Alabama vs. Ohio State loaded with NFL draft prospects; Detroit Lions should watch these 6

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Alabama and Ohio State play for the national championship Monday night, and while the Detroit Lions are still looking for a head coach and general manager, all scouting eyes will be on two of the most talent-rich programs in college football.

The Lions have five picks in April’s NFL draft, No. 7 overall in the first round and selections in Rounds 2-5. Here are six prospects playing Monday who could be of interest to the Lions at some point in the draft.

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Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Fields probably cemented his status as the second best quarterback in the draft, behind presumptive No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, with a dominant showing in a national semifinal win over Clemson. He likely will be gone by the time the Lions are on the board at No. 7. But if he’s not, if BYU’s Zach Wilson passes him on draft boards around the league, or if some of the quarterback-needy-but-not-desperate teams in front of the Lions in the draft order (the Jets, Falcons and Eagles) decide to go different directions, the Lions could be watching their quarterback of the future Monday in the dual-threat Fields, who has thrown 66 touchdowns against nine interceptions so far in his career.

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Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Smith capped a banner career by becoming the first non-quarterback/running back to win the Heisman Trophy since Charles Woodson in 1997. He played four years at Alabama and last season outperformed first-round picks Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. He’s not quite as fast as Ruggs, but Smith has plenty of deep speed and is a savvy route runner. He’ll either be the first or second receiver off the board, and for a Lions team that has just two receivers under contract for 2021 in Quintez Cephus and Geronimo Allison, not to mention a big decision to make on Kenny Golladay, he would make sense at No. 7. In 12 games this season, he has 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns. 

Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Olave is not in the same class of receiver as Smith or LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, another projected top-10 pick, but he is a very good player in his own right. In the NFL, he projects more as a dependable complementary piece than a lead receiver, but that might make him more likely to land with the receiver-needy Lions as a Day 2 pick. No matter what happens with Golladay, the Lions can use a versatile receiver like Olave, who is polished enough to play as a rookie. Olave has 91 catches in the last two seasons, is coming off a big six-catch, two-touchdown, 132-yard performance against Clemson, and you need only watch how Ohio State’s offense struggled without him late in the season to know how valuable he is as a player. Just a junior, there is a small chance he returns to Ohio State 2021.

Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

The Lions need to completely overhaul their linebacking corps this offseason, and a player like Moses should fit no matter what scheme their new coach decides to run. Moses is a violent hitter who has the athletic traits to succeed both both in pass coverage and as a rusher in the NFL. He drew a Myles Jack comparison from NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah this summer, and while he’s not quite as polished as Jack, he could have a similar career. Not many off-ball linebackers go in Round 1, so if the Lions don’t go Penn State’s Micah Parsons with their first pick, they may be able to land a player like Moses on Day 2.

Haskell Garrett, DT, Ohio State

Linebacker is the Lions’ most pressing front-seven need this offseason, and finding a disruptive interior presence might be No. 1. There do not appear to be many blue-chip defensive linemen available in this draft, but Garrett is the type of player who could offer upside as a depth play on Day 3. He had 2.5 sacks in seven games this season after playing sparingly his first three years. He made a memorable interception against Michigan State, when he caught his own deflected pass in the end zone for a touchdown, and he will have a chance to show off Monday against a good Alabama offensive line that features future pros Alex Leatherwood and Deonte Brown.

Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Smith, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and cornerback Patrick Surtain are Alabama’s best draft prospects and probable first-round picks, while Jones has played well enough in his first full season as a starter to sneak into the first round discussion. As mentioned, the Lions are in flux at the quarterback position. Matthew Stafford has a decision to make on his future, and even if he wants to return, the team may look to draft his eventual replacement. No. 7 seems too high for Jones, but he’s worth keeping tabs on Monday with so much uncertainty at the position.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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