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2017 East-West Shrine Game: 5 players to watch for Detroit Lions

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There are several players the Detroit Lions should be eyeing during Saturday’s prospect exhibition game.

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NCAA Football: Rice at Florida Atlantic Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The East-West Shrine Game marks the true beginning of NFL Draft season. Although the game doesn’t get quite the top billing as its Senior Bowl counterpart, the Shrine Game is really the first opportunity for armchair-GMs to scout a handful of their favorite draft prospects in one place.

This is one of the least publicized draft events—possibly because it happens right in the middle of the NFL Playoffs—but this game annually features some of the best NFL talent. According to their official website, the 2016 East-West Shrine Game featured more than 70 players that made it onto a final NFL roster last year. Last year, the Detroit Lions drafted four players featured in this game.

We’re just starting to dig into our draft coverage here at Pride Of Detroit, but here are five players you should be watching on Saturday afternoon.

DE Trey Hendrickson (FAU) - East team #99

The Florida Atlantic product gained notoriety with his stellar play in Conference USA. Hendrickson gained just about every accolade possible, including Conference USA defensive player of the year—the first defensive lineman to win the award in five years. The four-year player ended up with Pro Football Focus’ third-best pass rushing grade in the nation last year.

The major question with Hendrickson is the competition level, and most still have him as a late-round draft pick or even an undrafted free agent prospect. That being said, reports out of practices this week were almost universally positive and a good performance on Saturday could possibly push him into a second-day draft pick.

DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (Arkansas) - West team #99

Hendrickson’s #99 counterpart on the West team, Deatrich Wise Jr., fits the profile of a 4-3 DE perfectly, and as a result he is considered a much more polished prospect than Hendrickson. Wise’s 2016 stat line won’t blow you away—49 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in his senior year—but his full body of work at Arkansas is undeniable.

Wise’s best asset is his size, and people have been buzzing about it during practice this week:

Wise’s stock was extremely high after his 10.5 sack junior season, but dropped after a disappointing 2016. A good performance on Saturday could push him back into the conversation for draft day.

LB Calvin Munson (San Diego State) - West team #54

With the Lions’ linebacking corp grading out as one of the worst in 2016, there’s little doubt Detroit will be looking for, at least, depth at the position. Munson comes again as one of Pro Football Focus’ highest rated defensive players in 2016. Here’s what they had to say about him:

With three years of outstanding grading in the PFF system, Munson has a chance to showcase his talents as a linebacker, contributing in the run game, as a pass-rusher, and in coverage. His 88.4 overall grade ranked fifth in the nation in 2016, as he notched five sacks, seven hits, and 17 hurries when rushing the passer.

However, if there’s a knock on the Munson, it’s his pass coverage abilities. Several have noted this week that Munson has been turned around or easily fooled in coverage, and that should alarm any and all Lions fans. Detroit’s linebackers struggled in coverage all year, and it would be of no help to add another liability there. However, Munson is coming from a system that didn’t really prepare him for the pro style of play and the hope would be a well-rounded player like Munson could learn quickly.

TE Eric Saubert (Drake) - East team #85

Saubert is another small school prospect given the opportunity to shine on a national stage before the draft.

Detroit had little-to-no depth at tight end in 2016, having to rely on undrafted free agent Cole Wick for a good portion of season when Eric Ebron and Tim Wright were hurting. Eventually Ebron got healthy and they added Matthew Mulligan for help, but Detroit is probably looking for a more long-term option for a blocking tight end, and even Ebron’s spot on the roster isn’t cemented after 2018.

Jeff Risdon—formerly of SideLion Report and currently with RealGM—is a huge fan of Saubert. Here’s what wrote about the small school tight end after Monday’s practice:

Scouts and media were fawning over his innate ability to get open, his smooth routes and soft hands. This is a very deep TE class and I have only seen one Drake game the last two years, but I imagine I’m going to like Saubert a lot if his game tape is anything like what I saw today.

He isn’t the only one gushing over Saubert, though:

Saubert has flashed as a receiver this week, and that’s most what he did at Drake, but but his size at 6-foot-5, 247 pounds lends well to blocking, as well. He’ll just have to be coached up. He’s currently projected to be a pick on the final day of the draft.

OT Dan Skipper (Arkansas) - East team #70

We all know how much GM Bob Quinn loves the offensive line—having taken three of them with his first five picks last year, and with Riley Reiff and Larry Warford’s future unknown it’s very likely Quinn targets an offensive linemen at some point in April’s draft. However, with so many holes in the roster right now, he may want to wait until the second or third day.

Enter our second Razorback on the list: Dan Skipper. The first thing that jumps out about Skipper is his size. He’s a massive 6-foot-9, 317 pounds; taller than any other tackle in this draft class. Freakishly tall players sometimes become a little too reliant on their natural abilities and let form and technique fall by the wayside. That problem creeps its ugly head at times with Skipper, but the physical tools are too impressive to deny:

Mauler? Check. Right tackle? Check. Versatility? Check. Wait, what was that last part?

That’s right, 6-foot-9 Skipper can catch punts. Obviously this would never come into play, but if the team that drafts him ever wants to pull a trick play at the goal line, Skipper’s got hands.

Overall, Skipper is middling right now between Day 2 and Day 3 in the draft. If he can put up a good showing on Sunday, he could very well be a possible third-round target for the Lions in the upcoming draft, hopefully putting an end to their endless right tackle problem.