Today’s slate features Iowa-Middle Tennessee State, Alabama-Ole Miss and much more. Let’s take a look at five prospects that the Lions will certainly do their homework on leading into next year’s draft.
EDGE, A.J. Epenesa, Iowa (Junior)
If there’s an early favorite for the No. 1 fit for Matt Patricia’s defense, then it’s A.J. Epenesa. At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, Epenesa is your typical hand-in-the-dirt defensive end, though he’s had some experience in a two-point stance as well.
I like Epenesa in Patricia’s scheme moreso as a down defensive end than a stand-up pass rusher. His first step is no better than average and while his flexibility is pretty decent for his size and build, it’s just not very good in comparison to all pass rushers. Where Epenesa does win is with his size and his hands. Like most defensive linemen that the Lions target, he is extremely disciplined in the run game and also very difficult to move off the line of scrimmage. Epenesa’s hands hits like a ton of bricks and he has shown the ability to shed blocks with ease in both the pass game and the run game.
AJ Epenesa with pure power and then a 280 pound leap sack pic.twitter.com/DMOgYn17aL— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) September 9, 2019
A.J. Epenesa and the Iowa Hawkeyes will face Middle Tennessee at 12 p.m. EST on ESPN2.
OT, Tristan Wirfs, Iowa (Junior)
Wirfs currently is up there with Georgia’s Andrew Thomas—who we highlighted a couple weeks back—for top OT honors. There isn’t really a consensus on who is the better player, and with us being so far away from the draft, there’s plenty of time for that debate. And who knows, maybe there will be a riser that sneaks his way onto the throne.
What really caught my eye with Wirfs is how he moves, specifically when moving laterally. His feet are very nimble, and I don’t really see him getting beat on the edge by speed alone. He glides out of his stance with ease and covers a lot of ground in a short period of time. He can also get to the second level in a hurry. It doesn’t always look pretty, however, and his balance is pretty suspect on occasion, but there are a lot of good traits to work with and you can tell pretty quickly why he’s being regarded as a top-10 pick right now.
WR, Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (Junior)
With Danny Amendola catching the injury bug this week, it’s time to get the Bama receivers out of the way. You knew it was coming. They’re just so darn good and with the Lions getting out to a decent start here, it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll even have a chance at Jeudy or Ruggs, but we’ve gotta cover our bases anyway.
Jeudy is a unicorn. I have never seen a human being move the way he does after the catch. If you don’t believe me, see it for yourself.
Jerry Jeudy is a certified freak. pic.twitter.com/SmziWxr8pt— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) September 1, 2019
There aren’t really many ways to pick apart Jerry Jeudy’s game negatively. His size and strength are just okay, but it’s not something I really care about when you consider how spectacular he is when running routes and with the ball in his hands. He is not Calvin Johnson, but he has a chance to be selected as high as Calvin.
WR, Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (Junior)
If the draft was held today, maybe the Lions would have a chance to grab Ruggs in the mid-late first. The NFL loves fast receivers, though. Consider Hollywood Brown, a speed demon with a lisfranc injury. Players don’t often recover from a lisfranc, yet he was selected in the first round despite his fragile frame and a scary injury. Speed kills.
When you watch Ruggs, he is the fastest player on the field at all times. He is probably the fastest player in all of college football. He might be the fastest player to ever play the game of football. Rumors of him having a chance at running a sub 4.2 40-yard dash may not be exaggerated. If he does prove to have that kind speed, then there is no chance that he falls out of the top-10. NFL teams love to draft players with speed, and Ruggs is not one-dimensional. His route-running is underrated, though certainly not 100 percent polished.
Henry Ruggs III already up to 3 catches for 131 yards and 2 TDs in the first quarter.— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) September 21, 2019
Dynamic play maker. pic.twitter.com/zc4M0SpJjV
My guy did a full 360 and still outran the secondary.
WR, DeVonta Smith, Alabama (Junior)
Smith does not share the same inhuman athleticism of Jeudy or Ruggs, but he offers more polished route-running and finesse to his game. He will likely need to at least add some weight and strength to his frame due to how thin he currently, but you hope that it doesn’t affect his quickness.
I like Smith in the slot and I think that will probably be the area where he’s at his best. Give him either side of the field to work with and he’ll get off the line of scrimmage and get open in a hurry.
To watch the Alabama receivers and any other Bama player that will eventually make it to the NFL, turn your dial to CBS at 3:30 p.m. EST.