Bowl season is well underway, but the first bowl games that actually matter start on Saturday afternoon as the 2019 College Football Playoffs kick off with both semifinal games.
With the Detroit Lions’ 2019 season only days away from its natural conclusion, it’s officially time to put our efforts into focusing on the offseason. While we would rationally move to free agency talk—since that takes place first, that’s just not how the NFL offseason operates.
It’s draft season, and with the Lions guaranteed to hold a top-five pick by the regular season’s end, it’s time to start looking at some of the top prospects in the nation. Thankfully, there are plenty on display in the College Football Playoffs.
LSU and Oklahoma start the festivities with their semifinal matchup at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (on ESPN). Here are six prospects Lions fans should keep an eye on (jersey number is in parentheses).
When LSU has the ball
Oklahoma NT Neville Gallimore (#9)
Much of the focus has been on the Lions’ need for an edge rusher, but much of their failings in 2019 had to do with their inability to move the pocket from the inside. They like who they have in Trey Flowers and Devon Kennard, but they got almost no production out of Da’Shawn Hand and Mike Daniels.
Enter: Neville Gallimore. Gallimore has started at least five games in all four years in college and 2019 has been his breakout season. Here’s PFF on Gallimore:
Gallimore dropped weight in the offseason and became one of the most disruptive pure nose tackles in college football. He earned a pass-rushing grade of 83.3 and run-defense grade of 86.2 this season.
Though at 6-foot-2, 302 pounds, he’s undersized to be a Damon Harrison type of run stuffer, he fits the mold much like Hand does and gives Detroit some depth in terms of interior pass rushing options. He’s solid option for a Day-2 option from Detroit.
LSU WR Justin Jefferson (#2)
In a game full of wide receiver talent, Justin Jefferson may fit Detroit’s needs the best. Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay do a good job testing the edges of the defense, but the Lions are still looking for that player that can stretch the field in the middle.
Safe to say, Jefferson has been pretty good over the middle this year:
This might be the most ridiculous stat I've posted recently:— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) November 12, 2019
Joe Burrow throwing to Justin Jefferson on targets of 10+ yards between the numbers this season:
24-of-24, 535 yards, 5 touchdowns.
That's not a typo. And, obviously, that's a perfect passer rating of 158.3. pic.twitter.com/597nU9dV3q
Jefferson isn’t your typical slot receiver. He doesn’t quite have all the athletic traits to create the separation known for position, but he has phenomenal hands and his abilities after the catch are undeniable. He’s also got position versatility, having plenty of experience playing inside and outside. The Lions like that. He’s another Day 2 candidate.
LSU RG Damien Lewis (#68)
With Graham Glasgow’s future very much in doubt, and Joe Dahl only being a borderline starter at the other guard spot, the Lions will likely be in the guard market in one way or another this offseason.
Lewis isn’t a flashy player and could be around as late as Day 3, but as a two-year starter for the Tigers, he’s provided solid, consistent play. He entered 2019 as one of PFF’s highest-graded run-blockers in the SEC and he’s followed that up with another good, but unspectacular season.
When Oklahoma has the ball
LSU CB Kristian Fulton (#1)
Darius Slay’s future is in doubt, and the Lions are still on their never-ending search for a CB2.
Kristian Fulton could be that guy. At 6-foot, 200 pounds he’s (barely) got the size the Lions like in their corners, and he plays physically to match that. He excels at man-coverage and has the ball skills that the Lions were missing in 2019.
LSU’s Kristian Fulton ♂️— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 20, 2019
He’s one to watch at the Senior Bowl! pic.twitter.com/A57K7y9rED
Though he only has one interception on the year, his 12 passes defended is tied for the 13th most in the entire nation.
Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb (#2)
Lamb is one of the best prospects in the nation, and would have to be Detroit’s first-round pick, whether it’s in a trade-down scenario or with their top-five pick, to snag him. Just look at his production by year:
2017: 46 catches, 807 yards, 7 TDs
2018: 65 catches, 1,158 yards, 11 TDs
2019: 58 catches, 1,208 yards, 14 TDs
He’s a big-play machine that wins with his size and aggressive hands. He may be a little limited by some shortcomings in athleticism, but he has plenty to make it at the next level. That’s nitpicking at his finest. He may not be able to create separation with speed, but he knows how to use his frame to create distance at the top of routes.
Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay only have one year remaining on each of their contracts, so adding a guy like Lamb would have the Lions set up for the future at a much cheaper price than retaining one or both of those.
LSU Edge K’Lavon Chaisson (#18)
I couldn’t go this entire article without mentioning an edge rusher, and this game will feature one of the nation’s best.
Chaisson is an absolute prototype of a Jack defender in terms of his physical stature. He’s speedy, he’s strong, and he checks off every single athletic feature that you’d want in the position. In 2019, he finally turned those athletic traits into results. 52 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Perhaps his best feature is his versatility. While the highlight reel above has him mostly as a down defensive end, he has also played a ton as a stand-up linebacker, and he seems to be solid at wherever LSU puts him.
One thing to consider, however, is that Chaisson tore his ACL in 2018.