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2016 NFL Draft Watch: Christmas week

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Christmas week brings us plenty of gifted prospects and several that the Detroit Lions should keep a close eye on heading into the 2016 NFL Draft.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday, December 22

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Akron vs. Utah State - 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Akron players to watch:

OLB Jatavis Brown, 5-foot-11, 222 pounds (#1, Senior) - NFLPA Collegiate Bowl invitee

Utah State

EDGE Kyler Fackrell, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds (#9, Senior)

Fackrell was cherished by the draft community for his outstanding flexibility and bend as an edge rusher, but saw his Junior season end early due to a torn ACL early in 2014. He returned in 2015 with a team-high five sacks as well as 13.5 tackles for a loss.

Here's a nice GIF that demonstrates Fackrell's flexibility and outstanding bend around the edge. He waits for the left tackle to extend and immediately dips underneath him and turns the corner to apply pressure on the QB.

Bottom line is Fackrell is a great athlete that will serve as a 3-4 pass rushing OLB in the NFL. He lacks instincts in coverage and will need to improve his strength at the point of attack, but will be a high upside pick in the early-to-mid rounds.

Other players to watch:

WR Hunter Sharp, 5-foot-11, 200 pounds (#4, Senior) - East/West Shrine Game invitee

WR Brandon Swindall, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds (#11, Senior) - Out with undisclosed injury

QB Chuckie Keeton, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds (#16, RS Senior)

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl

#24 Temple vs. Toledo - 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
Temple

ILB Tyler Matakevich, 6-foot-0, 232 pounds (#8, Senior)

I briefly touched on Matakevich back in late October. He's undersized, but an inspiration to all physically limited gingers out there. His unparalleled instincts more than make up for his average athleticism, which makes him one of the top inside linebackers in the country. He is the unquestioned leader of the Owls' defense and has the most career solo tackles (336) in the NCAA since 2005.

Matakevich is currently the 79th ranked overall prospect via CBS Sports and will likely be selected during the second or third day of the draft. The Lions absolutely need to bolster their linebacker unit, especially in the middle. Matakevich could be a nice addition, but for the Lions' sake, I'd lean more toward selecting a more athletic linebacker with above-average sideline-to-sideline speed and high upside.

Other players to watch:

DT Matt Ioannidis, 6-foot-3, 292 pounds (#9, Senior) - Senior Bowl invitee

C Kyle Friend, 6-foot-1, 305 pounds (#79, Senior)

DB Tavon Young, 5-foot-10, 181 pounds (#1, Senior) - Senior Bowl invitee

Toledo

RB Kareem Hunt, 5-foot-11, 225 pounds (#3, Junior)

Hunt set the world on fire with an incredible Sophomore year, tallying 1,631 rushing yards on 8.0 yards per carry. His 2015 campaign has been lackluster in comparison, but that has a lot to do with the fact that he's been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury all year. It's very noticeable on tape, too. Go back and watch 2014 Toledo vs. Arkansas State and you'll see some 0 to 100, real quick. But turn on some of his 2015 film and you can tell that the hamstring is bothering him. Hunt looks even smaller than his listed size, but doesn't let that stop him from lowering his head and laying the wood on hapless defenders. That's one thing I absolutely love about Hunt, because it's not often that you see smaller runners eager to head north and pick up those extra couple of yards.

Hunt will have an important decision to make on whether he wants to return for his Senior year. I currently have him as my No. 9 RB (subject to change) and believe he'll go anywhere from the third-fifth round, should he declare.

Other players to watch:

WR Alonzo Russell, 6-foot-4, 205 pounds (#9, Senior)

Wednesday, December 23

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Boise State vs. Northern Illinois - 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Boise State

FS Darian Thompson, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds (#4, RS Senior)

Darian Thompson just makes plays, y'all. 22 forced turnovers in four years to be exact. His aggressiveness is his biggest strength as well as his Achilles heel, either making a huge play or giving one up the other way. He's a true ball-hawk free safety with great size for the position. Let him play deep and he'll cover a boatload of real estate as he excels in zone coverage.

The Lions will probably be in the market for a strong safety to replace Ihedigbo rather than a FS like Thompson, but I could see him playing a hybrid-type role in the NFL. Expect Thompson to be selected in the Day 2 range.

Other players to watch:

OG Rees Odhiambo, 6-foot-4, 305 pounds (#71, RS Senior) - Out with broken ankle

CB Donte Deayon, 5-foot-9, 158 pounds (#5, Senior) - NFLPA Collegiate Bowl invitee

Northern Illinois players to watch:

OG Aidan Conlon, 6-foot-3, 301 pounds (#61, RS Senior)

GoDaddy Bowl

Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green - 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

Maybe I'm a hater, but I have absolutely no interest in this bowl game. But if you're one of those guys/gals that likes to watch out for some obscure draft-eligible names, then here you go.

Georgia Southern

OLB Antwione Williams, 6-foot-3, 245 pounds (#37, Senior) - East/West Shrine Game invitee

FS Matt Dobson, 6-foot-1, 206 pounds (#7, Senior)

Bowling Green

RB Travis Greene, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds (#8, RS Senior)

QB Matt Johnson, 6-foot-0, 220 pounds (#11, RS Senior) - NFLPA Collegiate Bowl invitee

SS Eilar Hardy, 6-foot-0, 190 pounds (#4, RS Senior)

TE Derek Lee, 6-foot-4, 258 pounds (#83, Senior)

OG Alex Huettel, 6-foot-4, 302 pounds (#55, RS Senior) - East/West Shrine Game invitee

Thursday, December 24

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan - 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

SS Kevin Byard, 5-foot-11, 226 pounds (#20, Senior)

Byard is a prospect that I have not yet studied, but this game has me excited to get my first look at him. Here is what Dane Brugler from CBS Sports had to say about Byard back in August.

Byard is shorter than ideal and possesses ordinary speed, but he displays smooth hip action on game film to flip and change directions quickly. He does an excellent job reading the eyes of the quarterback and gaining proper position with aggressiveness and timing at the catch point, showing strong hands and hand-eye coordination to pluck the ball.

Here's some of that quickness and swift change of direction on display. (h/t to Draft Breakdown's Jonah Tuls).

Other players to watch:

OLB T.T. Barber, 6-foot-1, 230 pounds (#38, Senior)

OG Darius Johnson, 6-foot-3, 305 pounds (#75, RS Senior)

Western Michigan

OT Willie Beavers, 6-foot-5, 312 pounds (#70, Senior)

My first glance at Beavers came earlier in the year when the Broncos hosted my Spartans. I was (un)pleasantly surprised with how Beavers was able to more than hold his own against the likes of Shilique Calhoun and Demetrius Cooper. There is limited tape out there on Beavers, but from what I've so far, he looks like a solid mid-late round option and projects well as a right tackle in the NFL. His hand placement is inconsistent, but he packs a punch when he gets it right. Beavers would add some much needed depth and competition at offensive tackle, should the Lions select him.

Other players to watch:

WR Corey Davis, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds (#84, Junior)

CB Ronald Zamort, 5-foot-10, 178 pounds (#7, Senior)

Hawai'i Bowl

San Diego State vs. Cincinnati - 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
San Diego State players to watch:

OT Pearce Slater, 6-foot-7, 335 pounds (#71, Senior)

RB Donnel Pumphrey, 5-foot-9, 178 pounds (#19, Junior)

FB Dakota Gordon, 5-foot-10, 235 pounds (#46, Senior)

Cincinnati players to watch:

OG Parker Ehinger, 6-foot-6, 315 pounds (#78, Senior) - East/West Shrine Game invitee

WR Mekale McKay, 6-foot-4, 195 pounds (#2, Senior) - NFLPA Collegiate Bowl invitee

DE Silverberry Mouhon, 6-foot-3, 252 pounds (#92, RS Senior)

WR Chris Moore, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds (#16, RS Senior) - Senior Bowl invitee