Representatives from all 32 teams will gather in Mobile, Ala. this week to evaluate 120-plus of the best senior talent heading into this year's NFL Draft. Talent evaluators like the Senior Bowl particularly for the three days of practice leading up to the game where they get an up-close look at these prospects in a competitive football setting.
The 2022 Senior Bowl featured 106 prospects who were drafted last April. Among those were six first-round picks and a total of 45 players drafted in Rounds 1-3. All 32 teams selected at least one Senior Bowler last year and 12 teams selected four or more players who participated, per the Senior Bowl.
Here are five things Detroit Lions fans should look out for at this week's Senior Bowl:
1. STRONG DL GROUP
Lions general manager Brad Holmes didn't mince words when asked after the season what area needs the most help this offseason.
"Obviously, our defense was ranked 32nd, so I mean it's pretty obviously that we're going to have to utilize some resources to try and improve that defense," Holmes said.
Holmes could look to bolster every level of his defense, and it just so happens the strength of these two Senior Bowl rosters might be upfront along the defensive line, especially on the edge.
Army's Andre Carter II, Notre Dame's Isaiah Foskey, Ohio State's Zach Harrison, Missouri's Isaiah McGuire, TCU's Dylan Horton, Auburn's Derick Hall, Tennessee's Byron Young and Iowa State's Will McDonald IV will draw the attention of scouts and coaches. Central Michigan's Thomas Incoom (11.5 sacks in 2022) will get an opportunity to show what he can do against stiffer competition.
2. QB PROSPECTS
Veteran quarterback Jared Goff left no doubt with his play this past season he's Detroit's QB1 moving forward. With offensive coordinator Ben Johnson also coming back in 2023 and Detroit's stout offensive line all under contract, Detroit's offense is expected to continue to be one of the best in the NFL in 2023.
But that doesn't mean Holmes won't be on the lookout to add some more players to that side of the ball, potentially at running back, tight end, guard, receiver and maybe even a young quarterback to serve as Goff's backup.
This year's crop of signal callers is led by TCU's Max Duggan, Fresno State's Jake Haener, BYU's Jaren Hall, Houston's Clayton Tune and Division II star Tyson Bagent of Shepherd. Kentucky's Will Levis has been invited but has not publicly disclosed his plans to play or not. Tennessee's Hendon Hooker will be in Mobile taking part in meetings and interviews but will not take part in on-field drills as he continues to rehab a torn ACL suffered in November.
There's some versatility among that group and guys who could make sense for the Lions on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft.
3. COACHING INSIGHT
Shaun Dion Hamilton joined Detroit's coaching staff in 2022 as a part of the WCF Minority Coaching Assistantship. He transitioned into a coaching role after joining the Lions as a linebacker in 2021.
Hamilton is getting an opportunity to showcase his coaching skills at this week's Senior Bowl, overseeing the defensive backs on the American Team roster. That will give Hamilton and the Lions a close look at the American Team defensive backs, a position Detroit will likely look to bolster in this year's draft. Coaching a position group will allow Hamilton some insight into not just what they can do on the field but also how they study, handle themselves in the meeting room and retain information.
4. RB GROUP
Florida's Dameon Pierce stood out among the group of running backs at last year's Senior Bowl and he used it as a springboard to a terrific rookie campaign for the Houston Texans. Who will stand out this year?
With Jamaal Williams headed toward free agency and D’Andre Swift entering the last year of his rookie contract in Detroit, the Lions could certainly be on the lookout for a young back in this year's draft.
Georgia's Kenny McIntosh will look to show off his versatile running and receiving skills. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns and also caught 43 passes for the National Champion Bulldogs. Illinois' Chase Brown ran for 1,643 yards to finish fourth in the FBS. Kentucky's Chris Rodriguez Jr. averaged 6.2 yards per carry in his career in the SEC.
Oklahoma's Eric Gray (1,366 yards) and Tulane's Tyjae Spears (1,581) are also backs to keep and eye on.
5. GUARD PLAY
Holmes could look to bolster the interior of Detroit's offensive line with Halapoulivaati Vaitai coming off a back injury that cost him all of the 2022 season and key reserve Evan Brown headed toward free agency.
The consensus top four interior offensive linemen in this class will all be down in Mobile for the week. That group features O'Cyrus Torrence (Florida), John Michael Schmitz (Minnesota), Olusegun Oluwatimi (Michigan) and Andrew Vorhees (USC).