Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn knows that his team needs playmakers. They Lions need them on offense and defense -- heck, maybe on special teams as well, depending on the development of former All-Pro returner Jamal Agnew. This week is the first time the Lions and every other NFL team get to really dig in and start to understand the guys they might want to have.
The NFL combine is only one part of this process -- a highly publicized part -- from now until April. But it is where all the players will be gathered to run in drills that they’ll potentially have to do again only if they end up free agents looking for jobs.
With that in mind, here are some potential defensive playmakers the Lions might be eyeing in Indianapolis. There are a ton of options for front-seven players with the No. 8 pick, so I went with three who could make the most sense:
Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky: Allen, whose sister Myisha Hines-Allen plays in the WNBA, is a likely top-10 pick. There’s a reasonable chance that Allen won't be available for the Lions at No. 8, but he has the versatility and speed to fit Matt Patricia’s multiple scheme if he is there for the Lions. Allen can rush the passer and stop the run, and he has the potential to cover tight ends and running backs at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. With 21.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks last season, he might be the ideal player for Patricia’s defense.
Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson: His name should be well known as one of the centerpieces of the Tigers’ defense, and at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, he has really good size. He doesn’t have the versatility of Allen -- he’s likely more of a hand-in-the-ground player -- but the Lions need a replacement for Ezekiel Ansah. Ferrell had 19.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks last season.
Ed Oliver, DL, Houston: Once thought of as a potential No. 1 overall pick, there’s a reasonable chance that Oliver will still be there at No. 8. His athleticism is intriguing at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds. He also is the type of player Patricia can mold and find a home for to max out his skill set.
Devin White, LB, LSU: The Lions have definitely kicked around making Jarrad Davis more of a pass-rusher -- see his role last season -- and if that happens, it would make sense to find another high-caliber linebacker next to him. White has fantastic speed and strength. With 123 tackles and six passes defended for the Tigers last season, he has shown that he can produce, and there’s definite developmental room.
Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: Williams can cover -- that is no question -- and his 6-foot-2 frame would give a strong option opposite Darius Slay in the secondary, allowing the Lions to move Nevin Lawson to nickel, where he’ll compete with Agnew. Tackling is a concern there, but if Patricia believes he can teach that -- and last year he spent a lot of time with the DBs in portions open to the media -- then Williams is a smart pick.
Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson: There’s a chance that Mullen might be a smart second-round pick for the Lions if they don't get Williams in Round 1. At 6-foot-2, he's another tall cover corner who has good speed. He isn't going to be a Day 1 starter -- corner is a tough transition position -- but having Lawson will give the Lions at least a chance to let him grow into the role.
Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple: Yes, his name is fantastic. But he can also play -- and like Mullen, he would make sense as a late Day 2 pick. He has height (6-foot-1), and he’d be a project. But the Lions can get away with not having him play right away, especially if they sign a veteran corner in free agency. Watching his drills is going to be the biggest thing.
Taylor Rapp, S, Washington: Yes, the Lions need to replace Glover Quin, and the expectation is that Tracy Walker will fill that spot. The versatile Quandre Diggs isn’t going anywhere. But beyond that, Tavon Wilson is in the last year of his deal, and Miles Killebrew has yet to emerge as more than a special-teams player (and maybe a linebacker). I can’t see the Lions going there at No. 8, but they ran some three-safety packages last season. Washington is a willing hitter, can play special teams and would likely be the No. 3 safety immediately with the potential for more down the road. He had five sacks and two interceptions last season.