5 Hidden Gems Detroit Lions Should Have Noticed at the Combine
Does anybody at the NFL Scouting Combine fall under the radar anymore? Probably not. But some performances, despite being incredible or at least draft-stock elevating, still don't get the credit they deserve.
For NFL teams, that's inexcusable. And probably unlikely.
Regardless of the Detroit Lions' actual big board, which won't go public anytime soon, here's a list of players the Lions need to take a second look at.
All combine results are sourced from NFL.com's Results Tracker.
Georgia Southern Running Back Jerick McKinnon
There isn't a huge need for running back, but Jerick McKinnon fits here. Trust me.
McKinnon put on a clinic at the combine. He blazed his way to a 4.41 40 time while finishing second on the bench (32 reps) and broad jump (11').
Some will dismiss him because he doesn't fill an immediate need. However, good teams aren't only trying to fix today's problem; they understand that depth and prospects are important to keep things humming along in the future.
Reggie Bush will be 29, and restricted free agent Joique Bell will be 28 when the 2014 season kicks off. It's been mentioned before that Joe Lombardi might use multiple running backs like the New Orleans Saints. That doesn't raise running back to a priority, but it does make it a position of interest.
If the Lions find him sitting there later in the draft, they'd be crazy not to add such a physical freak.
Montana Linebacker Jordan Tripp
Unlike the offense, which really only needs to add wide receivers, the defense has plenty of positions that need some new blood.
Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp might be able to fill one of those voids.
Tripp has been on Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller's radar for awhile, and the rest of us are starting to see why. He has the size (6'3", 234 pounds) to handle the run and the quickness to pose a threat to quarterbacks with the blitz.
His combine did nothing to hurt that reputation. Tripp posted the fastest 20-yard shuttle (3.96) since AJ Hawk eight years ago, according to www.NBCMontana.com. And he had a solid 4.67 second 40-yard dash.
Minnesota Defensive Tackle Ra'Shede Hageman
After gaining so much popularity with the Lions fans discussing trades just a week ago, I couldn't resist another difficult scenario: Detroit taking a defensive tackle high(-ish).
Granted, general manager Martin Mayhew might have to do some wheeling and dealing to make this pick work because Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman won't be picked 10th overall.
However, if a team toward the back of the draft sees a guy who could push said team over the hump available in Detroit's spot, the Lions could reap another pick or two and stock up another young pass-rushing talent for the interior of the defense.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will be looking for new ways to bring pressure in 2014. He could take a page from former defensive-coordinator-turned-consultant Gunther Cunningham's book and put Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Hageman on the field at the same time.
Minnesota Safety Brock Vereen
Don't worry. I'm veering back into more familiar territory.
Nobody would quibble with the Lions taking a free safety. With Louis Delmas checking out his options, Isa Abdul-Quddus is the only true free safety on the roster.
The Lions could burn a high-round pick on someone like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Deone Bucannon, but they will also need depth.
Minnesota product Brock Vereen's combine performance makes a case to be that late-round flyer. Vereen put up a 4.47 40 time to match his position-leading 25 reps to elevate his undrafted free-agent grade to a draftable one.
Nebraska Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste
This isn't where the fans want a corner to be picked. Many are pounding the table for either Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard in the first round. After their solid combines, it's understandable.
It's just not practical.
Detroit has at least their top three locked down with Darius Slay, Chris Houston and Bill Bentley. If Rashean Mathis is brought back, that should cement the first four spots. Taking a guy at the top of the draft with so many other holes and plenty of resources already invested at the corner wouldn't make sense.
But taking Stanley Jean-Baptiste at some point in the two days after the first round would be a smart move. His superb size (6'3") and ridiculous jumping ability (41.5" vertical and 128" broad jump) should be enough to overcome a lack of top end speed (4.61).