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Detroit Lions 2023 draft watch: 7 prospects to watch, including Georgia DT Jalen Carter

This Saturday’s Detroit Lions draft watch examines the trenches with two of the top defensive tackle prospects on display at noon, ET.

NCAA Football: Samford at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday’s watch list of college football (September 17) includes a noon game with two of the best defensive tackles in this draft class, as well as two night games that feature two quarterbacks at different stages of development, a powerful right guard, and a wide receiver out of USC—it worked out the last time the Detroit Lions drafted a pass catcher out of Southern Cal.

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

The featured games on this week’s watchlist include:

  • Georgia (1) at South Carolina at 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Miami, FL (13) at Texas A&M (24) at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Fresno State at USC (7) at 10:30 p.m. ET on FOX

Alright, let’s get to this week’s profiles.

Feature game: Georgia (1) at South Carolina

As far as the game itself, this one might not be close. But the upside is, for a Lions team that could easily be in the market for a top defensive tackle in this year's class, two of the top options can been scouted in one sitting.

Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia (redshirt sophomore)
6-foot-3, 310 pounds

Carter might not only be the best defensive tackle in this class, but, he might challenge Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson as the top defensive player in this class. Even with a couple of high-upside quarterbacks and Anderson expected to be drafted near the top of this draft cycle, it’s still very likely Carter is taken in the top five picks. He is that impactful.

With and explosive first step and an arsenal of pass rush moves, Carter can pretty much go wherever he needs to on the field. Need him to pass rush? No problem. Chase down a running back on a backside screen? He’s got that range. Hold the gap and defeat the block and stop the running back? Yup, he can do that too.

Despite Georgia having Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, and Devonte Wyatt all drafted in the first round of last year’s class, there are some that would argue that Carter was better than all of them—he just wasn’t draft eligible.

Zacch Pickens, DT, South Carolina (redshirt junior)
6-foot-4, 305 pounds

Pickens was the top rated defensive tackle in his recruiting class, ranked ahead of players like Travon Walker (No. 1 overall pick in 2021) and DeMarvin Leal (third-round pick in 2021). He’s a long interior player who flashes big time potential, but wins mostly on talent and effort.

Eyes on No. 6 in the video clip below, lined up at the five-technique:

Right now, he’s being evaluated based on potential instead of production, and that likey puts him as a top-100 pick rather than a first rounder, but it’s easy to see his appeal. He’ll be tested against Georgia this Saturday.

Oh, and by the way...

Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina (redshirt junior)
6-foot-0, 209 pounds

... Remember him?

Once touted as a potential No. 1 overall pick, Rattler imploded in 2021 and transferred to South Carolina to try and pick up the pieces. Unfortunately for Rattler, he has one of the more difficult schedules in college football this season. SC has already lost to Arkansas, and they still have Georgia, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, and Clemson on the docket.

If Rattler is going to make a statement that he should be considered as a potential NFL quarterback, he needs to elevate his game this week. Now, I’m not saying he needs to lead the Gamecocks to an upset win, but he has to, at a minimum, look under control and lean on his talents.

When NFL scouts are scrolling through game tape, this is going to be a game they put on to see if he still has “it.”

Miami, FL (13) at Texas A&M (24)

Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami (redshirt sophomore)
6-foot-4, 224 pounds

Van Dyke is player NFL teams may be scouting or the 2024 NFL draft. He has a big arm and can reach every level of the field, but he has just one year of starting experience and looks to just be scratching the surface of what he can do. That being said, if he develops at a faster-than-expected pace, he could rise up draft board quickly with his combination of size and arm talent.

On the road, facing off against a top SEC defense and without his favorite receiving target, Van Dyke could make a statement in this game.

Layden Robinson, RG, Texas A&M (redshirt junior)
6-foot-4, 320 pounds

A mauling right guard, Robinson makes his noise as a run blocker, but his raw power also lends itself in pass protection. Big, long, powerful, and smooth with his hands, Robinson could end up being one of the better interior players in this draft cycle.

Fresno State at USC (7)

Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State (senior)
6-foot-0, 195 pounds

After two successful seasons at Fresno State, Haener was in the NFL Draft conversation last season as a senior, but instead he opted to return to college. After deciding not to declare, he entered the transfer portal, only to withdraw his name and return to Fresno State.

There is a lot to like about Haener’s game. He is willing to sling it, shows nice accuracy and timing, is a highly-motivated competitor, but noticeably lacks NFL size. He uses that as motivation to prove people wrong, though.

Yeah, this should be a fun one to watch.

Jordan Addison, WR, USC (junior)
6-foot-0, 180 pounds

Kenny Pickett’s favorite target at Pittsburgh, Jordan Addison transferred to USC after the quarterback departed for the NFL, and the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner (college footballs best wide receiver) is settling in quite nice. In Lincoln Riley’s high-flying offense, Addison is a natural fit with his best skills will be on display and highlighted often.

A tick undersized, Addison was used primarily in the slot at Pittsburgh, but USC has featured him on the outside so far this season and things have worked well. Through two games in Southern California, Addison has caught 12 of this 13 targets for 226 yards and four receiving touchdowns.

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