Senior Bowl preview: Potential late-round targets at Lions’ positions of need

Detroit News

We’ve looked at the locals. We’ve gone over some of the top-60 talents.

And now, to conclude our Senior Bowl previews, we’re taking a look at seven participants who would fit the Lions’ positional needs in later rounds.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes hit on multiple late-round picks in last year’s draft, but that challenge might be a little more difficult in this go around. After Detroit’s picks in the first two rounds (Nos. 6, 18, 49 and 56), Holmes will have just four remaining picks at his disposal in the final five rounds to mine hidden gems.

Here are seven Senior Bowl participants who could be a fit for the Lions in later rounds:

Darrell Luter Jr., CB, South Alabama 

Luter has potential to be an attractive later-round pick for the Lions, who look poised to at least partially revamp their cornerback room this offseason. Like the defensive line last season, we could see Detroit invest in its corners at every level of the draft and free agency.

Luter has good ball skills and had five picks over his last two college seasons, although there are some questions about how his lack of physicality will translate. But as a player who’s generally well thought of heading in, he could benefit from proving he’s more than another over-performing, small-school player.

Clayton Tune, QB, Houston

After Holmes said he was keen on the idea of drafting and stashing a quarterback to develop, you’ll want to keep an eye on this dual-threat signal-caller from Houston.

Tune (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) ranked seventh in the country in passing yards, throwing for 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. By the time he leaves Mobile, it might officially be ‘If you’re looking for a sleeper…’ season for Mr. Tune.

Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati

Pace is an off-ball linebacker with potential to climb draft boards over the coming months. He was terrific in his one and only season at Cincinnati and — take this with a grain of salt — was PFF’s highest-graded college linebacker for the 2022 season.

He’s quick, has a nose for the football, but is knocked for his size (6-feet, 235 pounds) — kind of like last year’s prized linebacking draft pick, Malcolm Rodriguez. While Pace is currently in the middle-to-late tier of available linebackers, you could see that start to change soon.

Aubrey Miller Jr., LB, Jackson State

Fans will see the parallels between Miller and his former Jackson State teammate, Lions rookie James Houston. Both carry a special level of explosiveness and speed, and now that Holmes has had success drafting out of an HBCU, he might be more likely to do it again. That said, Miller’s draft stock stands on his own merit. He can play.

More: Senior Bowl preview: 5 players to watch from Michigan schools

More: Senior Bowl preview: Top-round talents at Lions’ positions of need

Steve Avila, OG, TCU

Should the Lions decide to pass on offensive guard help in the first couple of rounds, they’ll get to scout at least one candidate for the mid-to-late rounds in Mobile. Avila is projected to go anywhere from the third round on, which makes his situation a bit interesting. Based on where he’s currently sitting (101 on ESPN’s big board; 95 on PFF’s) and the opportunities ahead of him, he could certainly out-perform his current draft stock, but he’ll likely be somebody the Lions are hoping to get either late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.

Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati

Whyle shares some parallels with last year’s late-round tight-end draft pick, James Mitchell, in that he’s a good athlete with high upside as a receiver who could have value in the fifth round and beyond. Whyle showed remarkable consistency as a pass catcher over three seasons, but he never truly dominated. Still, with developing skill as a run-blocker, he could put his name on the Lions’ map down in Mobile.

Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford

Blu Kelly is one of the more experienced cornerbacks in this year’s draft after four years of starting at Stanford, but after production dipped in his senior year, he’s looking to make up some ground in the scouting process with pre-draft events.

He’s smart, disciplined and would be a welcome addition to any team looking to beef up its man-coverage with a mid-to-late-round pick.

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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