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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Jeff Risdon

Lions 2023 draft: Initial scouting impressions of some Senior Bowl offense prospects

The annual scouting extravaganza that is the Senior Bowl is kicking off this week. Over 120 NFL draft prospects will take to the practice field at the University of South Alabama in Mobile in what amounts to a lengthy job interview in front of NFL GMs, coaches, scouts and media.

Here are a few of the offensive players slated to be in Mobile who I’ve dove into a little in advance of the practices, which kick off on Tuesday. With an eye for how they might fit with the Detroit Lions, here are some early observations and thoughts.

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The companion defensive piece can be found here.

Max Duggan, QB, TCU

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Duggan led the Horned Frogs all the way to the national championship game and nearly won the Heisman Trophy. He’s a tremendous story, a guy who was benched during his career and not even the slated starter entering 2022 under new coach Sonny Dykes.

The NFL is not the NCAA, alas. And Duggan’s game appears better-suited for college–though that’s not to say he doesn’t have some legit NFL ability. He has a good arm and impressive field vision. Duggan vastly improved his ability to deliver from a muddy pocket in 2022 from his earlier career, showing more patience and understanding of the defense. He’s tough as nails and exudes leadership. Duggan is a smart, aggressive runner who can break tackles in the open and extend drives with his legs, too.

Despite legit improvement under Dykes, who was Jared Goff’s collegiate head coach at Cal, Duggan still isn’t as accurate as desired. He misses more intermediate and outside-the-hashes throws than he should, even when not under pressure. Right now he looks like a Day 3 pick in the vein of Taylor Heinicke or

Rashee Rice, WR, SMU

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Rice is one of the more intriguing WRs here in Mobile for his ability to line up all over the formation. Even though he’s 6-foot-1 and close to 200 pounds, Rice has the quick feet and natural slipperiness to get open quickly from the slot.

Three things that the Lions should really find appealing with Rice:

  • He’s exceptional at making the first would-be tackler miss. It shows in every Mustangs game I watched. His balance through contact is fantastic.
  • Few receivers in this entire class have a better catch radius relative to size than Rice. He can comfortably snag balls well away from his frame and on the dead run.
  • Team captain and it shows instantly. He’s a natural leader who teammates respect and emulate.

There are some drop issues, ironically enough when he’s wide open more than when he’s tightly covered. SMU didn’t ask him to run intricate routes or do a lot of blocking, so there will be some acclimation for Rice if he’s a Day 2 pick in Detroit–and that’s his draft range.

Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Spears joins Green Wave teammate Dorian Williams, a LB I profiled earlier, in Mobile. He’s a good candidate for being a “lightning” back in a shared backfield, which is something the Lions deploy.

Spears best quality is his attacking mentality. He doesn’t wait, he doesn’t dance; he goes. His top-end speed is very nice and he can angle into and out of cuts without breaking stride impressively. Spears is an asset as a short-area receiver, too.

He’s not a back who will break a lot of tackles or grind yards between the tackles. At a listed 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he’s not built to be an every-down or inside RB. It didn’t impact him in lighting up USC for over 200 yards and four TDs, but when Tulane played Kansas State and Houston earlier in the season he had some issues when the edges weren’t blocked well.

Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State

(Photo by Sean Arbaut/Getty Images)

Mauch is known a much for his appearance as his game. He’s got long reddish hair and is (proudly) missing his top front teeth. But there’s a very effective middle-round offensive line prospect behind the unusual look.

Mauch played left tackle in 2022 but had starting experience for the Bison at both right tackle and right guard. At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, he’s got the size and strength to play any of those spots, though the arms look too short to play left tackle consistently. His agility in the run game is where Mauch’s appeal for Detroit will come.

The Lions love to use traps and pulls, especially with the guards. Mauch is very light on his feet but also aggressive in engaging in space. Excellent feet in the open for his size.

It’s a big jump from the FCS to the NFL, and the Senior Bowl will help prove if he’s ready to be a starter as a rookie or a utility lineman in 2023. Detroit happens to need both a new RG and a No. 6 OL. I’ve got my eye squarely on Mauch as a potential solution.

Jaren Hall, QB, BYU

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Hall is a player the Lions know well; Detroit had a scouting presence for at least three of his games for BYU in 2022. He’s run a prolific passing offense with some pro-style concepts that should translate nicely into Ben Johnson’s scheme with the Lions.

Hall is nothing like his BYU predecessor, Zach Wilson. At times he’s almost too careful with the ball, not attempting some riskier throws–notably in the red zone. That should appeal to the Lions, who love that attribute about Jared Goff. The pinpoint accuracy on shorter routes and ability to make an anticipatory throw before a receiver is open are very good with Hall.

He’s an older prospect and a smaller one, listed at 6-1 and 200 and probably a little under both. I didn’t see more than average arm strength, but he does uncork some heat when outside the pocket and on the move. Hall does have some athleticism and very nice pocket manipulation skills that allow him to keep the play going while under pressure.

Generally projected in the 3rd-4th rounds, Hall strikes me as the most likely Senior Bowl QB that the Lions would like come draft time.

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