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    Cordy Glenn was almost certainly on the Lions' draft board already, but he hasn't done anything to hurt his stock.

    As long as everyone understands that Glenn is too big to play tackle at the professional level like he did in college, anyway.

    But during the week of practice, Glenn said he didn't really care what position he played. Consequently, he moved inside to guard and started plowing people over like the 350-pound monster he is.

    Considering one of the Lions' biggest offensive weaknesses is the ability to push guys off the line and open holes in the run game, a mauler like Glenn could help upgrade that immediately, and he showed it this week.

Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati

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    Isaiah Pead looks decent at running back, but he caught all the headlines after the Senior Bowl because of two big punt returns that put the North in position to win.

    Now, I am of the opinion that the Lions are too good at this point to spend a roster spot on a guy who is just a return man, unless he's good enough to justify it. Last season, Stefan Logan wasn't.

    Luckily, Pead wasn't even being considered a solid return man coming into the week. He was invited to the Senior Bowl simply on his merit as a running back, and based on his performance today, it appears his new team will get an added bonus.

    Of course, the Lions shouldn't give the guy a look unless they see him as a viable option at running back, otherwise they're just replacing one Logan with another.

    But if the Lions draft him, and he brings value to both the running game and the return game, well, who can really argue with that?

Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

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    Like Janoris Jenkins, Mike Adams handled everything thrown at him during the Senior Bowl with ease, and looks very much like a top-15 pick.

    Unlike Jenkins, Adams doesn't have a stock limited by major character red flags. He just looks like an extremely talented left tackle, and opened eyes to it all week.

    Adams isn't going to make himself the top tackle in the class, not with alleged "sure thing" Matt Kalil a lock for the top five.

    But left tackles are a premier position, and there's no question Adams' stock is on the rise. If the Lions can get him at 23, he might just be both the best player available and a solution to a position of major need.

Billy Winn, DE, Boise State

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    Billy Winn has all the markings of a premier pass-rusher. Speed, power, quickness off the snap, use of hands, you name it.

    Problem is, scouts were pretty much unified in their observation that Winn's heart wasn't in it. He has immense physical talent, but he was dogging it all weekend, and people noticed.

    Winn undoubtedly has first-round talent, but could drop dramatically if he doesn't turn his lazy habits around. Like Janoris Jenkins, the Lions need to determine if Winn is worth the headache, or if they have strong enough locker room leadership to turn him around.

    To this point, the Lions have not made a point of taking chances on players with character concerns, but if Winn's character drops him to the second round, they could take that chance with the possibility of a big payoff.