Allen Park -— The NFL Draft is still two months away and the possibilities for the Detroit Lions with the No. 8 pick remain wide open.
What is largely assumed, at this stage, is Ohio State's Nick Bosa, Alabama's Quinnen Williams and Kentucky's Josh Allen will be off the board before the Lions are on the clock. And anywhere from 1-3 quarterbacks could also be selected in the top 10. That could leave the Lions with their choice defensive linemen Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary, Montez Sweat, tight end T.J. Hockenson, linebacker Devin White or any of the defensive backs from this class.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah conducted a lengthy conference call on Monday previewing this week's scouting combine and offered his thoughts on a number of those top prospects.
At the top of the list is Oliver, who many viewed as a top-5 pick entering the past college football season, but has seen his stock slip, at least temporarily, after his production dipped during the 2018 campaign.
On paper, Oliver doesn't appear to be an ideal scheme fit for Detroit, but Jeremiah said even teams that prefer to play with a gap-control front can find use for an explosive backfield disruptor like the Houston product.
"I think he’ll benefit from a move to that 3-technique full-time, park him in there and let him go," Jeremiah said. "Some people, some teams think they can put him outside and stand him up and see if this can be a Melvin Ingram-type player for the Chargers on the edge. You’ve got some versatile to move around there.
"As for the Lions and how they’d use him, I think that’s becoming less and less of a thing," Jeremiah said. "I think there’s so much of a premium on the quick pass game in the league right now that even some of these traditional two-gap teams, hold-the-point teams, you’ve got to find somebody that can get some penetration inside because they’re finding ways to somewhat neutralize what you’re doing off the edge. The ball is coming out and you can’t get home. Even some of those traditional teams are trying to make it work with someone that’s maybe a little undersized."
Despite having a bigger frame than Oliver, Jeremiah believes Gary would be better suited played outside in the NFL.
"I don’t really want Gary in there two-gapping, either," Jeremiah said. "I’d split him outside and let him rush. I don’t know that either one is a perfect scheme fit there, but you try to find someone that can be disruptive and craft that role around their skills."
Other edge-rushing options in play for the Lions are Sweat and Clemson's Clelin Ferrell. At 6-foot-6, 252 pounds, Sweat has the build teams desire at the position, according to Jeremiah. The Mississippi State standout, who recorded 22.5 sacks the past two seasons after transferring from Michigan State, solidified his resume with a strong week at the Senior Bowl last month.
Jeremiah anticipates Sweat being selected in the first 20 picks, and believes the first team to consider him will be Detroit at No. 8.
"He’s got a unique ability to be able to bend and wrap at the top of his rush," Jeremiah said. "He’s got big-time get-off and burst. I wish he would get a little bit stronger. In the run game, he can get a little too high, at times and can get pushed around."
As for Ferrell, the athleticism doesn't jump off the page like it does with Oliver, Gary and Sweat, but Ferrell closes the gap with a non-stop motor.
"One of the things I love about Ferrell is he never stops and that, to me, is the most underrated trait in a pass rusher is persistence," Jeremiah said. "When you see guys, you can talk about speed, power and hands, their ability to bend and all that stuff, but there’s also, every year when you watch the sack tape of the top pass rushers, they collect four or five that are pure effort and never stopping. I think you’re going to get some of those from Ferrell.
"I don’t think he’s going to be a 14-, 15-, 16-sack guy, but I think he can be a really, really good 10- to 12-sack guy who is going to hold up in the run and not have to come off the field. To me, that’s pretty valuable."
Outside of the defensive line, the Lions could consider addressing needs at cornerback and tight end.
A popular mock draft projection for Detroit is LSU's Greedy Williams, but Jeremiah doesn't share the same high opinion as many of his colleagues. Calling it his toughest evaluation this offseason because Williams possesses so many physical gifts, Jeremiah expressed concerns about the young corner's short-area aggressiveness and ability to support the run.
On Jeremiah's recently updated big board, he ranked Williams No. 34 overall and fourth among corners. Georgia's DeAndre Baker, at No 24, was the top-ranked player at the position.
Jeremiah has no such reservations about Hockenson, another player who has been popularly mocked to the Lions in recent weeks, including by Jeremiah last month.
"I think he’s the safest player in the draft," Jeremiah said. "I (watched his tape) the day after watching Rob Gronkowski live in person in the playoff game against the Chargers and I saw Gronk completely dominate a football game without having to really catch the ball. He was just so dominant in the run game. And then I flip on this kid and he’s not as tall as Gronk, and I don’t compare anybody to Gronk, he’s not as a whole different level in terms of what he can do, but I saw this kid with the same temperament and nastiness in the run game and controlling the run game. On top of that, he does nothing but get open and catch everything they throw to them. He’s going to be a very valuable player with a high floor as well as a high ceiling."
The Lions will get a first-hand look and an opportunity to talk to each of the options in Indianapolis this week. Players will start arriving for the combine on Tuesday, with on-field workouts from Friday through Monday.