Ten prospects to watch as Detroit Lions head to Day 3 of the NFL Draft

Detroit News

Allen Park — After taking two defenders on the second day of the draft, the Detroit Lions will enter the final four rounds scheduled to pick three more times (177, 181, 217).

That’s a long wait to start Saturday, which kicks off with Tampa Bay at No. 106, but there’s always an opportunity to gain more selections via trade. Just last year, the Lions proved that, acquiring a second fourth-round pick early in the day.

With plenty of roster holes still worthy of addressing, and some intriguing names lingering on the board, here are 10 prospects we’ll be watching as potential targets for the Lions.

► Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati

We had Bryant on our Day 2 watch list, but Sauce Gardner’s counterpart has slid into the draft’s third day. Lanky at 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, and a relatively average athlete for the position, he still managed to display impressive ball skills for the Bearcats, intercepting seven passes the past two seasons, while holding opposing quarterbacks to a 44.0 completion percentage when targeted in coverage. A natural leader, he was twice selected captain.

► Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

The Lions have plenty of depth at linebacker, but only Derrick Barnes is under contract beyond this season. Smith has an impressive tool set, measuring in at a beefy 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. That’s paired with some of the most impressive athleticism ever displayed by a linebacker at the combine. He ran a speedy 4.52-second 40-yard dash and showed elite explosion via his vertical and broad jumps. As a player, those tools haven’t fully translated, but there’s obvious untapped potential and the team has time to patiently develop him.

► Cade Otton, TE, Washington

If there’s one position the Lions could still use contributing depth on offense, it’s at tight end. Some analysts made a case for Otton as the best tight end in this class and the 6-foot-5, 247-pounder is definitely one of the more effective blockers. That’s an area that should be a point of emphasis for Detroit. Otton won’t blow anyone away as a pass-catcher, but he’s a good enough route runner and can handle his own in contested-catch situations to be effective.

► Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Look, it’s admittedly a longshot that the Lions look to draft a QB after passing through three rounds, but if there’s still one on the board with the potential to develop into a starter, it’s Howell. Long viewed as a first-round talent, Howell’s stock nosedived after an underwhelming 2021 season, but he was still reasonably effective working with lesser-talented weapons after losing multiple to the NFL the previous offseason. Additionally, he showed far more playmaking ability with his legs as a senior, rushing for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns.

► Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State

Detroit’s leadership is clearly big on players who demonstrate heart and Rodriguez epitomizes that outplaying his underwhelming 5-foot-11, 232 frame. He makes up for the deficiency with a non-stop motor, good instincts and competitive toughness. In 2021, he racked up 130 tackles, including 16.5 behind the line, while forcing four fumbles. If nothing else, he could end up being an outstanding special teamer in the league for years.

► Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA

The Lions took a chance on one receiver turned defensive back when they selected Kerby Joseph at the end of the third round. Could they do it again? Woolen brings expectational size to the cornerback position at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, pairing that with an absurd 42-inch vertical and a sub 4.3-second 40-yard time. What’s not to love? Put those physical gifts with a proven teacher of technique like defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant and you could have a breakout star in a couple of years.

► Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU

Many will argue the Lions don’t need another running back, and it’s easy to understand that point. Still, with D’Andre Swift struggling to stay healthy his first two seasons, and Jamaal Williams in the final year of his contract, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to add to the room if the value was right. Allgeier is a stout 224-pound runner who shouldered 275 carries and racked up 1,601 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground last year, while also flashing some reasonable pass-catching skills. There’s potential as a long-term power component.

► Damone Clark, LB, LSU

Clark had a case to be selected in the second round before the devastating news he needed spinal fusion surgery this offseason to repair a herniated disk in his neck. That’s a lot of scary words, and we acknowledge the medical prognosis has be good to take a chance on a player who likely won’t see the field in 2022. That said, when healthy, there’s a lot to love about the player profile. Clark has adequate size, plus athleticism and excellent production, tallying 135 stops (15.5 for a loss), two forced fumbles and an interception as a senior.

► Cordell Volson, OL, North Dakota State

A two-time All-American offensive tackle, the 6-foot-6, 315 Volson is projected to shift to guard full-time in the NFL, but having the versatility to back up both spots shouldn’t be entirely dismissed. He’s coming from a run-heavy offense, so pass blocking is likely to be a struggle early, but his football IQ should help flatten the learning curve.

► Eyioma Uwazurike, DT, Iowa State

It’s easy to appreciate the Detroit native, who overcame being academically ineligible as a freshman to become an academic All-American by the end of his college career. He’s made similarly impressive strides on the football field, posting nine sacks as a fifth-year senior after combining for 6.0 his first four seasons at the school. In addition to the blooming production, he has an ideal frame for the defensive interior, standing 6-foot-6 with longer than 35-inch arms.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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