Physical Defender Leads Top 5 Players Who Wowed Lions at Senior Bowl

Ivan Pace Jr.

Getty Cincinnati's Ivan Pace Jr. takes down a running back in a 2022 game.

The Detroit Lions have taken a step forward in the evaluation process for the 2023 NFL draft this week, watching as the Senior Bowl was completed.

In the past, the team has used their evaluations from the game in order to make confident selections such as in the case of 2021 second-round pick defensive tackle Alim McNeill and 2022 third-round pick safety Kerby Joseph, both of whom were Senior Bowl standouts.

Which players could join them on the Lions after big performances this week in the game? Here’s a look at some of the names that starred in the National Team’s 27-10 win over the American Team on Saturday, February 4, 2023.

Ivan Pace Jr., Linebacker, Cincinnati

Help on defense has to be a major focus for the Lions in the draft, and linebacker is another spot on the field that the team could use a hand for 2023.

One of the best linebacker prospects is Ivan Pace Jr. from Cincinnati. Pace would finish with 10 tackles on the day, and one of the best plays he made was when he bullied guard O’Cyrus Torrence and shoved him back, ending a run. Twitter user RanDynasty showed the play off:

“Ivan Pace Jr just knocked back O’Cyrus Torrence & blew up a run play,” the account tweeted.

Plays like that have become the norm for Pace, who is undersized, but doesn’t seem to let that define him given 306 tackles, 20 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles in college.

Much like Malcolm Rodriguez before him, Pace could find a home in Detroit thanks to his toughness and his ability to be a football player across the board. He showed those traits off this week.

Chad Ryland, Kicker, Maryland

The Lions have Michael Badgley at kicker currently, but are they going to try to address the position this offseason and have an internal battle to see who wins the job this summer?

If so, the team could add a kicker from the outside in the draft. As predicted, Michigan’s Jake Moody already starred in the Shrine Bowl this past week claiming MVP honors, and Maryland’s Chad Ryland was the specialist star of the Senior Bowl with four made kicks out of five attempts and a long of 42 yards in the game.

In college, Ryland is known for a big leg, having made a 54 yard field goal against Michigan this year. He is 75-97 in his college career, and 180-185 on extra points. Ryland has now put himself firmly on the radar as a specialist for the Lions to watch this spring.

Michael Wilson, Receiver, Stanford

One of the biggest plays of the Senior Bowl was turned in by Michael Wilson, who took a pass 44 yards to the house on first-and-10 in the fourth quarter from Jake Haener. The touchdown helped ice a 27-10 win for the National Team.

Here’s another look at the play, which helped Wilson pad his catch totals on the day to four receptions for 76 yards and the score.

Wilson, a wide receiver that managed to do some damage very similar to St. Brown in the PAC-12. Wilson put up 1,662 yards and 11 touchdowns in a five-year career, and additionally, collected 55 rushing yards on six attempts.

During this game, Wilson showed off an ability to make explosive plays down field with speed and a good ability to run after the catch as well. Those could be traits that the Lions love out of another young wideout.

Anthony Johnson, Cornerback, Virginia

The 2023 cornerback class is already looking very deep, and that’s good news for the Lions, considering how much help they need at the position. Anthony Johnson may have given them something else to think about.

Last season, Detroit cornerbacks only combined for a total of three interceptions. Johnson had an impressive one that he took back for a score during the Senior Bowl, which may have shown what a playmaker he can be for a team:

Johnson, who could be trending right now as a fourth or fifth round pick, could be a guy who could have the playmaking gene for the team. He collected a total of 138 tackles and seven interceptions in college to go with three forced fumbles. Johnson is yet another cornerback that showed he could deliver some big plays for Detroit.

Payne Durham, Tight End, Purdue

Coming into the game, the Lions were likely all-eyes as it related to monitoring names like Luke Musgrave at the position. Payne Durham, though, may have given them a new name to ponder for the future at the position.

Durham was solid during the game, hauling in two passes for 24 yards on the afternoon, and a two-point conversion which helped him to show off his sticky hands. He also hauled in a nice pass near the goal line on first-and-10 in the second quarter which could have been called a touchdown initially.

Durham is a bigger body player at 6’5″ and 255 pounds, but he could have the blocking chops the Lions covet already, while being a rising weapon in the passing game as he showed both here and in college. Durham posted 1,275 yards and 21 touchdowns with Purdue, and could be a good option down the board for Detroit at a spot where they may have some need.

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