Zack Follett was one of the four players the Detroit Lions chose in the 2009 NFL Draft who played in the 2009 Senior Bowl and was a seventh-round steal. The others included Derrick Williams, Brandon Pettigrew and Louis Delmas (technically five now that Cedric Peerman is signed to the Lions practice squad).
It is obvious that the Senior Bowl was a big deal for the Lions last year even when the staff wasn't coaching one of the sides. In the 2010 Senior Bowl the Lions got the opportunity to coach the North team, and there will clearly be ramifications because of this. Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to look into what players the Lions staff now has an intimate knowledge of that might be wearing Blue and Silver next season.
If the Lions stay at pick No. 2, the pick will undoubtedly be either Suh, McCoy, or Berry. However, if they try and trade down, certain North team players might be targeted:
Mike Iupati-OL-Idaho—Projected to be a mid-to-late first round pick, Iupati showed his dominance during Senior Bowl practices, prompting Lions OC Scott Linehan to say he was the "best player out there." Though this was blown way out of proportion because it was somewhat of a joke (Linehan's Alma Mater is Idaho), Iupati might very well have stood out during practices. He struggled in pass protection during the game, but his versatility and run blocking skills will keep him in the first round.
Brandon Grahm-DE/OLB-Michigan—Grahm's Senior Bowl week was similar to Iupati's in that he was fairly dominant throughout the week. He was especially so during the game, garnering MVP honors. Though some people see him as only a 3-4 OLB, many think he has the potential to play DE in the 4-3 as well. He's another mid-to-late first rounder.
Sean Weatherspoon-OLB-Missouri—Weatherspoon's fiery personality—similar to a Ray Lewis—got him noticed during Senior Bowl week and he is undoubtedly the best OLB (in the 4-3) in the draft. He is extremely athletic and this two-time Butkus Award finalist would be a great addition to the Lions if they decide to deal Peterson/Sims and not bring Larry Foote back. He could fall into round two because of questions of whether or not he can play in the 3-4, but I wouldn't bet on it.
With the 34th overall pick the Lions might be looking at...
Kyle Wilson-CB-Boise State—I've been high on Wilson for a while now and in my earliest mock draft had the Lions taking him in round three. With his excellent Senior Bowl week, there is no way he falls out of round two. He was easily the most complete corner participating and is also a terrific return man. Two birds with one stone!
Brandon Ghee-CB-Wake Forest—Another CB who is unlikely to slip out of round two and who may end up a Lion. He too had a terrific week and moved up boards. While he may be a little less athletic than Wilson, he still has a very similar talent level. He is certainly willing to come up and support against the run as well, totaling nine tackles in two different games during the 2009 season.
Devin McCourty-CB-Rutgers—I don't have him rated quite as high as the other two corners listed, but he should be a second rounder nonetheless. He is also very capable against the run.
Alex Carrington-DE-Arkansas State—One of the more impressive linemen during the week, Carrington gave South linemen fits during the game. He may be more of a 3-4 DE but could still help the Lions at LE if they so choose.
Jared Odrick-DT-Penn State—Though on the smallish side, at just over 300 pounds, Odrick had a constant motor at the Senior Bowl and was described by a scout as "the energizer bunny." He might not be available here, as some have him at a late first-early second round grade.
Cam Thomas-DT-North Carolina—At 330 pounds he is the kind of big body that Schwartz likes. He may be a reach this early in the second, but if he has a good combine he could move even farther up boards.
Larry Asante-S-Nebraska—Notice I didn't give Asante the SS or FS title. This ability to play either position makes him a hot commodity in Jim Schwartz's defense, as he likes players who have that capability. Asante was a very underrated part of the Cornhusker's highly-touted defense this year.
AJ Edds-OLB-Iowa—Another solid player from a school with a very good pedigree for breeding linebackers. A very smart, tough player, Edds would be another option should the Lions find themselves short at linebacker.
Syd'Quan Thompson-CB-California—Thompson could drop if he doesn't run a good 40 time at the combine. However, it's hard to knock his production and the fact that he never missed a game in his four years of starting. He also has some punt return skills.
Vladimir Ducasse-OL-UMASS—Level of competition will be an issue, but Ducasse has a lot of potential. He is a large road-grading type of offensive lineman that even the Dallas Cowboys would have trouble scoffing at. He might take a year or two to develop but could help solve the Lions trouble at guard down the road.
NOTE: While I would prefer to see a WR be a priority in Free Agency, I cannot say for sure one won't be targeted in the draft, so to be thorough I will include a few of them.
Mardy Gilyard-WR-Cincinnati—Gilyard was ridiculously productive at UC and is the kind of deep threat that could help take some heat off of Calvin Johnson. However, think of him like a poor man's Randy Moss as he might have trouble running routes that aren't fades and doesn't nearly have the size Moss does. Gilyard is, however, a very good return man.
Jacoby Ford-WR-Clemson—One of my personal favorite players on the North side, Ford has the speed to be a DeSean Jackson type player at the next level. His production was somewhat limited this season with Clemson's offense struggling, but his 40 time alone will get him drafted in the third round. He is another player with incredible return skills.
Sam Young-OL-Notre Dame—Young (No. 74 in the picture) helped himself a lot at the Senior Bowl. He really struggled during the season at RT in pass protection, but he made up for some of it during the week. If Gos doesn't work out, Young could help replace him. For now, however, I see him as another possible solution at guard. At a massive 6'8", he has room to bulk up and make the transition.
Eric Olsen-OL-Notre Dame—No. 55 in the picture above, Olsen is a versatile and physical leader who has played all three interior line positions. Maybe another option at guard or possibly a replacement for Dominic Raiola a few years down the road, he would definitely provide great depth for the Lions.
Austen Lane-DE-Murray State—The Lions could strike defensive line gold in the fourth round for the second straight year with Lane. He had an incredible 19.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks at Murray State. His competition might not have been the best, but as the Lions have seen with Sammie Lee Hill, sometimes that doesn't matter.
Legarrette Blount-RB-Oregon—Look. So he smacked some guy up for running his mouth after a loss... Was it the best move? No. Is it understandable to want to hit some guy for talking smack AFTER the game? Absolutely. I'm not saying I condone this kind of behavior, but it shows a little fire doesn't it? He has the talent to be selected in the first three rounds, but the incident will push him back I think. Let me make it clear that I am fairly indifferent as to whether or not the Lions get him, and thus will not field any questions as to why I think the Lions WILL take him (feel free to discuss at the expense of my comments section though, it's bound to happen eventually). This is a possibility—that is all. But what's so bad about adding a Brandon Jacobs-type presence to the backfield?
Round five could be very important to the Lions, as they have two picks that could help them add solid depth.
Dan Lefevour-QB-Central Michigan—Doesn't it feel like Lefevour has been at CMU for a decade now? I've been hearing about the kid for forever it feels like. Dan was fairly productive in college and seems to have some good intangibles, though he lacks some physical skills and hasn't been playing in a pro style offense. Though let's be honest—I'd take anyone over Culpepper at this point.
Joique Bell-RB-Wayne State—I think RB will be addressed at some point during the draft. Resources in free agency should be used to get players at positions that generally take longer to develop such as WR's, CB's, etc. However, even though Bell's level of competition wasn't great at Wayne State, he was the DII 2009 Heisman Trophy winner (Harlon Hill Trophy) and was a runner up his other three years at Wayne State. His 40 time will be huge as his game-breaking capability at the next level is questionable.
D'Anthony Smith-DT-Louisiana Tech—I don't know how a guy who goes to a school in Louisiana gets on the North squad in the first place...but he's another athletic late-round player with potential, though his production doesn't match it.
Shawn Lauvao-OL-Arizona State—A versatile late-round prospect who has played both guard and tackle, Lauvao had 33 consecutive starts in his three years starting for the Sun Devils.