The Senior Bowl has now come and gone, and Jim Schwartz and his staff tasted victory for the first time since a week nine win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, as their south squad prevailed 21-16. In the meantime, Schwartz got a close look at plenty of the nation's top seniors, perhaps helping to clear up some elements with regards to the Detroit Lions' draft board.
Who, exactly, stood out as top performers, based on the positions the Lions will be looking for upgrades? Fortunately, that answer is more available now that last week's activities have concluded. Here's our list of impressively performing talents the Lions must keep an eye on in the months ahead.
1. Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana. When you take the opening kickoff 88 yards from eight yards deep in the end zone and then proceed to register five tackles and a pass breakup as a cornerback, you're likely to land first on this Lions-centered list. Alford had a big game in Mobile, stacking up well against his competition at receiver and looking to be a Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie double in the process. Schwartz likes his small school defensive backs having snapped up Bill Bentley last year, so Alford might be the next target, especially considering his explosive special teams play.
2. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU. Ansah was better than advertised off the edge, registering seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and one pass break up in arguably the best statistical performance in recent Senior Bowl memory. The question now becomes, where will he land in the draft? Many see him as a high first round pick, while others wonder if Ansah is still too raw given he just picked up football three years ago. Either way, with defensive end looking like a position of need, the Lions likely will keep an eye on perhaps the most underrated yet dominant edge rusher in the draft.
3. Sio Moore, LB, Connecticut. With free agency on the horizon, might the Lions need a new linebacker? After not receiving an invite to the Senior Bowl following a dominant showing at the Shrine Bowl, the linebacker was added to the roster and made quick use of his big opportunity, registering six tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. The last month, Moore has made a big impression. Perhaps it was big enough for the Lions to consider adding him to the squad.
4. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. Physical, cocky and refusing to back down from multiple challenges, Trufant had a limited statistical game in the Senor Bowl, but impressed scouts all week with his intangibles, especially as he was rarely thrown on. That's a sure sign of a capable corner. It's clear Trufant has the bloodlines, being his brother Marcus plays in the NFL. The Lions might not get a shot at him, as many now expect Trufant to rise into the first round. Perhaps, the most needy team for defensive backs will get their shot to select him early in round two.
5. B.J. Scott, S, South Alabama. Who? Scott, a safety prospect out of South Alabama, had to have opened some eyes from a Lions' perspective, playing for the south and looking impressive in the middle of the field. With three tackles, his numbers don't jump off the page, but when you examine his larger body of work, plenty of stats do. In South Alabama's final game against Hawaii, Scott had a 12 tackle, one interception game in a losing effort. For a player to register that type of effort for a 2-11 team, he has to be self motivated. That's the kind of player the Lions lacked during their failed 2012 campaign.
6.Jonathan Cyprian, S, FIU. Who once again? Cyprian burst on the scene with a huge performance in Mobile, compiling five tackles, one of which was combined for a loss for the north team. The Lions need big time help in the secondary and particularly, depth at safety, so they'd be wise to keep a close eye on this unsuspecting high riser from Florida International during the combine. If anything, he might be a quality warm body.
7. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon. Perhaps suiting Detroit's eye the best. Barner was the toughest running back to cover as it related to the passing game, racking up 59 yards and a touchdown. As a runner, Barner was a bit more unassuming, only carrying the ball three times for 13 yards. Perhaps the Lions have their eye on him purely for this speed receiving role. If that's the case, he was perhaps the most impressive offensive player on the field.
8. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford. Looking like a tough runner, Taylor racked up an impressive 55 yards rushing on nine carries, ripping off a long run of 20 yards. He looked every part of the capable back we described him as last week, remaining tough to bring down and physical. The Lions should keep Taylor near the top of their board as they consider another rusher in the weeks ahead, due to his thick body and durability.
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