NFL front office personnel and coaching staffs have descended on Mobile, Alabama for the 2019 Senior Bowl consisting of a week of practices and the game on Saturday.
Most of the top senior and fourth-year junior graduate college football players are in town to try and impress NFL teams throughout the course of the week.
The Senior Bowl is a terrific opportunity for players to showcase their ability in a competitive football environment. The one-on-one rush and cover drills are some of the most valuable evaluation tools scouts and coaches get in the pre-draft process. It beats running around in shorts at the Scouting Combine in February or the very staged workouts during a pro day.
With that being said, here are five things Lions fans should watch out for at the Senior Bowl this week:
ODDS ARE YOU'RE WATCHING A FUTURE DETROIT LION
Lions general manager Bob Quinn has drafted at least one player who participated in the Senior Bowl in every year he's been in charge of the Lions' draft.
Last year it was defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand (fourth round), tackle Tyrell Crosby (fifth) and fullback Nick Bawden (seventh).
The year prior in 2017, he drafted tight end Michael Roberts in the fourth round out of Toledo.
In Quinn's first Lions draft in 2016, he took Graham Glasgow (third), Miles Killebrew (fourth) and Joe Dahl (fifth).
PASS RUSHERS APLENTY
This year's draft is loaded with defensive linemen, especially pass rushers. While underclassman dominate the top of most pass rusher rankings, there will also be some good seniors here in Mobile this week.
The Lions were able to pressure the quarterback this past season. They finished with 43 sacks (ranked 11th), but no individual had more than 7.5. Imagine if they added an elite pass rusher to the group, while maintaining the consistent production we saw this season. Now we're talking.
A few names to keep an eye on this week are Montez Sweat (Mississippi State), Zach Allen (Boston College), Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech), Oshane Ximines (Old Dominion) and Charles Omenihu (Texas).
TIGHT END MARKET
The Lions could be in the market come draft time for some help at the tight end position. There were 41 tight ends around the league in 2018 that caught more passes than Detroit's leading pass catcher at the position. The Lions need more production there.
This tight end class is pretty loaded this year, but it's also very heavy at the top with underclassman. Can one of the seniors like Tommy Sweeney of Boston College help himself climb up draft boards and past some of the younger guys at the position?
Quinn said after the year that he's on the lookout for playmakers on either side of the ball this offseason. A few places where that fits for the Lions, and where watching some individual drills could be must-watch TV this week at the Senior Bowl, are at tight end, wide receiver, cornerback and pass rusher. The offensive line vs. defensive line pass rush drills always draw big crowds from scouts and coaches each day at practice.
The receivers vs. cornerbacks and tight ends vs. safeties/linebackers will also be important to see if a consistent playmaker on either side of the ball can emerge.
The Lions appear to have a good, young running back in Kerryon Johnson, last year's second-round pick, but veteran backups Zach Zenner and LeGarrette Blount are both unrestricted free agents. Theo Riddick is entering the final year of his contract.
Free agency comes before the draft, so we'll have to wait and see what happens there, but the Lions could be looking to add some new players at the position.
Running the football efficiently has certainly been a staple of new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's offenses in past stops at Minnesota and Seattle.
Michigan's Karan Higdon and Notre Dame's Dexter Williams are a couple seniors to watch this week.