This Saturday’s watch list of college football (October 23) will feature a lot of channel flipping.
Now that we’re firmly into conference games, there are going to be weeks where the matchups are more one-sided. So, in an attempt to keep things fresh, we’re presenting themes over multiple games in each TV time slot, so you can scout multiple prospects that we believe Detroit Lions scouts may be keeping their eyes on.
At noon, we will be focused on safeties. Then, during the afternoon, there are two games that feature a potential No. 1 overall pick in a tough matchup. Finally, we close the day by tracking wide receivers in the night games.
Here are the featured games on this week’s watchlist include:
- Illinois at Penn State (7) at 12:00 p.m. ET on ABC
- Northwestern at Michigan (6) at 12:00 p.m. ET on FOX
- Oregon (10) at UCLA at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
- Clemson at Pittsburgh (23) at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
- USC at Notre Dame (13) at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC
- Ohio State (5) at Indiana at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
If you’re interested in going back and looking at the previous Saturday watchlists to revisit some of the players profiled, you can find those links here:
- Pre-season Quarterback watchlist
- Week 1, September 4
- Week 2, September 11
- Week 3, September 18
- Week 4, September 25
- Week 5, October 2
- Week 6, October 9 — All linebackers edition
- Week 7, October 16
Alright, let’s get to this week’s profiles.
Northwestern at Michigan at 12 p.m. ET on FOX
Daxton Hill, Safety, Michigan (Junior)
6-foot-0, 192 pounds
Hill was on my watchlist in early September and I had this to say about him:
Hill is a pure free safety with the coverage skills to play in the slot and potentially at outside corner. Not only does Hill possess 4.3-second speed, but he is a sure tackler who is comfortable operating in space. His ability to be a hybrid player would be awfully appealing for Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who has a history of developing position versatile defensive backs.
Hill’s stock has continued to climb throughout the season and he has surely cemented himself among the top-50 players in the draft class—if he declares early.
Brad Hawkins, Safety, Michigan (Senior)
6-foot-1, 220 pounds
Hawkins began his career as a wide receiver but quickly switched to safety as a freshman. Hawkins took advantage of the NCAA COVID-19 waiver system in 2021, allowing him to return to Ann Arbor for a fifth year, his third as a starter. After spending the majority of his time in a strong safety role, Hawkins has expanded his positional range, seeing time at free safety when Hill moves into the slot.
Hawkins is not as athletically gifted as Hill, but he is smart, instinctive, reliable, understands angles, is impressive in run support, and is a sure tackler. His expanded role on defense, along with his special teams prowess, should put him on the radar early on Day 3.
Illinois at Penn State (7) at 12 p.m. ET on ABC
Jaquan Brisker, Safety, Penn State (Senior)
6-foot-1, 200 pounds
The JUCO transfer is in his second year as a starter and he plays in a variety of spots (two-deep, single-high, and occasionally in the slot) for the Nittany Lions. While he fills roles all over the field, he is best suited in two-deep zones, in the box, and near the line of scrimmage where his tackling skills can be utilized. He’s not a traditional ballhawk but he does have multiple recent interceptions where his instincts we on display.
Oregon (10) at UCLA at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon (redshirt sophomore)
6-foot-5, 258 pounds
If the draft was today, there’s a good chance Thibodeaux would be the No. 1 pick.
#Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux gave us all a reminder last night why he is in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in April.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 16, 2021
He had 11 pressures in the 2nd half! Pure dominance. pic.twitter.com/Rm6VlfVE68
Thibodeaux’s combination of size, length, athleticism, speed, power, and skill set makes him one of the most appealing and rare prospects in this draft cycle. He has been on scouts’ radars since jumping onto the scene as a freshman and over the past three seasons has only gotten better.
While physically gifted, there is more to Thibodeaux’s game than pure talent. He has the skills to win in multiple ways and sets up his opponent with a variety of attacking moves. With elite first-step quickness and lightning in his punches, he can win with speed-to-power, bull rush, or by purely getting to and bending the edge—consistently mixing it up and keeping offensive tackles guessing or recovering.
He is capable of pushing inside to the 4i, but is best suited on the EDGE where he can rush with his hand in the dirt or from a standing outside linebacker position—which is where the Lions would play him.
Sean Rhyan, LT, UCLA (Junior)
6-foot-5, 320 pounds
As the Bruins’ left tackle, Rhyan draws the unenviable task of having to block Thibodeaux. More of a technician than a power-based blocker, Rhyan has drawn comparisons to former No. 14 overall pick, Jets guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. Like Vera-Tucker, Rhyan is talented enough to be a top-50 pick, and his future in the NFL may be as an upside guard. If the Lions are interested in him, it would surely be as an inside player.
Clemson at Pittsburgh (23) at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (Senior)
6-foot-2, 220 pounds
With several of the anticipated top quarterbacks in this draft class struggling this season, signal-callers who have consistently performed have seen their stock rise. Pickett was projected as a Day 3 pick if he declared last draft cycle, but he opted to return to boost his stock, and that decision has paid off.
For those looking for the next Joe Burrow in this draft class, Pickett is the name to know.
While being selected first overall seems a ways off still, he has now worked his way into the first-round conversation with his accuracy and decision making. Pickett enters this game with a 70 percent completion percentage, nearly 2,000 passing yards (through six games), 21 passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, and just one interception.
No one said Kenny Pickett can’t shoot it— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) September 19, 2020
In 2020, Pickett threw nine interceptions over nine games, but four of them came against Clemson. Pickett surely has this game circled on his calendar, and with revenge on his mind, he will have a chance to prove how far he has developed his game. If he impresses, his stock will continue to rise and who knows how far it will climb.
Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson (Junior)
6-foot-0, 200 pounds
Booth managed to grab one of those four interceptions the last time he faced off against Pickett in 2020. While Booth has above-average ball skills, that was one of only two interceptions he has had in his college career. With impressive coverage skills, length, athleticism, and physical nature, he is likely to get first-round consideration. Another pick of Pickett would help his case.
USC at Notre Dame (13) at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Drake London, WR, USC (Junior)
6-foot-5, 210 pounds
One of the biggest and most talented receivers in this class, London has some strong Mike Evans vibes to his game and could be a potential future WR1 in the NFL. With elite body control, strength in his legs and hands, and the ability to turn a routine play into a big gain, London is an instant impact player. Despite his size, USC has used London primarily out of the slot, though he has expanded his game in 2021.
USC's Drake London is one of the most physical WRs I've watched this Summer— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) June 29, 2021
Went over 500 yards in just six total games last year - he's going to have a huge 2021 and be a notable prospect pic.twitter.com/nRxmBBwOGf
After drafting Amon-Ra St. Brown in the previous draft, the Lions surely have a wealth of film study on London and he is surely on their radar.
Ohio State (5) at Indiana at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (Senior)
6-foot-1, 188 pounds
Like Hill, Olave was on my watchlist back in September and I had this to say:
Olave probably would’ve been selected high in the second round if he jumped for the NFL last year, but he elected to return to Columbus and is one of, if not the top receiver in the country. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, he’s a bit undersized for a traditional No. 1 option in the NFL, but his ability to separate, keen route-running skills, and ability to make plays at all three levels, make him a player who is usually open.
Olave has firmly cemented himself in the conversation as potentially the top receiving option in the 2022 draft class. One of his biggest challengers for the spot: his teammate, Garrett Wilson.
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (Junior)
6-foot-0, 192 pounds
Like Olave, Wilson doesn’t have traditional WR1 size, but he is one of the best route runners in this class and gains separation on a regular basis. His technical precision allows him to gain advantages at all three levels, and his ability to control his speed makes him a reliable target. Ohio State will use him often in the slot, which gets him involved in a lot of creative ways, but his ability to stretch the field is something the Lions will appreciate.
‘Smooth’ will be one word mentioned a lot about Ohio St. WR Garrett Wilson and you saw it last night. He’s already a professional route runner. Reminds me some of Stefon Diggs coming out of Maryland.— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) September 3, 2021
Route stems are creative and over exaggerated. pic.twitter.com/XRLYkkA2z6