Every year during Bob Quinn’s tenure as general manager, he has taken at least two players who have been invited to the Senior Bowl. It has been a game that has served as valuable for Quinn in the past.
It figures to have a role once again in what players Quinn might select in the 2019 draft – where the Lions have the No. 8 overall pick. It will not be a be-all, end-all – but it’s a valuable piece for the general manager. Last year, in particular, he cited watching defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand during one-on-one drills throughout the week.
Hand ended up being a fourth-round pick for the Lions and a potential steal as he became one of the top rookie interior defensive linemen in the league.
“That’s something I’ll never miss,” Quinn said after last year’s draft, where the majority of his picks were selected for the game. “Because those opportunities to see these guys live and then go back and watch the tape against the best competition in the country, it’s really invaluable in the evaluation process.”
With that in mind, here are a few players to pay attention to this week both in practices and in the game on Jan. 26.
Drue Tranquill, LB, Notre Dame: Initially a safety, Tranquill became a linebacker. Likely a mid-round prospect, he could solve some of Detroit’s coverage issues at the position. He had 75 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2018. He’s also incredibly smart as a mechanical engineering major.
Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State: One of the SEC’s most productive linemen at 6-foot-6, 241 pounds, he had 14 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks last season. He could be a replacement for Ezekiel Ansah and would be an intriguing player at the top of the second round if he lasted that long or if the Lions trade down from No. 8.
Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo: The 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver had a wildly productive two-year career for the Bulls. He had two 1,000-yard seasons, including a 1,011-yard year as a senior. Between 2017 and 2018, he had 133 catches and 25 touchdowns as well. While the Lions have two good outside receivers, Kenny Golladay’s potential as a slot receiver could give the Lions even more options.
Josh Oliver, TE, San Jose State: Most of the top-rated tight ends won’t be in this game, but Oliver could be a sneaky player to watch at 6-5, 250 pounds. In his career, he had 96 catches for 1,025 yards and seven touchdowns – including 54 catches as a senior.
Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State: This list wouldn’t be complete without a quarterback on it since it would seem possible Detroit would invest a Day 2 or Day 3 pick on a potential Matthew Stafford backup. Minshew is the No. 9 quarterback on Mel Kiper’s draft board – which in this class would land him in the Day 3 range for the Lions. He has good size at 6-2, 220 pounds and completed 468 of 662 passes for 4,779 yards, 38 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year.