With the opening days of the 2022 free agency period dominating the NFL news cycle, it’s easy to forget that colleges are also currently running their pro days for their players hoping to make the jump to the next level.
Not every soon-to-be NFL prospect was invited to the Combine and many elected not to participate in all the measurable drills, so pro days offer an important piece of the draft evaluation puzzle.
On Wednesday, the National Champion Georgia Bulldogs ran their pro day and the Detroit Lions had several personnel in attendance. Based on a live feed of the event via the SEC network, Lions’ Special Assistant to President/CEO and Chairperson Chris Spielman, linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard, and area scout Scott Sika were all in attendance.
As is often the case, NFL position coaches will often run drills at these pro days, and at Georgia’s event, it was Sheppard who ran all the linebacker drills—with Spielman never too far away.
The Lions have been busy in free agency, re-signing a lot of their core players from last season, including starting linebacker Alex Anzalone. But the Lions have curiously not addressed the other starting linebacker role. So far, they haven’t re-signed Jalen Reeves-Maybin (the second starter) nor added a starting-caliber linebacker in free agency.
It’s very possible the Lions are hoping second-year linebacker Derrick Barnes is ready to assume a starting role, or they may still be negotiating with a free agent, but when you add in the fact that Anzalone also only signed a one-year deal, and all arrows seem to be pointing towards the Lions addressing the position in the draft.
And Georgia is a great place to address that need.
The Bulldogs have three off-the-ball linebackers entering the draft and all three are expected to be selected in the top-100 picks, and it’s possible two (Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker) make a push for the first round. If either fall into the pick No. 32 to No. 34 range, the Lions could give them great consideration. The third linebacker, Channing Tindall, was on the Lions roster at the Senior Bowl and could be an option in the third round.
Additionally, hybrid defensive lineman Travon Walker, who has been shooting up draft boards after his impressive Combine, took part in both defensive lineman drills and linebacker drills. In drills, he illustrated his positional versatility, which ranges from playing at the 3-technique all the way outside to standup pass rusher. He could be in play at pick No. 2 overall.
While Sheppard and Spielman were intently studying the linebackers, Sika was spoted on the SEC network in a few different areas, including talking a long look at the Georgia defensive backs.
Georgia safety Lewis Cine is the prized player in this group, and he has plug-and-play capability in the Lions scheme. Additionally, corner Derion Kendrick, who was also on the Lions roster at the Senior Bowl, could be a Day 3 possibility, through he doesn’t totally fit the profile for what they look for in a corner.