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Senior Bowl 2020: 10 defensive prospects to watch for the Detroit Lions

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The Senior Bowl is quickly approaching so it’s time to look at who the Detroit Lions should be focusing on the most, starting on defense.

Colorado V Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl will be played on January 25 which is just short of two weeks away. With the Detroit Lions taking over as one of the coaching staffs of the game, the team will get an up close and personal look with every player in Mobile over Senior Bowl week. While meetups between players and teams are always overblown (almost every player will meet with almost every team), the teams that are actually coaching will get to not only meet the players but spend time working with them and gaining an understanding of how coachable they are, in addition to how good they think these players are. With that in mind, we’ve started to look at who the team should be paying the closest attention to both in the game and during practices, starting with the biggest area of need: the defense.

NOTE: As always, language warning for all highlight videos.

Evan Weaver, LB, California

Listed at only 235 pounds, Weaver is normally the type of body type that I would shy away from given the team’s dogged adherence to their specific prototypes. After watching him several times, however, I feel the same way about Weaver as I did about Jahlani Tavai and Josiah Tauaefa in the last draft. Despite some clear athletic limitations, this is a fundamentally sound player who does his job effectively and isn’t responsible for many negative plays. Weaver’s testing will be key, and I mean more than just his size (though he has the frame to pack on another 10-15 pounds), but he’s a player that fits some of what the Lions expect from their linebackers: Don’t screw up.

Anfernee Jennings, LB, Alabama

I’ve talked about Jennings before and I stick to my previous assessment. Jennings is exactly the type of player you’d expect the team to look at in the role Devon Kennard plays in this defense, either as a replacement or a successor.

Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State

Like Jennings, we’ve looked at Harrison before and had a Detroit Lions roster comparison. In his case, it was to Jarrad Davis, and after following up many of my comparisons still hold true for me. Harrison is currently listed at 240. I would expect him to come in right in that area but could easily get to and play closer to 250 in a single offseason.

Terrell Lewis, OLB, Alabama

Another Alabama linebacker that the Lions are likely keeping close tabs on throughout the Senior Bowl week is Terrell Lewis. Unlike Jennings, there don’t appear to be as many athletic limitations with Lewis, but like Jennings, he fits both scheme and size profile. Both Alabama prospects have a good shot to raise their profiles during the week, but I think Lewis is going to see the biggest jump.

Jason Strowbridge, DE, North Carolina

Strowbridge used to be significantly smaller than the 285 pounds he’s listed at now and his current size is right about where the Lions would be looking for in a DE in the draft. Here’s a twist, though: I think this is a prospect the Lions could look to shed some pounds if they selected him.

A likely early-Day 3 player, I expect Strowbridge to have one of the better weight-adjusted agility times in the draft, and he’s a guy I think the Lions could look to lose 15-20 pounds and play a reserve role to Trey Flowers rather than continue at his same size to try a more Da’Shawn Hand like role. If that’s the case, Strowbridge could supplant Romeo Okwara fairly easily.

Josh Uche, DE, Michigan

Where I think the Lions could have Strowbridge lose a few pounds to back up Flowers and challenge Okwara, I think Wolverines standout Josh Uche would be asked to gain a few to do the same. Like Strowbridge, Uche has bend for his size and is a guy that could instantly improve the team’s pass rush. He was a moderately productive edge rusher for Michigan the past couple of years, averaging about 7.0 sacks, but I think it might take a year or two before Uche truly works himself into a solid rotation, even with the depth issues the Lions have had.

Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah

I purposely left Anae for last among edge rushers, because while there are things the first couple of guys could change about their game to be perfect fits in this defense, I don’t think there’s anything that this Utah product could do to be a better fit in Detroit. He’s everything the team looks for—and then some—and while he’s currently projected to go in the third round, I think that changes significantly moving forward. Anae may not measure as well as I tend to like, especially for pass rushers, but neither did Trey Flowers. Some guys just have it, and I think this is an example of that. He’s the first player I will watch.

Kristian Fulton, CB, Louisiana State

As much as Grant Delpit was linked to the Lions in mock drafts, it’s really a different LSU back end defender the team should be paired with. If the team opts to go a different direction than Jeff Okudah, they could do far worse than Fulton (currently my CB2). Athletic and rangy, Fulton is more quick twitch than explosive so it’s a bit of a departure from their recent trends at the position. Still, I think he would offer an immediate upgrade over the likely-departing Rashaan Melvin on the outside.

Jeff Gladney, CB, Texas Christian

Though the draft class is steeped in athletic, technical corners who could span the spectrum of scheme preferences, the Senior Bowl itself doesn’t have a lot of variety. Jeff Gladney is a decent enough prospect with the expected type of athletic profile the Lions have favored recently. Some of his flaws will give you flashbacks to Lions of recent past, the grabbing at the top of his routes of Nevin Lawson, the panicky mistakes of Rashaan Melvin, but they don’t happen with the frequency of either. He’s a Day 2 work in progress with athletic upside, but he has a shot to help his stock during Senior Bowl practices and the game.

Dane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh

Diet Jeff Gladney. If you miss out on Jeff Gladney in the first two days of the draft, you can draft Dane Jackson and hope that with some extra wait you’ll get a similar player.