College football is back! Well, I guess it already has been because apparently it started last Saturday and no one told me about it. Anyway, we’ve got some pretty solid matchups on the slate for Week 1, and to start things off, we’ve got an early conference showdown between last year’s National Champions (they are in our hearts) and the UConn Huskies on Thursday night.
If you’re not very interested in watching the Lions’ fourth and final preseason game tonight (If I didn’t have obligations to write about it, I probably wouldn’t be) then here’s a look at some draft-eligible prospects that the Lions should keep an eye on, moving forward, during Thursday night’s games.
#21 UCF at UConn | 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU/WatchESPN
DT Trysten Hill (UCF) 6-foot-2, 315 pounds | RS Junior
Hill is a big, grown adult boy that looks every bit of his listed 315 pounds. He is primarily a run stuffer and an anchor in the trenches that is virtually unmovable even against double teams.
He doesn’t appear to be an elite athlete even for his size and definitely could use some work shedding tackles as a pass rusher, but that’s why he’s likely to go in the mid-to-later rounds barring any unforeseen changes to his game.
Obviously, needs can change and maybe we won’t have to worry about the run defense, but as of now, A’Shawn Robinson looks nothing like we’d have hoped entering his third year and no one else has really stepped up as a run stuffer for the defensive line.
QB McKenzie Milton (UCF) 5-foot-11, 185 pounds | Junior
Despite his stature, Milton is a baller and ranks 23rd on Pro Football Focus’ top 50 players heading into this year.
Milton can sling it and isn’t the dink-and-dunk type passer that Jake Rudock is. He’s accurate on all levels of the field, has plenty of arm strength and has the mobility to tuck and run if need be.
If he declares, I think Milton could slide pretty far due to his size and funky mechanics, but would be a steal if he makes it past the second or third round. He could be the perfect backup QB for the Lions, who are looking for someone who can actually throw a football to back up Matthew Stafford.
Northwestern at Purdue | 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
LB Paddy Fisher (Northwestern) 6-foot-4, 245 pounds | RS Sophomore
Fisher looks like your typical old-school linebacker with his imposing physique and punishing play style, but his athleticism relative to his size might be what’s most impressive about him on first watch.
As just a redshirt freshman, Fisher quickly became the heart and soul of the Wildcats defense, accumulating 111 total tackles over the course of 13 games—good for fourth in the Big Ten conference. He’s also quite the playmaker, notching four forced fumbles, one interception and having nine of his tackles go for a loss.
Fisher has a knack for getting into the backfield and has a great feel for the game. He uses his heavy hands to push his way through the first level and is constantly the first to meet the ball carrier. In coverage, he shows discipline as a zone defender and rarely is at fault for a big play, but his lack of reps in man coverage makes it hard for me to give him a full seal of approval for Patricia’s defense just yet.
With Jarrad Davis continuing to struggle heading into his second year and Matt Patricia’s heavy usage of linebackers, it’s not out of the picture for the Lions to draft another linebacker early in next year’s draft, especially one with experience as an inside backer.