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Detroit Lions 2023 draft watch: 7 players, including Oregon LB Noah Sewell

This Saturday’s Detroit Lions draft watch examines some of the team’s biggest projected offseason needs.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Oregon at UCLA Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This Saturday’s NFL Draft watch list of college football (October 22) features a linebacker—who happens to have a dominant older brother—plus two stud corners, a running back vs. defensive tackle matchup, and a big ten battle in the trenches.

If you missed any of our previous Detroit Lions draft watch installments, you can revisit them here:

QB Watch

  • CJ Stroud (Ohio State, 2) vs. Iowa at 12:00 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Aidan O'Connell (Purdue) at Wisconsin at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Bryce Young (Alabama, 6) vs. Mississippi State (24) at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

Not a lot of good head-to-head matchups this week—unless you have the ACC Network, which seems unlikely from what I gather—so I picked a quarterback in each timeslot that could be worth watching due to a decent matchup.

Alright, let’s get to this week’s non-quarterbacks that Lions fans should be paying attention to.

Syracuse (14) at Clemson (5) at 12:00 p.m. ET on ABC

In a battle of undefeated ACC teams, Syracuse travels to South Carolina to take on Clemson. While Clemson is loaded with NFL talent, Syracuse has a few top-100 prospects of their own, and this is the perfect showcase to see what they can do.

Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse (junior)
6-foot-0, 190 pounds

Williams led the ACC in passes broken up in 2020 (freshman) and 2021 (sophomore). He has a nose for the football: while he only had two interceptions through his first two seasons, he already has two through six games in 2022.

Lions fit: Comfortable in press man and stout in run support, Williams would fit the Lions scheme like a glove. The Lions don’t have many defensive backs that can make plays on the ball like Williams, and that is a trait they covet.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Joe Marino’s profile of Williams:

“Garrett Williams is a physical and aggressive defender that exhibits an alpha mentality in everything he does on the football field. I love the way he triggers downhill, plays through contact, and finishes. He has the type of mindset and skill to be an asset at the next level in run support. There’s a lot to like about his movement skills and reactive athleticism. Williams is a twitched-up athlete with good short-area quickness, speed, and change of direction skills. I like his ability in zone coverage to cue the backfield, trigger, and maintain his eye discipline.”

Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse (junior)
5-foot-10, 210 pounds

Tucker broke Syracuse’s single-season rushing record in 2021 with 1,496 yards on the ground, and his 644 rushing yards are second in the ACC through six games. Tucker can flat-out fly, and his ability to contribute in the passing game will make him a potential NFL feature back.

Lions fit: Tucker is going to get labeled as an outside-zone rusher because of his speed and usage in Syracuse’s scheme. But don’t be fooled, his vision makes him well-suited to gap schemes—like the Lions run—as well.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Joe Marino’s profile of Tucker:

“He’s a quick accelerator with breakaway speed, which enables him to win off-tackle and present a home-run threat to the defense. Tucker’s footwork is quick and nimble; it’s quite impressive how light he is on his feet. He’s fully capable of remaining balanced while stringing together dynamic moves. Tucker does a great job of staying square. He’s a no-nonsense runner that gets downhill and runs to daylight. Tucker is physical, competitive, and powerful. I appreciate how he works off his blocks and his feet never stop moving through contact. Tucker has been a reliable ball carrier for Syracuse that has claimed a significant workload and delivered high-end production while demonstrating excellent ball security.”

Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson (redshirt sophomore)
6-foot-5, 300 pounds

While Syracuse will likely run outside-zone concepts, that still might not prevent Bresee—an interior player—from making plays in the run game. A gifted athlete that stands out amongst other gifted athletes, he doesn’t look to have lost any of his talents after returning from an ACL injury in 2021.

Lions fit: Length, power, and athleticism are traits the Lions like inside, and they are desperate for an interior disruptor. While acquiring him would likely mean shifting Alim McNeill back to nose tackle, it would be worth it.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs evaluation of Bresee:

“I like him best as a penetration 3-technique. When he’s charged with quickly getting into the backfield, you can see him at his best. He’s twitchy and can rip through lateral contact in order to uncover and then flash to the football with suddenness. Bresee has showcased the needed versatility play up and down the line at Clemson and I think in the right scheme (penetration based) he could offer similar versatility in the front at the NFL level.”

UCLA (9) at Oregon (10) at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX

I profiled UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet in a previous draft watchlist and Oregon will ask the younger brother of Lions’ Penei Sewell to shut him down.

Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon (redshirt sophomore)
6-foot-3, 250 pounds

Statistically, this Sewell is not having a great 2022 season, averaging just four tackles a game after averaging more than twice that last year. His pressures are also down, as are most other production metrics, but that comes with the territory of playing linebacker against modern-day offenses. Sewell’s athletic traits and intelligence are still very evident, but his stock may have slid a bit this season.

Lions fit: The Lions need a pure MIKE linebacker and Sewell is very much that. Rumored to be a likely first-round pick, it’s fair to wonder if he will slide after the slow start. If he does, the familial ties to the organization, need at the position, and overall upside may be too good for the Lions to pass up.

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s preseason linebacker rankings:

“Noah Sewell has some things to clean up as a junior this season, before he makes the NFL jump. But his physical nature and athletic skill for a 250- to 260-pound linebacker is what gives him first-round potential. Add in his football smarts, and it is easy to see comparisons to NFL Pro Bowler Dont’a Hightower.”

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon (redshirt sophomore)
6-foot-2, 200 pounds

With length, speed, and athleticism, Gonzalez—if he declares—is going to be one of the top options at corner in this draft class. Versatility is key for Gonzalez, as he can play outside as well as in the slot, and has the size to match up with anything from shift slot receivers to tight ends.

Lions fit: With as flexible and matchup friendly as Gonzalez is, he’s going to be scheme versatile and should start Day 1 on most rosters. He would almost certainly see the field immediately in Detroit.

An excerpt from Nick Baumgardner in The Athletic’s draft profile of Gonzalez:

“The 6-2, 200-pound Gonzalez is the full package with regard to his speed. He has explosion, length and the ability to mirror part of a route when his technique is on point. Everybody has a tough day against Georgia, and that was true for Gonzalez in the season opener. But he’s bounced back well in two games since and continues to turn heads in big spots.”

Minnesota at Penn State (16) at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC

A big ten trench battle that should be fun for those drawn to the big bullies.

John Michael Schmitz, IOL, Minnesota (senior)
6-foot-4, 315 pounds

A sixth-year senior, Schmitz has plenty of experience at center (50 games played and 29 starts) but enough power and athleticism to his game to also play guard.

Lions fit: A powerful gap or zone blocker, Schmitz can maul the man in front of him or pull and get out in front. The Lions love their interior offensive linemen to have center experience—all three current starters, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, and Evan Brown have played center in college and the NFL—because it typically speaks to the intelligence level and positional flexibility of a player. Centers need to be comfortable moving left and right; if they shift to guard, they are typically comfortable playing both sides because it’s natural movement.

An excerpt from ESPN’s Jordan Reid’s Week 9 prospects preview:

“In six games this year, John michael Schmitz has allowed just one pressure in pass protection (146 snaps) and hasn’t committed a penalty. Many evaluators though the sixth-year senior would declare for the draft last season, but Schmitz opted to return and take advantage of his extra year of eligibility. When discussing him NFL scouts before the season, the consensus grade for him was third- or fourth-round — but now he has a chance to be drafted even higher now.”

An excerpt from PFF’s Midseason Awards article:

“Nobody in college football has dominated their position like John Michael Schmitz. The sixth-year senior sports a 92.3 overall grade so far this season, and the next-best center sits at an 84.7 mark. That 7.6-point difference is more than double the next-highest positional gap.”

PJ Mustipher, NT, Penn State (senior)
6-foot-4, 324 pounds

A long and powerful nose tackle, Mustipher is a pure run stuffer who uses his hands to disengage from blocks and clog the middle.

Lions fit: The Lions will likely be in the market for nose tackles. If they don’t want to pay the draft price for Siaki Ika (Baylor) or Mazi Smith (Michigan), they may target a player like Mustipher to work alongside McNeill.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs profile of Mustipher:

“PJ Mustipher offers a prototypical build for the interior defensive line and has plenty of physical tools at his disposal that is worth monitoring entering his second senior year of eligibility with the program. Mustipher was once upon a time a highly-prized recruit, but his development at Penn State has led him into a role as a bigger-bodied defender up front. He has plenty of length and showcases admirable hustle to stay involved in plays even after they’ve worked out of the backfield—you’ll get his best effort on every snap.”

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