Getty Leon O’Neal playing for Texas A&M in 2019.
The Detroit Lions likely know they can land a player with their top picks who can play a big role in their team’s future, but the draft is won or lost based on what a franchise does in the middle or later rounds.
With the right picks in there, legendary teams and champion rosters are forged, and this is what the Lions should be focusing on when they pick. The good news is that there are plenty of players to be found later in the draft who have the right composition to become steals.
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This class has a lot of hidden talent for the Lions once things get past the early rounds, and there are players who could end up as solid picks for the team. When the biggest names are off the board, which players could play a surprising role for the Lions? Here’s a look.
Velus Jones, wide receiver, Tennessee
If the Lions are looking for another steal later in the draft like they were able to with Amon-Ra St. Brown last year at wide receiver, Jones could be this year’s version. He has a solid body for the job and has been through the battles in the SEC. The highlights show the type of player that can do a lot of good things on the field, from special teams to the offensive side with regards to route execution:
Jones has racked up 1,434 yards and 11 touchdowns during his career, which spanned from USC to Tennessee. For a team that might be yearning for a hidden gem, he could be a great option for the Lions later in the draft. Watch him to see how he fares in the game.
Leon O’Neal Jr., Security, Texas A&M
The Lions have been missing something nasty for quite some time on defense, and O’Neal is perhaps the player best suited to help that resurgence in this draft class at safety. Detroit needs some strength and a player who is capable of covering ground, which is just what O’Neal did in his time with the Aggies, to get big hits. Statistically, he had 161 tackles and 6 interceptions in his career along with 12 passes defensed. More important than that was the advantage and the mentality with which he plays.
PlayLeon O’Neal Jr. Highlights 2021 | Texas A&M Database | 2022 NFL Draft Prospect Hard-hitting safety for the Aggies 2021 stats: 58 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack, 1 FR2022-02-01T03:07:43Z
O’Neal probably goes higher than the fifth round, but the Lions could nab him with a mid-round pick and fix a lot of his midfield problems. He would be a great development prospect for Aaron Glenn and Aubrey Pleasant. Detroit hasn’t added anything in security in free agency, so it’s virtually necessary for the team to draft someone. In this case, O’Neal could be the perfect person for the team.
Kobie Whiteside, defensive tackle, Missouri
The Lions might be looking for defensive help in the middle of the line, but they may not want to take it early after investing picks there last year. For this scenario, a guy like Whiteside is perfect. Detroit’s defensive overhaul would continue with Whiteside, a player who is a force down the middle of a line who can provide some pass rush. In that regard, he is a lot like Levi Onwuzurike, with whom he could partner well up front in the future.
Whiteside amassed 81 tackles and 10.5 sacks in his career with the Tigers, and that’s good production for a player being drafted with a seventh-round pick.
Play“Eye of the Tiger at DT” Kobie Whiteside Missouri HighlightsHeight 6-2 Weight 300 2022 NFL Draft Prospect2021-06-13T04:07:29Z
An active player who could help the culture of change in the trenches, Whiteside is the kind of presence the Lions could use to develop their line and a top pick wouldn’t cost a thing.
Connor Heyward, tight end, Michigan State
Detroit needs a lot of tight end depth and another local prospect provides it late. The son of former Pittsburgh legend Craig “Ironhead” Heyward and current Steelers star Cameron Heyward has strong NFL bloodlines and would fit the mold of what the Lions are trying to build from a game standpoint. the hardness. He also has great stats, with 825 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns remaining with 711 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. Here’s a look at one of his best plays from the 2021 season:
PlayConnor Heyward = George Kittle 2.0 | WHAT ANIMAL 💪2021-09-26T00:31:53Z
Heyward could be a nice sneaky addition to the Lions, and could help improve the team’s depth at tight end, as well as offer a potential dual role for the offense. He seems to fit into what Dan Campbell and the staff are already doing, which could put him firmly on the team’s radar for the draft.
Sam Howell, quarterback, UNC
As a quarterback, it’s hard to call many players hidden gems, but Howell could fit that bill as a prospect. Howell had thrown for 7,227 career yards and 68 touchdowns with just 14 interceptions to start this season. In 2021, Howell threw for 3,056 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a result, he tends to be one of the best pro prospects to pick, even if some people have criticized him so far in the process.
Here’s a look at some of Howell’s highlights of 2020:
PlayNorth Carolina QB Sam Howell 2020 Highlights ❄️❄️❄️ ᴴᴰSubscribe, like this video and turn on notifications. (↓↓ click show more ↓↓) Instagram: instagram.com/justbombsproductions/ Twitter: twitter.com/JBP_Official Patreon: patreon.com/justbombsproductions Facebook: facebook.com/Just-Bombs-Productions-255863801590167/ North Carolina QB Sam Howell Sophomore 6’1 225 lbs North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell is a top prospect for the 2022 NFL Draft. Since his freshman college start, he has been…2021-05 -26T00:00:00Z
Adding Howell would represent the first quarterback the Lions drafted since Brad Kaaya in 2017, and if the Lions could get him without giving up a top pick, it would be a smart move to add him to the mix.
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