Late-Round Sleeper Who Can Bolster Lions' Defensive Line
At this stage in the pre-draft process, the big-name players who are projected to be selected high in the 2020 NFL Draft are well known.
But what about some sleepers in the later rounds?
There are plenty of day three prospects that could still help the Lions.
Today, I'm going to break down one potential fit for Matt Patricia's defense.
EDGE Alex Highsmith, Charlotte
HT: 6'3 | WT: 247 pounds | 33 1/8 inch arms
The redshirt senior defensive end was quite productive during his time at Charlotte.
He racked up 14 sacks this past season, to go along with 75 total tackles.
He uses a great burst and bend to get around tackles on his way to the quarterback.
Being from a smaller school, Highsmith hasn't had nearly as much hype as individuals from Power Five conferences.
That's not to say he can't be a late riser -- especially if he performs well at the NFL combine or on his pro day.
As of now, most mock drafts have him as a fifth-or sixth-round selection, which would be a great value selection to aid in upgrading the Lions' defense.
In terms of scheme fit, Highsmith was more of a defensive end while in college, but would likely convert to the stand-up JACK backer role in Detroit.
Despite having his hand in the dirt more often than not, he still has plenty of experience standing up and rushing the passer.
Highsmith was even athletic enough to drop into zone coverage on occasion as well.
While at the East-West Shrine Game weigh-ins, Highsmith measured at 6'3 and 247 pounds. That's not the ideal size for a down defensive end.
For an EDGE linebacker, that size is right where the Lions want him to be.
Considering how important arm length is to Detroit general manager Bob Quinn, Highsmith also checks that box with 33 1/8 inch arms.
If there is one downside to Highsmith's fit with the Lions, it would likely be his play against the run.
Patricia is infatuated with using power and holding up at the point of attack. Meanwhile, Highsmith relies more on speed and shooting into the backfield.
Functional strength against NFL-caliber talent will be a big question mark for him -- even though that aspect of Highsmith's game could be improved upon in the pros.
He also still possesses a hot motor when in pursuit.
Important to note, no prospect is going to be perfect -- especially at the point in the draft where Highsmith will be selected.
According to Charlie Campbell, the Lions were one of the teams to meet with Highsmith at the East-West Shrine game.
It's pretty common for teams to meet with just about every player at the myriad of college "All-Star" games that NFL scouts have to peruse. However, not every interview gets reported.
It would make sense, though, that the Lions are interested in drafting him.
Joe Marino of The Draft Network had the following to say about Highsmith:
"Has enough snap anticipation ability and quickness releasing out of his stance to threaten the outside edge track and attack gaps. While he likes to dip and rip the outside edge track, he has showcased a decent inside move that is set up with good hand swipes and an effective spin move to get home as a pass rusher. Hands are generally active as he battles to disengage. Hands are sudden, well-timed and well-placed. Plays with terrific effort and competes throughout the rep. Has good play recognition skills and rarely takes himself out of his fit/rush lane. Experienced working for a stand-up role where he will likely project at the next level."
(Above Photo: Courtesy of UNC-Charlotte Athletics)