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2018 Senior Bowl: 11 prospects to watch for the Detroit Lions

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Enjoy actual football while you still can.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Outback Bowl - Michigan v South Carolina Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Folks, the Super Bowl is one week away. Let us cherish the opportunity to watch real, actual football while it’s there. And no, the Pro Bowl doesn’t count.

The Senior Bowl has become a staple in the scouting community. The event showcases some of the best talent from this year’s senior class. Most of those players will be hearing their name called in late April. If you’re a Detroit Lions fan, then you may want to pay extra close attention, because in Bob Quinn’s two years as general manager, the Lions have selected five players (four in his first year) that have participated in the Senior Bowl.

Lions scouts have already done some homework and made the trip down to Mobile, Alabama for Senior Bowl practices, but here is a list of players that they should continue to keep a close eye on during Saturday’s Senior Bowl game:

North Squad

OC Mason Cole (Michigan)

The Michigan offensive lineman returned to play the center position during Senior Bowl practices. His versatility on the O-line and his strong week of practices has caught the eyes of many teams. For the Lions, the possibility of a Michigan duo with Graham Glasgow and Mason Cole both willing and able to play guard or center is intriguing.

DT Harrison Phillips (Stanford)

The Lions need help on the defensive line in the worst way. Phillips is one of the better defensive tackles to be invited to Mobile and has been dominating during 1-on-1 drills. Phillips is still growing as a pass rusher, but was one of the most dominating run stoppers in the country as a senior.

Source: Pro Football Focus

I would prefer the Lions to draft a pure pass rusher in the early rounds, but Phillips deserves a look regardless and has shown flashes when shedding blocks as a pass rusher.

DE Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes (Ohio State)

Both Buckeye defensive ends look the part as explosive athletes with good size off the edge, but both also struggled to disengage once blocked.

LB Fred Warner (BYU)

One of the biggest risers of the week is BYU’s Fred Warner, who has proven that he can play all three downs and has the mental awareness and speed to chase down ball carriers or play coverage in space. Whether the Lions keep their base 4-3 or move to a 3-4 scheme, most teams run hybrid defenses that incorporate both 4-3 and 3-4 looks anyway, just like what Patricia has done with the Patriots defense. The Lions are going to need more linebackers and/or safeties to play out in space, which is something that Austin’s defense constantly struggled with.

S Kyzir White (West Virginia)

Speaking of safeties, Kyzir White drew some interest from the Lions according to NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline’s notes. White has the ability to read the eyes of the QB and make plays in zone coverage, as well as lock down receivers and tight ends with his back to the QB.

Keep an eye out for him on Saturday. I’m calling my shot that he makes at least one or two big plays.

South Squad

RB Ito Smith (Southern Mississippi)

Smith is a huge threat as a receiver in the backfield and will make you miss more often than not in space, but I believe many are underrating him as a pure runner. Smith may be a tad short, measuring in at 5-foot-9, 201 pounds, but don’t underestimate his size. He has good vision, impressive balance and knows how to maximize his yardage between the tackles.

RB Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)

Penny had an up-and-down week as a receiver, showing that he can create good separation but dropped several passes. He also got lit up in the backfield on one particular run which resulted in a fumble and coughed the ball up at least one or two more times. Regardless, many draft pundits remain high on Penny as a prospect and the Lions did meet up with him in Mobile, so he could be a solid option for the Lions in the second or third round.

FB Nick Bawden (San Diego State)

Penny’s teammate, Nick Bawden also received interest from Lions scouts this week, which makes some sense with a new coaching regime coming in paired with the fact that the Lions do not currently have a true fullback on the team. Bawden is a powerful run blocker and that’s all you need to sell me on when it comes to the Lions run game.

OG Isaiah Wynn (Georgia)

The Georgia O-line dominated FBS competition last year and Wynn was a big part of the reason why. He received rave reviews all week for his athleticism and power and was named the Top Offensive Lineman of the Week by the Senior Bowl committee despite playing with a torn labrum. Wynn has done most of his work as a left guard, which lines up perfectly with the Lions’ needs, should they get rid of Travis Swanson and move Glasgow over to center.

EDGE Marcus Davenport (UTSA)

Davenport seems to be one of the more polarizing prospects that received an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Though he may be raw and he may not have the desired hand usage to consistently disengage from blockers, there is no denying that he is a fantastic athlete with an immense amount of upside.