Mobile, Ala. — Lions general manager Bob Quinn, along with the personnel and coaching staffs, will descend upon Mobile, Ala. this week to evaluate the talent in the 2016 Senior Bowl.
The Lions will likely talk to every prospect at the annual college all-star game at some point this week, but the directives of the scouts could be different under Quinn than former GM Martin Mayhew.
In recent years, the Lions have found several draft picks at the Senior Bowl, including four in 2015, and this year’s talent-filled event could be another chance for the Lions to find some players.
In addition to conducting formal and informal interviews, Lions scouts and coaches will have chance to watch some of the top college players compete against each other as they try to boost their draft stock.
Here are 10 players to watch at this week’s Senior Bowl:
1. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville: Finding reinforcements for the defensive interior will be a top priority, and the 303-pound Rankins is one of the best options in the draft. He had 14 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss the past two years, and he has the athleticism to move around the line, which is something the Lions have done more the past couple years.
2. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama: A consensus All-American, Ragland is one of the biggest names in Mobile this week. He had 102 tackles and seven pass break-ups as a senior, and he could be a first-round option as the Lions look for their long-term middle linebacker, though he plans to play outside at the Senior Bowl.
3. Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford: The Lions should look for a tackle this offseason in free agency, the draft or both. The 6-foot-7, 301-pound Murphy has good length for the position and played left tackle as a senior and right tackle as a junior. For now, he’s pegged as a second-round prospect.
4. Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky: Drug use led to him being kicked out of the Big Ten and dismissed from Ohio State in 2014, but he still has the talent to go in the first two rounds. The 6-foot-3, 261-pound Spence had 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss for the Buckeyes in 2013, and at Eastern Kentucky in 2015, he had 22.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
5. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State: Wentz likely won’t interest the Lions, but if he dazzles this week, he could alter how the first round of the draft goes. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Wentz has the ideal physical traits, but NFL teams will try to see how he can transition from the FCS. Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and USC’s Cody Kessler are mid- to late-round quarterbacks the Lions could give a close look.
6. Tajae Sharpe, WR, Massachusetts: Sharpe will probably be a Day 3 pick, but if Calvin Johnson retires and the Lions want a big body to replace him, Sharpe would be a possibility. He’s 6-foot-3 and eclipsed 1,200 yards each of the past two years.
7. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State: The former quarterback will work this week to show that his athleticism can fit in the NFL. He might not be an immediate impact player, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Miller is the kind of versatile player who could interest several teams.
8. Jack Allen, C, Michigan State: Allen enters the Senior Bowl as the top center, and a good week against a good crop of defensive tackles could boost his draft stock. If the Lions decide they need insurance behind Travis Swanson, Allen could be an option on Day 2 of the draft.
9. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke: The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Cash is the kind of physical safety the Lions would love to have next to Glover Quin. Arguably the top safety in the draft, Cash had at least 100 tackles each of the last three years.
10. Deion Jones, LB, LSU: The Lions will be looking for linebacker help and if they go outside instead of inside, Jones could be a target. A likely mid-round pick, Jones had 88 tackles, 12.5 for loss, five sacks and two interceptions in 2015.