Five things learned at NFL Combine
INDIANAPOLIS -- For the Lions and other NFL teams the NFL Combine is a huge step towards determining draft boards -- players they like, others they have no interest in.
After four days at the Combine, here are five things we’ve learned about the Lions and the draft.
1. This year’s draft is weighted heavily defensively and that includes a good cornerback class. Some experts say there’s a drop-off after the top two -- Patrick Peterson (LS) and Prince Amukamara (Nebraska). While others think Brandon Harris (Miami) and Jimmy Smith (Colorado) could also be drafted in the first round.
Amukamara seems a possibility for the Lions with their 13th overall pick if he’s not gone already. He’s just waiting to show that he’s not a slow guy when he runs his 40-yard dash at the Combine on Tuesday.
The former teammate of Ndamukong Suh has no off-field issues and said one of his strengths is his competitiveness which happens to be one of the top items on the list for Lions general manager Martin Mayhew,
2. Mayhew has said he will take the best available player with the 13th overall pick, within reason.
Count on this the Lions will not draft a quarterback with that pick of any of their other four picks.
“I’m putting all my eggs in the Matt Stafford, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton basket on that. To be honest with you, I haven’t evaluated a lot of these quarterbacks. When we interview our 60 guys (at the Combine), we won’t interview a single quarterback,’’ Mayhew said.
Quarterback Cam Newton of Auburn was the talk of the draft. Everyone knows his physical ability and he proved it with his Combine workouts including a broad jump of 10-feet-6 inches. Still there are questions whether he can make the transformation to a pro-style offense.
3. Drafting an offensive tackle is a possibility for the Lions even though Mayhew likes what he has with young developmental tackles in Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard. “We have a lot of needs. We’ll take the best player available. I wouldn’t say we wouldn’t take a tackle because we have Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard,’’ Mayhew said.
4. The Lions planned to interview 60 players at the Combine and bring another 30 to Allen Park for physicals and interviews. They are nowhere close to deciding who they will take with the 13th pick or later rounds either. That’s why Mayhew laughs when he peruses mock drafts.
Mayhew said after the Combine last year they still had not made a decision on whether they would draft Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick because they had too much homework to do with other players.
5. The Lions won’t be looking at kickers either. Mayhew said they had decided on whether or not they want to keep Dave Rayner, who filled in last season after Jason Hanson injured his kicking knee. But he didn’t say what the decision was.
Hanson is still under contract and is rehabilitating his knee.
“I think the big thing in that whole discussion is where Jason Hanson is physically. I think, right now, we don’t have an answer for that. But by the time we get to this summer, we’ll know exactly where he is and how he’s feeling and what he’s able to do and what he’s not able to do,’’ Mayhew said. “We’ve got a good evaluation on both of those guys and see how it all plays out.’’
Hanson, who is 40 and has 19 seasons with the Lions, has been injured in training camp the past two seasons.
“We take everything into consideration. His age is a factor, more so, I think, than his health each season. He’s getting old, he’s getting older. That’s one where we have a lot of time to make a decision on,’’ Mayhew said.
(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)