If you’re like me, you’re either too busy or too disinterested in the draft during the NFL season to pay much attention to scouting or mock drafts or anything of the like. But now that the Detroit Lions’ season is over, Monday night provides the perfect opportunity to dip your toe into the draft pool. The Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers face off at 8 p.m. ET, and each team is full of potential NFL talent that would could see taken in the first couple days of the draft.
So with a specific focus on the Lions’ specific needs, here are the top 10 players to watch on Monday night.
When Alabama has the ball
Alabama TE Irv Smith Jr. (#82)
No one wants to hear it, but the Lions need a tight end and need one badly. At 6-foot-4, 241, Smith may have to put on some weight to hang in the NFL, but his junior year has been prolific. Smith has 40 catches for 667 yards and seven touchdown for the Tide. CBS Sports lists Lions as a potential fit, listing him as a second or third-round prospect.
Clemson EDGE Clelin Ferrell (#99)
Edge is easily one of the Lions’ biggest needs and Ferrell is a tempting prospect. Ferrell pulled in 11.5 sacks this season, but draft gurus are split on his pro potential. He hasn’t shown a myriad of pass rush moves, but this league values pass rushers and Ferrell will likely go in the first round based on athleticism and 2018 production.
Clemson CB Trayvon Mullen (#1)
If edge isn’t the Lions’ biggest need, cornerback is. Detroit has been searching for years for someone opposite Darius Slay and Trayvon Mullen is an interesting option. Mullen is a big, physical type of corner—and that can sometimes get him in penalty trouble. His numbers are far from gaudy—just three passes defended and zero interceptions in 2018—but the league is trending towards strong physical corners, and Mullen fits that bill.
Clemson DL Christian Wilkins (#42)
Do the words “versatile,” “interior pass rush” and “extreme athleticism” appeal to you? Then Christian Wilkins is your dude. He can two-gap, he can pass rush, and he’s got “extremely high character.” He may not be a top-10 talent, but if the Lions manage to trade down a bit in the draft, Wilkins would be an intriguing option.
Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence (#90)
Yes, a third Clemson defensive lineman makes the list. They’re that good. Unfortunately, Lawrence will not play on Monday due to a failed drug test, so just watch his highlights vs. Auburn in 2017 here:
When Clemson has the ball
Alabama DT Quinnen Williams (#92)
The crown jewel of the game, Quinnen Williams may be too good of a talent to fall to the Lions at eighth overall, and the Lions don’t exactly have a pressing need at nose, but keep an eye on Williams
Much like Da’Shawn Hand, Williams didn’t make a lot of noise early in his Alabama career, but Williams’ 2018 season has seen his stock skyrocket: 18.0 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, and PFF dominator
A’Shawn Robinson is entering the final year of his contract and Damon Harrison Sr. only has two years left on his deal. If Williams somehow falls to Detroit, or the Lions decide to get aggressive, he’s very much in play.
Alabama S Deionte Thompson (#14)
Safety may not seem like a huge need for the Lions, with Tracy Walker ready to assume Glover Quin’s role. However, the Lions love to use as many safeties as possible, and Thompson would give Detroit a ton of versatility in the secondary.
Thompson is already drawing comparisons to potential defensive rookie of the year Derwin James. Thompson has ball skills, range and just about everything you’d want in a safety. He is very much in play for the Lions at No. 8 overall.
Alabama DL Raekwon Davis (#99)
We know how much the Lions love themselves some Bama boys on their defensive front and Davis would be an easy fit in Detroit’s scheme. Statistically, Davis took a step back from his 10.0 TFL, 8.5 sack-performance in 2017, but he was still disruptive this year and could be more ammo for the Lions’ interior defensive line.
Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow (#13)
I’m not one to think that Golden Tate is going to make his way back to Detroit after winning a Super Bowl for the Eagles, and I’m not on the Brandon Powell hype train. So the Lions need a crisp route-runner that can create separation... preferably out of the slot.
That’s where Renfrow steps in. A four-year player at Clemson, Renfrow’s stats will not blow you away—he’s only surpassed 600 yards once in his college career (602 in 2017)—but the man has phenomenal hands and is the chain-mover the Lions could use:
Alabama CB Trevon Diggs (#7)
Okay, I’m cheating here again. Diggs will not play in this game, as he broke his foot. Injuries have kind of derailed Diggs’ career, but the defensive back—brother of Vikings WR Stefon Diggs—was playing out of his mind early in the year, racking up six passes defended in six games.
Watch him vs. Ole Miss this year to get your fix: