clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Detroit Lions 2024 draft watch: 6 players to watch, including CB T.J. Tampa

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

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma State Sarah Phipps-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s Detroit Lions draft watch focuses on four games and a handful of players that not many people have heard of. Here’s you’re Saturday watch schedule:

  • Michigan (3) at Maryland at 12 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Georgia (1) at Tennessee (18) at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
  • Washington (5) at Oregon State at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Texas (7) at Iowa State at 8 p.m. ET on FOX

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

Michigan (3) at Maryland

AJ Barner, TE, Michigan (Senior)
6-foot-6, 257 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s Draft Watch from late October:

“Michigan is expected to have double-digit draft picks in April, but senior TE AJ Barner was more on the outside looking in over the summer with a priority-free-agent grade. However, that will change if he has more performances like what he put on tape versus Michigan State. After seeing 11 targets in Michigan’s first seven games, Barner moved to the big stage with nine targets last Saturday, finishing with eight catches for 99 yards and one touchdown. At 6-6, 250, the Indiana transfer has good enough speed and does a nice job expanding his catch radius to reel in McCarthy’s fastballs.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

A transfer from Indiana, Barner flies under the radar behind super sophomore Colston Loveland, but he is exactly the type of complementary tight end who could play for years in the NFL. With impressive size (6-foot-6, 257 pounds), blocking skills, and reliable hands, he has TE2/3 upside at the next level. According to PFF, he has the highest-graded run-blocking skills on Michigan’s entire roster and the highest amongst all NCAA tight ends with at least 50 snaps.

Beau Brade, Safety, Maryland (Senior)
6-foot-0, 210 pounds

An excerpt from ESPN’s Matt Miller’s Top 50 2024 draft prospects ($):

“Among the most improved safeties in the country, Brade brings the hammer as a hitter despite average size at the position. He closes on the ball with power and tenacity, and he has been better in coverage this season, too. Offenses are tending to avoid his area of the field, as he has allowed 65 yards on seven receptions (15 targets) this season while shoring up his tackling ability. Brade is more of a strong safety, but his improvements in coverage are pushing him up the board.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

This will be Brade’s biggest test of the season and if he can show out covering Michigan’s backs and tight ends, he could work himself near the top of an underwhelming safety class.

Georgia (1) at Tennessee (18)

Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia (Redshirt Junior)
5-foot-11, 185 pounds

An excerpt from Brugler’s Mid-season Top 50 ($):

“At 5 feet 11 and 185 pounds, McConkey doesn’t necessarily look impressive stepping off the bus. But then you see his speed, competitive ball skills and on-field impact, and you are reminded why he is one of the top playmakers in the SEC.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

He’s not a clean fit for a position of need for the Lions, but they value technicians who can get open, and Ladd is one of the best in the game. His stock profile is all over the map—ranging from top-50 to mid-Day 3—and he’s not going to stand out because of his athleticism, but he just continues to produce over and over again.

Kamal Hadden, CB, Tennessee (Senior)
6-foot-1, 197 pounds

An excerpt from ESPN Insiders Risers, and Fallers from Week 8 ($):

“An ascending player, Hadden is really good at reading receivers’ breaks, getting his eyes on the quarterback and breaking on the ball in off-coverage. His length allows him to disrupt receivers getting off the line in press and break up passes. He has three picks this season and flashes the ability to pluck the ball out of the air. His 6-foot-1, 197-pound frame, great instincts and solid ball skills have earned him an early-Day 3 grade at this point in the process, but he has the potential to continue to climb boards.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

I’m cheating a bit here as Hadden won’t actually play in this game due to a shoulder injury, but the River Rouge high school graduate is in his final year of eligibility and is an exciting, under-the-radar player who deserves some attention. With a terrific combination of size and athleticism, he will fly under the radar during this offseason draft prep and could end up being a steal if the Lions can get him on their roster. Keep an eye out for his name when the Lions hold their local pro day in April because even if he’s not competing, they can still interview him and get a sense of the player/person he is.

Washington (5) at Oregon State

Jalen McMillan, WR, Washington (Redshirt Junior)
6-foot-1, 192 pounds

An excerpt from PFF’s Trevor Sikkema’s 8 biggest risers on PFF’s big board:

“Admittedly, McMillan was likely lost in the shuffle of a really good wide receiver group when we evaluated more than 25 of them in the preseason. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver recorded more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2022 and has topped 300 yards in three games so far this season.

“McMillan might not be a ‘wow’ type of athlete, but he’s so smooth with his routes and how he finds space, and he is a very confident receiver when the ball comes his way. He understands how to consistently win at the position.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

Washington has three NFL-level wide receivers—we profiled Rome Odunze earlier in the season and then Ja’Lynn Polk last week—and now it’s time to put a bow on this group. With Odunze and Polk bigger outside receivers, McMillan often ends up in the slot where his size can also work to his advantage. He’s smooth from the inside for a 6-foot-1 receiver and has multiple years of production on his resume.

Texas (7) at Iowa State

T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State (Senior)
6-foot-2, 200 pounds

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

“Tampa is almost assuredly going to have his name called by the middle of Day 2, at the latest. He plays a premium position, offers elite length, and provides physicality and budding ball skills in the secondary. As a plus athlete with his stature, there’s a significant sample size of similar players going early in the NFL Draft — I would expect Tampa to be the next.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

As I say every week, any corner who has a shot at getting drafted in the Top 100—and that could be a dozen-plus players in this class—needs to be examined by the Lions (and thus Lions fans). Big, fast, and with the ability to stay in phase in man-coverage, he’d fit in the Lions scheme very well.

Texas has two draftable receivers Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy—we profiled both earlier in the season—and a statement game against either could go a long way in determining how high his draft stock will rise.

Pride of Detroit Direct

Sign up now for a 7-day free trial of Pride of Detroit Direct, with exclusive updates from Jeremy Reisman on the ground at Allen Park, instant reactions after each game, and in-depth Lions analysis from film expert Jon Ledyard.