Week 2 of the college football season offers some actual good matchups and top-tier talents facing off against one another, whereas last week’s slate was a bit weaker and overshadowed by NFL roster cut news.
Here are 10 prospects to keep an eye out for during Saturday’s games that the Lions could target in next year’s draft.
EDGE, Chase Young, Ohio State (Junior)
Young started his 2020 campaign on a high note, notching 1.5 sacks, a pass deflection and five tackles last week against the Owls. At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, Young sports your prototypical edge rusher size and length, with great athleticism, to boot. He reminds me of Montez Sweat from last year’s draft, showcasing the same physicality and with a similar body type.
Given the nickname “The Predator” for his look and style of play, Young is dead set on topping the Ohio State single-season sack record (14) set by Vernon Gholston in 2007. He will look to add to the sack total against the Cincinnati Bearcats (12 p.m. ET on ABC)
Chase Young records his first sack. Strong hands and does a nice job finishing pic.twitter.com/bTZvxgBLhS— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) August 31, 2019
CB, Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State (Junior)
When you turn on the Okudah film, there are a lot of similarities to Gareon Conley in his game. In fact, it’s a bit scary how similar the two are when it comes to their traits. Much like Conley, Okudah’s footwork is phenomenal. The cadence in his steps, coupled with his ability to sustain his balance when in man-coverage, allow him to consistently maintain leverage over the top of his assignments.
Jeffrey Okudah's closing speed is INSANE. Almost as insane as how bad Jake Browning is. pic.twitter.com/VRwXDFeJgZ— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) September 2, 2019
During the 2019 Rose Bowl game, Okudah was everywhere. Asked to cover several crossers over the middle, he did a remarkable job of sifting through traffic and making key stops while exhibiting his elite range and closing speed.
Okudah is yet another cornerback prospect that looks like he was made in a factory. At 6-foot-1, 201 pounds, he is everything you’d want in an outside corner. Length, speed, athleticism, you name it.
One area that he will need to clean up is his hand usage. In press-man, Okudah seems allergic to using his hands and often relies purely on his footwork (see: Gareon Conley’s Ohio State film). The lack of ball production on the score sheet is something else that may be missing on Okudah’s resume, but that should be corrected in 2019 if quarterbacks continue to throw his way.
EDGE, Alton Robinson, Syracuse (Senior)
Make sure your television is set to ESPN, or at least DVR this matchup between Syracuse and Maryland at noon. The Terps are coming off of a 79-0 shutout win last week, but they’re going to have their hands full against one of the most explosive pass rushers in the country in Alton Robinson.
Alton Robinson is coming for your quarterback this season. pic.twitter.com/7Zfra8WVdQ— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 24, 2019
Robinson has the potential to work his way up near the top of draft boards this year. He’s very flexible around the edge and might have a better first step than any edge rusher from last year’s draft. However, he hasn’t quite put it all together yet. If he can figure out what to do with his hands and refine his pass rushing technique—maybe add in a new move or two into his arsenal—then the sky is really the limit for him.
CB, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (RS Sophomore)
The younger brother of Obi, Ifeatu Melifonwu has freakish size and athleticism (listed at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds) and locked down a starting job at cornerback this year. In his first game of 2019, he notched six tackles and his first career interception. Michigan fans might remember Melifonwu during the 2017 recruiting class, as he was projected by many to commit with the Wolverines.
Though he is not draft eligible this year, I’d also recommend viewers to keep an eye on true sophomore safety Andre Cisco, who led the NCAA last year with seven interceptions and already added another in 2019. Cisco, Melifonwu and Alton Robinson are just a few names that make up Syracuse’s defense that is stacked with talent.
RB, Anthony McFarland, Maryland (RS Sophomore)
Among those who will be tasked with facing off against Syracuse’s stout defense is Terps running back, Anthony McFarland. The Lions are all too familiar with that Maryland backfield after drafting Ty Johnson last year. Johnson sat out three games with a calf injury during his senior season, which led to the emergence of McFarland.
As a redshirt freshman, McFarland lit up the score sheet and broke the Maryland freshman rushing record with 1,034 yards on 7.9 yards per carry. He had the second-most rushing yards ever in a single game for a Maryland running back with 298 yards against Ohio State in their crushing overtime loss.
McFarland, like Ty Johnson, is on the smaller side (5-foot-9, 198 pounds) and wins more so with his speed than his size. It might be unlikely that the Lions take another small, speedy runner, should McFarland declare, but the Lions will only have two running backs under contract heading into next year, so it’s unclear what the backfield will look like.
WR, Tee Higgins, Clemson (Junior)
The Lions certainly have a type at wide receiver and Higgins fits it to a tee.
Tall? Check. Separation struggles? You got it.
Higgins, at 6-foot-4, has length for days. His route tree is a little underdeveloped currently, but he excels on deep throws and is a monster at the catch point.
Tee Higgins, go up and GET IT.— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) August 30, 2019
The defending champs are cruising in their opener. pic.twitter.com/paK8nqq5ZA
Clemson has a bevy of talented players, as they do every year, and they will square off in an afternoon marquee matchup against Texas A&M (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC).
WR, Kendrick Rogers, Texas A&M (RS Junior)
If last year was any indication, this game should be an exciting one with loads of big plays. Rogers had a spectacular performance against Clemson last year, finishing the game with seven receptions for 120 yards and two scores. Both of those touchdowns were highlight reel plays, and the second happened with a minute left and had the potential to send the game to overtime if not for a failed two-point conversion.
Rogers, like Higgins, is another big-bodied receiver that the Lions will likely salivate over. He has some work to do in terms of developing as a route runner and doesn’t quite have the production you’d like to see from a potential draft prospect, but will look to have a breakout year in 2019 as long as he stays healthy.
CB, Kristian Fulton, LSU (Senior)
The big name in the LSU secondary last year was Greedy Williams, but many will tell you that Fulton has been the better prospect all along. Fulton is lengthy—though not as lengthy as Greedy—and is extremely sticky in man coverage. He does well to re-route himself and keep himself in position to consistently make plays on the ball.
Fulton was suspended for two years in 2017 for substituting his urine sample with someone else’s in a cover up attempt. He later got the suspension reduced to one year and returned for the 2018 season.
The Lions, who run more man coverage than nearly every team in the NFL, will love Fulton’s elite man-to-man cover traits, but will probably not like that he went to the Greedy Williams School for Tackling.
LSU will face Texas on the night slate in what should be an exciting game (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC).
LB, Jacob Phillips, LSU (Junior)
Someone has to step up in place of Devin White, and Phillips has the best chance of making a name for himself in the back of that LSU front seven. Phillips doesn’t have the elite athleticism like Devin White, but he is a sound overall player with good discipline and reads his keys well. Phillips is coming off of an impressive 10-tackle performance against Georgia Southern last week. He and the rest of the LSU defense will have their hands full Saturday night against a solid Texas offense.
The Lions have shown their favoritism for big-bodied linebackers, and Jacob Phillips is a guy that fits that mold.
S, Brandon Jones, Texas (Senior)
Sticking with the theme of big defenders, Jones has desirable size and athleticism for a safety. He is rangy when playing deep and has the hitting power and discipline to line up closer to the line of scrimmage. Size and versatility are key to getting the attention of the Lions’ staff, so expect Jones to be on their radar.