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Detroit Lions 2024 draft watch: 8 players to watch, including EDGE Laiatu Latu

This Saturday’s Detroit Lions 2024 NFL draft watch examines eight players to watch.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Washington State at UCLA Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week’s Detroit Lions draft watch focuses on four games that should draw fans’ attention from a competitive standpoint, while also having several prospects to keep an eye on.

Here are this week’s games:

  • Florida State (12) at Wake Forest at 12:00 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Oregon (8) at Utah (13) at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Colorado at UCLA at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Ohio State (3) at Wisconsin at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Let’s look closer at this week’s players that Lions fans should be watching.

Florida State (12) at Wake Forest

Caelen Carson, CB, Wake Forest (Redshirt Junior)

6-foot-0, 195 pounds

An excerpt from Anthon Sports Kyle Crabbs’ profile of Carson:

“Wake Forest Demon Deacons cornerback Caelen Carson is a physical, confident cornerback who offers good tackling and desirable ball skills at a premium position. With good size and mass, Carson has the potential to be a tone-setting boundary player if he’s able to properly hone his aggressive tendencies at the NFL level. He’s likely to be seen as a potential long-term starter, though depending on his landing spot, Carson may require some patience to start his pro career.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

Cornerback depth will likely be a big offseason priority for the Lions, and any prospect in this class with top-100 value, as well as starter potential, needs to be on Detroit’s radar. How he fares against FSU’s wide receivers (Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson, both of whom we have previously profiled) will be a big part of his draft process evaluation.

Oregon (8) at Utah (13)

Zemaiah Vaughn, CB, Utah (Redshirt Junior)

6-foot-2, 180 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s prospects to watch this weekend ($):

“At 6 feet 2, 175 pounds, he is a long and lean corner with enough speed to stay on top of vertical routes. Against USC this past weekend, he gave up three catches but for zero yards. Scouts are eager to see how Vaughn, a projected Day 3 pick, matches up versus the field-stretching speed of Oregon WR Troy Franklin.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

Like with Carson, Vaughn’s skills will draw teams' attention. Tall but light, Vaughn won’t appeal to every team but if he can show out against Franklin (who we previously profiled), teams will take notice. While 175-180 pounds is not ideal for the NFL, it’s worth pointing out that cornerback Emmanuel Forbes also checked in at 180 pounds and he was drafted 16th overall in last year’s draft class.

Colorado at UCLA

Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA (Senior)

6-foot-5, 261 pounds

An excerpt from Anthon Sports Kyle Crabbs’ profile of Latu:

“Latu has the instincts, the motor, and the pass rush prowess to be a significant difference-maker at the NFL level. I do believe that he’s a step down athletically from the top tier of EDGEs eligible for 2024, which drops him below higher-ceiling players in the pecking order. That, paired with a concerning medical past that NFL teams must reconcile, will likely make him a player that goes later than he should based on his on-field merit.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

With edge rushers Charles Harris, Romeo Okwara, and Julian Okwara playing in the final year of their contracts, the Lions may need to replenish their depth this offseason. Latu has loads of talent but his inexperience and previous neck injury could put him in the Lions range at incredible value.

Michael Sturdivant, WR-X, UCLA (Redshirt Sophomore)

6-foot-3, 205 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic Dane Brugler’s pre-season WR watchlist ($):

“NFL teams covet long, explosive players outside at wide receiver, and that is what Sturdivant provides. According to UCLA head coach Chip Kelly, he is ‘everything you want in a receiver,’ and he showed the ability to be a mismatch weapon on his 2022 tape at Cal. NFL teams also love bloodlines, and Sturdivant checks that box as the nephew of Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little. His father (Michael) also briefly played in the NFL, and his mother (Melodie) was a track Hall of Famer at Bradley.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

The Lions could be in the market for a true WR-X and Sturdivant is another top option in a class loaded with WR-X-types. He’s still young and a bit rough around the edges but he has starter-level talent.

Ohio State (3) at Wisconsin

Jack Sawyer, EDGE, Ohio State (Junior)

6-foot-4, 265 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic’s top 50, profile by Nick Baumgardner ($):

“A high school quarterback and terrific all-around athlete, Sawyer has played the “Jack” or “Leo” spot for Ohio State since Jim Knowles took over the defense in 2022. He showed flashes during his sophomore year (24 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks). Between growing as a player and learning a new position, though, his game lacked consistency.

Still, Sawyer’s toolbox is deep, and his future is bright.

How he’d fit with the Lions:

With the Lions' increased use of a SAM linebacker, edge players who can stand up and rush, while also possessing the athletic profile to expand their role, should have Detroit’s attention.

Being tasked with holding up Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau (previously profiled) is Jack Nelson, who is next up on our watchlist.

Jack Nelson, LT, Wisconsin (Redshirt Junior)

6-foot-6 12, 311 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s prospects to watch this weekend ($):

“A potential top-100 pick, Nelson has been up and down this season, including a rough outing against Washington State and more penalties (eight) than games played (seven). But in a lot of ways he is your stereotypical Wisconsin offensive lineman: physical, strong and mean. Nelson has the dimensions to stay outside at tackle (6-7, 311, 33 3/4-inch arms), although some teams view him inside or as a swing tackle.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

A swing tackle who can kick inside to guard, while also possessing strength and a mean streak? Yes, please. The Lions need to invest in offensive tackle insurance and Nelson may fit the preferred skill set and price tag.

Watch him run blocking for Braelon Allen in this game.

Braelon Allen, RB, Wisconsin (Junior)

6-foot-1 12, 245 pounds

An excerpt from Anthon Sports’ Kyle Crabbs’ profile of Allen:

“Allen has all the tangible traits of a primary runner in the NFL, and he brings a supersized frame along with it, making him a unique player who should be able to be a featured part of an NFL rushing offense. His appeal is likely to come from teams who want to get vertical push in the run game and challenge you physically up front.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

A bruising back with light feet would be a spectacular fit in the Lions' scheme. The big questions will be: Where will the league put his draft value and is that price too high for Detroit to pay?

Tasked with shutting Allen down will be defensive tackle Tyleik Williams.

Tyleik Williams, DT, Ohio State (Junior)

6-foot-2, 290 pounds

An excerpt from Anthon Sports Kyle Crabbs’ profile of Williams:

“Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Tyleik Williams is a big-bodied defender who helps man the interior as both a run support and pass rush presence.

“Williams has slimmed down since arriving on campus in Columbus, and unlocked some more functional athleticism in the process, making him an defender with some three-down upside. Most players of his stature are considered early-down and short-yardage exclusive options, yet Williams has potential to continue to develop and be a capable third-down player in the pros.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

Williams’ weight reportedly was once at 330 pounds but, according to Ohio State, he is currently operating at 290 pounds. He is a stout run defender and has some pass rushing chops, which are skills the Lions should be in the market to add to their defensive line.

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