Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Draft Watchlist: Alabama vs USC

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) during the third quarter in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) during the third quarter in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Each week in college football there’s an opportunity to see plenty of future NFL talent. These players should be on the Detroit Lions radar for the 2017 NFL Draft.

It’s never too early to be looking ahead to next year’s NFL draft. In this weekly piece, I’ll examine three players from a marquee game, who could be potential draft targets of the Detroit Lions.

The opening weekend of college football is usually full of great football. One of those games will be Alabama vs USC, Saturday September 3rd at 8:00 on ABC. This game will feature several players that will be in the NFL one day. But there are three players who skills would fill a need for the Detroit Lions in 2017.

Alabama Prospects

"Nov /

Jonathan Allen
Defensive lineman
6’2 1/2″, 294

Projected Round: 1

Jonathan Allen has been an important part of Alabama’s defensive line from the day he stepped on campus. His freshman season he saw time as a backup defensive end appearing in all 13 games. As a sophomore, he again contributed at defensive end, totaling five and a half sacks on his way to an All-SEC nomination. When he entered his junior season, he dominated, registering 12 sacks, all against Power-5 teams.

Allen has terrific positional versatility, lining up at several spots along the defensive front. He showed excellent versatility when lining up at the 3-technique which many scouts think will be his best spot in the NFL. His ability to also play as a 5-Technique will also making him appealing to teams who run a 3-4 scheme.

Biggest Strengths:

  • positional versatility
  • hand quickness
  • awareness
  • strength

Biggest Weaknesses:

  • lacks elite quickness off the edge
  • burst

Former NFL scout and current NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah had this to say about Allen:

"Technician. That is the word that comes to mind after studying Allen. NFL defensive line coaches could easily compile a teaching tape based on how he attacks and gets off blocks. He can survive at defensive end on run downs if needed, but I believe he’s ideally skilled to be a very disruptive defensive tackle at the next level. There will be very little assembly required once he lands on an NFL team. For an early comparison, I’d lean toward the Titans‘ Jurrell Casey. They have similar body types and both players have outstanding hand quickness."

Being such a high-profile athlete in the upcoming NFL draft, there is plenty of video evidence to examine. Draft Breakdown, who edit videos specifically featuring one player, currently has eight videos from his sophomore and junior seasons. The Alabama based website “Roll Bama Roll” also put together an extensive film room highlighting how he succeeds in different situations.

The Lions have two current starters, 3-technique Tyrunn Walker and left defensive end Devin Taylor, that are in contract years. Therefore, if the Lions move on from one or both of these players, Jonathan Allen could be a possible replacement.

Eddie Jackson
Strong Safety
6’0″ 195

Projected Round: 2

When Landon Collins (New York Giants) left for the NFL in 2014, it created a need at the strong safety position in Alabama’s defense. Nick Saban, who has a history of successfully moving cornerbacks to safety positions, asked Eddie Jackson to make this switch and help solidify the secondary.

In 2015, Jackson showed leadership and a nose for the ball. Jackson finished the season with 46 tackles, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble. He also accounted for six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Here’s a look at his pick six vs Texas A&M:

Even though Jackson is currently playing strong safety in Saban’s defense, his experience at cornerback has made him capable of playing free safety in the NFL. You can see in the video above how comfortable Jackson looks playing center field.

Biggest Strengths:

  • sideline-to-sideline coverage ability
  • excellent vision to take efficient angles to the ball
  • above average agility

Biggest Weaknesses:

  • average tackler
  • needs to control speed while in pursuit
  • positional experience

One of the biggest needs on the Lions defense is stability at the strong safety position. Rafael Bush is in a contract year and has had issues staying healthy over his career. Tavon Wilson is signed through 2017 but appears better suited in a backup role. 2016 fourth round pick Miles Killebrew is still developing, and several analysts think his future may be at linebacker.

In Teryl Austin’s scheme he prefers a traditional “box safety” at strong safety, but in today’s pass happy NFL, a safety with range is a necessity. So, if Austin moves on from Detroit or if he slightly alters his preference/scheme, a player like Eddie Jackson would bring a dynamic element to the Lions secondary.

Other Alabama prospects to watch:

O.J. Howard (Tight end #88): An above-average athlete who can create mismatches with his receiving skills, but needs work on his blocking.

Cam Robinson (Left Tackle #74): A strong run blocker who is still polishing his technique as a pass blocker is being overrated by national scouting services right now.

Tim Williams (linebacker #56): He might be the first Alabama player taken in the 2017 draft. Williams is an explosive edge rusher who plays bigger than his 237 pound frame.

Reuben Foster (Linebacker #10): An instinctive inside linebacker who attacks the ball with tenacity and has NFL ready instincts.

Ryan Anderson (Linebacker #22): A 253 pound pass rusher who sees most of his time as a situational hybrid linebacker.

Marlon Humphrey (Cornerback #26): The redshirt sophomore is a raw athlete, but he’s over six feet and uses his elite speed to his advantage.

USC Prospects

Adoree Jackson




5’10 1/2″, 185

Projected Round: 1

A true three-phase athlete. Adoree Jackson has taken snaps at cornerback, wide receiver, and as a kick returner at USC. His versatility led to him scoring five touchdowns in 2015, two on offense, two on special teams, and one on defense. But in the NFL, he will be a cornerback who will compete on kick return duties.

Biggest Strengths:

  • Change-of-direction skills are NFL ready
  • foot quickness
  • can open his hips and run with wide receiver

Biggest Weaknesses:

  • Better athlete than a football player
  • guesses in coverage too often
  • positional fundamentals

Here’s what Daniel Jeremiah said about Adoree Jackson:

"Athletically, Jackson reminds me of the Cincinnati Bengals‘ Adam Jones, especially as a returner. Both players are very instinctive, elusive and explosive. However, Jones was more polished and productive as a corner in college. At Pac-12 Media Days last week, Jackson said his offensive role would be limited this fall. That’s a smart move for his development. I love Jackson’s versatility, but I think he will benefit from focusing primarily on defense. He has ideal physical traits to excel at that spot, but he needs to clean up his technique. He is already an elite returner and has the potential to be one of the top cornerbacks in the country."

Here’s a look at some of his highlights:

As you can see in the highlights, there is no doubt Adoree Jackson is an elite athlete. If he can make the adjustments to his fundamentals he has a chance to be a special player in the NFL someday.

You can never have enough cornerbacks in the NFL. And for the Lions, beyond Darius Slay there are players that have potential but still need to prove they belong. If Nevin Lawson & Quandre Diggs prove they can lock down the spots opposite Slay, then a player like Jackson is less of a priority. But because of Jackson’s versatility, he will be a player considered, regardless of how the current Lions perform.

Other USC prospects to watch:

JuJu Smith-Schuster (Wide Receiver #9): A size-speed athlete who will be in the conversation as one of the top receivers in the class if he declares for the 2017 draft.

Chad Wheeler (Left Tackle #72): This will be Wheeler’s fourth season holding down the left tackle position for the Trojans. But with technique flaws, injury concerns, and off the field issues, he needs to show he’s more than an athlete with game experience.

Zach Banner (Right Tackle #73): It should come as no surprise that the son of NFL legend Lincoln Kennedy stands over 6’8″ and weighs in at 360 pounds. If he can improve his consistency he could end up being an early round pick in the upcoming draft. *Lions note: if they move on from Riley Reiff in 2017, you will hear a lot of fan chatter about how Banner should be a target.

Next: 2017 NFL Draft: Top Prospects from Michigan

Bob Quinn has proved that when it comes to the draft process, he is extremely thorough. He spent last offseason installing his approach to the draft and has set his expectations high. Because this is such a high-profile game, you can bet he will be assigning scouts to watch these players closely.