10 prospects to keep an eye on at the Senior Bowl this week

Posted Jan 20, 2014

Reporting from Mobile, Ala., Tim Twentyman cites 10 players to watch leading up to Saturday's Senior Bowl

MOBILE, ALA. – The prospects at this week's Senior Bowl were poked, prodded, measured and weighed Monday morning. Now the real work begins for 109 of the best senior college football players from 2013.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, head coach Jim Caldwell and the rest of the Lions coaching, scouting and personnel department will be as equally busy over the next week filling out the coaching staff and trying to find their next Ziggy Ansah or Larry Warford.

Here are 10 players to keep an eye on as practices for both the North and South teams begin:

Jordan MatthewsAP Images

Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Matthews went from unheralded prospect to the SEC's all-time leading receiver. He holds SEC records for career receptions (262), receiving yards (3,759) and catches in a single season with 112 in 2013. He set an SEC record with nine 100-yard receiving games and caught at least five passes in every game. He also has good size at 6-foot-3, 206 pounds, which is something the Lions are looking for on the outside. He's projected to be a late first-round to second-round pick.

Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma

After starting at safety in 2011, Colvin (6-0, 192) has started 20 of the last 21 games at corner. He's a physical cornerback, who will have to prove to teams this week he can excel at the next level in man-to-man coverage. He's considered by some to be the best cornerback prospect here this week.

Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

A semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, Ward had 95 tackles, seven interceptions and defended 10 passes this season for the Huskies. He's been compared a lot to Jacksonville's John Cyprien (Florida International), who earned himself a second-round selection by the Jaguars last year after a good week at the Senior Bowl.

Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State

Smith is a bit undersized at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, but he's a true sideline-to-sideline outside linebacker with terrific speed. He recorded three interceptions this year and returned two of those back for a touchdown. He may be small, but he led the National Champions with 90 tackles and chipped in 9.5 tackles for loss. He had 15 tackles in the National Championship Game.

Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford

The Lions seem pretty set at defensive end with Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones and Devin Taylor, but Murphy could still be an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on this week. He has terrific size (6-6, 260) and led the PAC-12 with 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. He also had an interception returned for a touchdown, six pass break ups, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick. He's a playmaker on defense, and teams can never have too many of those.

Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

Hageman is the top-ranked defensive tackle prospect at the Senior Bowl. The Lions look pretty set at defensive tackle with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley, but Suh and Fairley are entering the last year of their deals. Hageman (6-6, 311) was a huge force in the center of that Gophers defense and received a double team every time he was on the field.

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Donald is a bit undersized at 6-foot, 285 pounds, but led the country with 26.5 tackles for loss in 2013. He's a penetrating defensive tackle, who recorded 10 sacks to go along with all those tackles for loss.

Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas

Dominic Raiola, 35, is likely to be back next year after the season he had in 2013, but the Lions do need to find his eventual replacement. Swanson (6-4, 318) is projected as the best center prospect in the draft and a mid-round pick. He could end up being this year's Larry Warford, a mid-round pick who flourishes early in his career.

CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa

This isn't a strong senior class of tight ends, and Fiedorowicz has a lot to prove to scouts this week. He's already a terrific blocker with a NFL frame (6-5, 265). He has to prove, however, he can be more of a weapon down the field in the passing game than he was at Iowa. He's projected to be a mid-round pick.

Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor

He's had some off-the-field issues in his past, which is always a concern, but there's no denying he's a talented safety. He can cover and play in the box and is among the top three safeties available in the draft. With the uncertain future of Louis Delmas, the Lions could be in the market in the first three rounds of the draft for help at safety.