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Detroit Lions 2023 draft watch: 7 players, including Alabama’s EDGE Will Anderson

This Saturday’s Detroit Lions draft watch examines players at a variety of different positions, but the feature player might just be the best player in the upcoming draft.

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NCAA Football: Alabama at Florida Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday’s NFL Draft watch list of college football (October 8) includes players at a variety of different positions, but the feature prospect just might be the best player in the upcoming draft.

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

QB Watch

  • Hendon Hooker (Tennessee) vs Jayden Daniels (LSU) at 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Malik Cunningham (Louisville) vs Brennan Armstrong (Virginia) at 12:00 p.m. ET on ACCN
  • Cameron Rising (Utah) vs Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Will Levis (Kentucky) vs Spencer Rattler (South Carolina) at 7:30 p.m. ET on SECN
  • D.J. Uiagalelei (Clemson) vs Phil Jurkovec (Boston College) at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Another strong week of quarterback matchups with the action spread out throughout the day. Hooker’s star has steadily been climbing, and through four games he has still yet to throw an interception, yet is achieving 10.6 yards per passing attempt. Hooker is making his case to be among the top five quarterbacks in this class. The other top-five quarterback who is matched up today is Levis, who unfortunately is questionable to play with an undisclosed injury. If he can go, he’ll have a chance to further solidify his spot as one of the best quarterbacks in this class. Of note, the Lions have already sent scouts to watch Levis twice this season.

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

Michigan (4) at Indiana at 12:00 p.m. ET on FOX

Last week, our feature game highlighted Michigan’s RB Blake Corum vs. Iowa LB Jack Campbell, and once again Corum will have his hands full against another top run-stuffing linebacker.

Cam Jones, LB, Indiana (senior)
6-foot-1, 228 pounds

A bit undersized, but filled out and strong, Jones is quick to diagnose his keys and sprint downhill, delivering big hits on a regular basis. He is one of the best run defenders in the country, but he needs to become more of a playmaker when defending the pass.

Lions fit: With Malcolm Rodriguez entrenched at the WILL of the present and future, Jones could be a long-term option as a MIKE if he can expand his skill set.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs profile on Jones:

“Cam Jones is a fifth-year player that offers the physical build that you’d like to see in an NFL linebacker—he has good length and a sturdy build. He’s a player that operates best in a stack alignment and covered up in Indiana’s defense. He’s a physical presence despite not being an excessively big frame. Jones is a fiery competitor in close quarters and offers confidence in his run fills... A three-time team captain, you get the communication leadership you’d hope for from an ILB who can see the entirety of the field.”

Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan (senior)
6-foot-5, 248 pounds

The Wolverines blocking tight end has expanded his game to TE1 levels while Erick All deals with an injury. This opportunity has been huge for Schoonmaker’s draft stock as he has shown that not only can he be a devastating blocker in the run and passing game, but he can also be relied upon as a safety valve for quarterbacks.

Lions fit: The Lions are in need of a true blocking tight end and Schoonmaker fits the bill to a tee. With Hockenson and James Mitchell under contract next season, as well as Brock Wright being an exclusive rights free agent, Schoonmaker would fit the group like a missing puzzle piece, while giving the position some long-term stability.

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s “underrated players with mid-round potential” article:

“Lining up mostly inline, Schoonmaker needs to work on being more available in his routes, but he is coordinated in his breaks and catches the ball cleanly. As a blocker, he has the hand strength to physically move defenders and spring big runs. For NFL teams looking for a mid-round “Y” tight end in the Daniel Bellinger mold, Schoonmaker fits the bill.”

Utah (11) at UCLA (18) at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX

Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah (redshirt sophomore)
5-foot-10, 185 pounds

Phillips plays on the outside for the Utes and led the Pac-12 in pass breaks up in 2021 with 15 to his credit. This season he has expanded his positional value by taking about 25 percent of his snaps in the slot, which is a position some teams will ask him to play in the NFL.

Lions fit: The Lions need cornerback help, and if Phillips declares, he would be one of the best in this class. His inside-out potential would give the Lions some flexibility to line him up opposite Jeff Okudah or in the slot.

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

“Clark Phillips III is a quick, twitchy, and explosive athlete that has the athleticism and movement skills to mirror and match routes. His change of direction skills and ability to transition is fluid and rapid. Phillips showcases the ability to be disruptive at the catch point often due to his recovery speed. He displays some intriguing competitive toughness where despite his smaller frame, he is willing to come downhill and battle in space to make tackles.”

Braeden Daniels, OT/G, Utah (redshirt junior)
6-foot-4, 291 pounds

Daniels started 30 games ahead of 2022 (19 at left guard, 11 at right tackle) but he switched to left tackle this season and has thrived through five games.

Lions fit: Detroit could use a reliable reserve tackle who can also kick inside if needed and Daniels could provide that option for them on Day 3.

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s “underrated players with mid-round potential” article:

“There is plenty of praise to go around on the Utah offense, but not enough gets pointed toward Daniels at left tackle. After starting at left guard as a freshman and sophomore, Daniels moved out to right tackle as a junior and more than held his own. Now at left tackle this season, he’s yet to allow a sack.”

Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA (redshirt junior)
6-foot-1, 200 pounds

After showing explosion as a freshman with the Wolverines, Charbonnet’s sophomore season was subdued behind the dominance of Hassan Haskins, the return of Chris Evans, and the emergence of Blake Corum. Charbonnet transferred to the Bruins to be close to home and the move paid off for him as he has excelled in LA.

Lions fit: A downhill runner who wins with power and can contribute in the passing game, Charbonnet would be an option to replace Jamaal Williams if he departs in free agency this offseason.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Brentley Weissman:

“Zach Charbonnet is a productive running back who possesses very good size and strength. He is a north-south runner who runs with good vision and patience when pressing the hole. He flashes excellent contact balance and runs through arm tackles with ease. A physical runner, Charbonnet excels in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Charbonnet offers good lateral agility and shows an ability to press the LOS and quickly cut laterally and hit an open hole or make defenders miss. Charbonnet excels in the passing game, showing an ability to catch the ball cleanly and be a weapon as a leak-out back and in the screen game. Additionally, he shows a good ability in pass protection with good eyes to locate pressure and good overall technique and ability to anchor.”

Texas A&M at Alabama (1) at 8:00 p.m. ET on CBS

Hey, remember this...

Nearly five months later, and it’s finally showtime.

Antonio Johnson, safety, Texas A&M (junior)
6-foot-3, 195 pounds

A modern-day NFL safety, Johnson has the range to play all over the field. Per PFF, through five games he has taken 105 snaps at free safety, 139 in the slot, 75 in the box (about half of those as a strong safety and half as a sub-package linebacker), and eight at corner.

Lions fit: While he has the range to be a pure starting safety, his ability to contribute as a matchup defensive back is his best trait. He’s the type of defensive back they want Ifeatu Melifonwu to become, but Johnson doesn’t need refining to get there.

An excerpt from CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Josh Edwards’ profile of Johnson:

“Johnson has great size to go along with an excellent athletic skillset. He communicates shifts and has a quick key and trigger to play downhill. The Illinois native fights through blocks and plays a rugged style of football. In an era where NFL teams value versatility, his ability to cover the slot allows NFL teams to disguise coverage pre-snap.”

Previous Texas A&M players profiled: RG Layden Robinson, RB Devon Achane, and WR/RB Ainias Smith (in 2021)

Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama (junior)
6-foot-4, 245 pounds

I’ve saved the best for last. Will Anderson is a dominator. If he was draft-eligible last season, he’d be playing in Jacksonville right now because he has been the best player in college football for at least two years.

Lions fit: Anderson is so talented that if the Lions happen to be picking in the top 3—either by record or by trading up—they should heavily consider taking him over one of the stud quarterbacks. Pairing him with 2022 first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson would be simply unfair to offenses, and would give the Lions a pass rushing attack at a level they have never seen.

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s Top-50 prospects in college football:

“On paper, Anderson is a remarkable prospect. His tape is even more extraordinary. With his lower-body twitch and explosive upper half, he has the physical makeup that NFL teams covet. But what sets him apart as a prospect are his intelligence, competitive fire and astute understanding of how to apply coaching. With his high level of play rushing the passer and stopping the run, Anderson is one of the best prospects I’ve ever studied and compares very favorably to Von Miller.”

Previous Alabama players profiled: LB Henry To’o To’o, S Jordan Battle, and S Brian Branch

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