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MOCK DRAFT WATCH: TE T.J. Hockenson emerges as a candidate for Lions

It is Scouting Combine week in the NFL, which means the 32 teams across the league will get an up-close look in Indianapolis at more than 300 prospects available to them in April's NFL Draft. This is the week names start to climb up or down draft boards based on medical evaluations, meetings and on-field testing results at the Combine.

The mock draft season is in full swing, but the Combine usually throws a few curveballs into the mock cycle. Let's take a look at some of the mock drafts around the country heading into the Combine, so we can see how much they might change after the Combine:

Daniel Jeremiah, T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Why: This might be a little early for Hockenson, but he fits the physical identity the Lions have been attempting to build.

Bucky Brooks, Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Why: Coach Matt Patricia needs a dynamic edge rusher to wreak havoc off the edge in a division loaded with premier quarterbacks.

Charley Casserly, T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Why: DE and CB are also needs and Hockenson is a reach here, but so are any CBs or DEs at this spot, which is why I could see Detroit trading down.

Lance Zierlein, Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Why: With Ezekiel Ansah likely to depart in free agency, Sweat could step right in at his spot. Sweat is a long-limbed, ascending rush talent who made himself money last week at the Senior Bowl.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Why: Detroit fills an edge-rushing need with a talented prospect whose stock rose at the Senior Bowl.

Chad Reuter, Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Why: Replacing Ziggy Ansah, who's expected to depart in free agency, is a must for Detroit.

Mel Kiper Jr., T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Why: Hockenson (6-5, 250) is a complete player who can run routes out of the slot on one play, then line up next to a tackle and blow up an edge defender in the running game on the next. I'm not going to call him a Rob Gronkowski clone, but there are similarities, particularly when you see each as blockers. And remember that Lions coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn saw firsthand what Gronk did for the Patriots during their time in the organization.

Todd McShay, Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

Why: Detroit needs an edge rusher with Ezekiel Ansah likely headed out of town, and the Lions would love to add a solid tight end, but Williams is the best need-value match at No. 8. The Lions tied for second-fewest interceptions in the league with seven, and the tall LSU corner has the closing speed to bait quarterbacks and then pounce on their mistakes. Motor City hasn't gone cornerback in the first round since Terry Fair in 1998.

Ryan Wilson, Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Why: Gary didn't live up to expectations at Michigan but part of that can be blamed on him playing out of position. Is he an edge rusher? Is he better inside? He was the nation's top recruit coming out of high school and coach Matt Patricia needs a game-changer on his defensive line after a disappointing 2018 campaign.

Chris Trapasso, Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

Why: The Lions certainly need to address the outside pass rusher spot. They also need more depth behind star corner Darius Slay. Williams represents good value here, with serious No. 1 cornerback potential.

R.J. White, T.J. Hockeson, TE, Iowa

Why: Hockenson fills a role both as a blocker and a receiver, and after he tears up the combine, I feel like he'll be a regular in the top half of mock drafts. The Lions have bigger needs, sure, but when you're picking this high, you just want to take the best players, and this kid has all the tools to be a difference-maker on an offense.

Pete Prisco, Montez Sweat, OLB, Mississippi State

Why: When was the last time the Lions had a good pass rush? With Ziggy Ansah a free agent, they need help and Sweat is that type of player.

Will Brinson, Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Why: Going local always feels easy for the Lions for some reason. We don't have a lengthy profile for the Lions' decision-making process during the draft, but continuing to load up on front-seven guys feels like a very viable option for them.

Jared Dubin, T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Why: The Lions are reportedly interested in finding a tight end target to help their offense and there are two elite prospects out of Iowa in this class. They go with Hockenson here, who is coming off a season that's even better than what either fellow prospect Noah Fant or current 49ers star George Kittle ever did with the Hawkeyes.

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA Today: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Why: While Detroit has a pressing need to ramp up its pass rush, Matt Patricia seems to favor edge presences who aren't merely one-note. Enter Ferrell, an accomplished and studious lineman whose knack for disengaging blockers helps compensate for his shortcomings on pure speed.

Kalyn Kahler, Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

Why: Detroit has more pressing needs than cornerback (edge rusher, tight end), but if Williams is available at 8, he's the most talented prospect at an area the Lions could improve. They tied for second-fewest interceptions in the league with seven, and the long, ball-hawking Williams would be a significant improvement.

Nick Klopsis, Newsday: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Why: Ezekiel Ansah is set to hit free agency, and his departure would leave the Lions without a bona-fide edge rusher. Clelin Ferrell was a top prospect last year before returning to school. He has great size and length, with the athleticism to match.

Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Why: The Lions drafted Ezekiel Ansah fifth overall in 2013 and somehow decided that they were set at defensive end for the rest of the decade ...

... Whether Ansah leaves via free agency or returns under the franchise tag or a new contract, the Lions need to get more out of their pass rush. Clelin Ferrell has the size, athleticism and motor, plus impressive technique and a well-developed battery of moves, to be a double-digit sack producer.

Whether Ferrell supplements Ansah or replaces him, he's a necessity for a team with a bad habit of waiting for years to solve its most obvious problems.

Vinnie Lyer, Sporting News: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Why: Ferrell is the best of the Tigers' defensive line prospects, because his size (6-5, 260 pounds) gives him a high floor as an outside run-stopper to add to his explosiveness getting to the quarterback. He's the kind of versatile player out of whom Matt Patricia can get the most, and he also fits the Lions' top need.

Dan Kadar, SB Nation: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Why: Ferrell's workouts at the combine will be important to where he lands on draft weekend. If has a strong week, he has value this high in the draft. The report on him right now is that he's just a solid athlete. If he can quantify his play with good explosive testing numbers, watch his stock rise.

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