INDIANAPOLIS -- The media portion of the NFL combine has ended, and while the actual event continues through Monday, here are some quick-hit impressions following four days in Indianapolis.
1. The defensive tackles in this draft really respect and study Ndamukong Suh. That was brought up over and over again throughout interviews with defensive linemen, including Texas tackle Malcom Brown, who Mel Kiper Jr. has predicted to the Lions in the first round. Florida State’s Eddie Goldman, another tackle target, said he started watching Suh when Suh was a freshman at Nebraska. Considering one of these tackles could end up replacing Suh if he leaves during free agency, that’s critical they would know what they are getting into.
2. This could be another good receiver draft. It’s unlikely the Lions are going to take a receiver in the first round – and probably not the second round, either – but there seems to be some depth to this class. Considering the team’s options behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, that’s a pretty important thing to note for the middle rounds. He doesn’t have the stats of the rest of the guys in his class, but Darren Waller could be an intriguing pick for the Lions or someone else in the mid-to-late rounds. He is 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds. He will be a developmental project in the league, but his 4.46 40-yard dash time should catch the eyes of some teams.
3. The Lions are expecting even more from Ezekiel Ansah. General manager Martin Mayhew praised Ansah again after two seasons where he continued to exceed expectations. Over the past two seasons, Ansah ranks in the top 25 of defensive linemen in sacks (15.5) and continues to grow. The improvement has been vast and Mayhew said he’s still working on his pass-rush skills. “He’s still got more improving he can do,” Mayhew said. “This is a really big offseason for him, I think, as far as coming back and building on what he’s started building.”
4. There were a ton of prospects in Indianapolis, but a couple stood out to me at least in the media room. Quinten Rollins from Miami (Ohio) is not going to be as experienced as almost any other cornerback taken in the draft, but he could end up being worth it. He made the conversion from playing point guard for Miami (Ohio) to cornerback and became the MAC player of the year. He has a lot of room to grow and has great size. If the Lions truly plan on drafting a corner to maybe learn for a year behind Rashean Mathis, he could be a smart selection. Also, guard Laken Tomlinson made an immediate impression in front of the media.
5. It sounds like the Lions are still trying to figure out the exact role for tight ends. Mayhew explained that the three tight ends Detroit has are pretty diverse but the second year of the offense should focus that. Don’t expect to see Brandon Pettigrew revert to a pass-catching tight end, though, because of Tate, Johnson, Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria and the running backs. The amount of targets just won’t be there.
6. At least from the way Mayhew talked during the combine, he is expecting big things out of the offense and coordinator Joe Lombardi in 2015. A multitude of factors – injuries, inexperience in the new offense, offensive line struggles – hampered the offense. With another offseason to work and theoretical roster upgrades, some of those problems from 2014 should not be issues in 2015.