INDIANAPOLIS –Malik McDowell dreams big when he dreams about his hometown Detroit Lions.
After a celebrated high school career that made him a top national recruit growing up on Detroit's west side and playing three seasons at defensive tackle for Michigan State, McDowell would feel comfortable returning to Detroit and helping the Lions get to a place where they've never been in the Super Bowl era.
"In my head, the Lions are always going to the Super Bowl," McDowell said when he spoke to reporters at the NFL Combine. "Being at home, playing at home, it's a great feeling."
McDowell didn't hesitate when asked to name his favorite Lion. No surprise, it was a dominating interior lineman.
"Suh," he said, referring to Ndamukong Suh, and adding to the list. "Everybody loves Suh. Nick Fairley ... Cliff
View photos of prospects meeting the media during Day 4 of the 2017 NFL Combine.
Avril when he was there."
In a draft that is deep in defensive linemen – which is an area the Lions are likely to target in the draft -- McDowell is clearly a first-round talent. However, he has some questions to answer about how his career ended at Michigan State.
The Spartans collapsed in 2016 and finished with a 3-9 record. They went 1-9 in the last 10 games. McDowell's performance tailed off, too. That raised questions about whether he had a tendency to take plays off.
Overall, McDowell enjoyed his experience at East Lansing, and said there were reasons for his diminished production in 2016.
"I had a lot of stuff going on this past year – health reasons, body stuff," he said. "It isn't something I've got to worry about in the future.
"Toward the end, we didn't play as good as we should have been playing. It's what happens. You win some. You lose some."
McDowell made a strong impression at the Combine. At 6-6 and 295 pounds, he was timed in an unofficial 4.86 seconds in the 40-yard dash, hitting the first 10 yards in 1.69 seconds. McDowell did 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, and his arm length was measured at 34-6.
All of those indicate why McDowell is such an intriguing prospect.
By comparison, Alabama's Jonathan Allen, considered by many to be the top interior lineman in the draft, had an unofficial 40 time of 5.00 at 6-3, 286 and a 1.74 split at 10 yards. Allen pushed the bar 21 times in the bench press, and his arm length was measured at 33-5.
McDowell had a big 2015 season at MSU as a true sophomore. He started all 14 games and had 13 tackles for loss, with 4.5 sacks, eight quarterback hits and an interception.
In 2016 he played nine games, with eight starts, and recorded seven tackles for loss with 1.5 sacks.
McDowell's athletic ability allowed him to play across the board on the Spartans' defensive line, and he feels he could push the limits further – if given the opportunity.
"Actually, I feel like I could play safety, if I wanted to," he said good-naturedly.
McDowell said he had an "informal" meeting with the Lions, but too much shouldn't be read into that even with the Lions in the market to upgrade their defensive line. The top prospects meet with most of the teams at some point in the scouting process.
"It was a good meeting," McDowell said. "They wanted to see if I could handle playing in Detroit. I assured them that it wouldn't be a problem."