This game is loaded with NFL prospects, some of which have already been featured in our weekly draft watchlist this season. Because of this, along with the significant amount of talent, this edition of the watchlist will look a bit different. We are separating prospects by position and team, and if a player has been previously profiled, a link to that article will be embedded into his name, just click on his name and it will take you to that piece. Within each section, we will discuss the Lions' need level at that position, which players could be options, and why or why not.
Let’s get started.
Michigan: J.J. McCarthy
OSU: Kyle McCord
McCarthy is a likely first-round prospect and is in the conversation as the potential third-best quarterback in this draft class if he declares. Stylistically and mentally, he would fit in with this Lions coaching staff, but with the Lions having Jared Goff under contract for another season, and Hendon Hooker on his rookie contract, the need vs. cost may not quite fit.
From an NFL standpoint, McCord is a work in progress and would benefit from returning to school for more experience.
Michigan: Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards, Kalel Mullings
OSU: TreVeyon Henderson, Chip Trayanum
Corum, Edwards, and Henderson could all be potential top-100 picks in this draft cycle if they declare—Corum is the only senior in the group.
Corum is easily the most highly decorated—the three-year starter currently leads the NCAA with 20 rushing touchdowns in 2023—and has a running style that resembles Maurice Jones-Drew. Edwards is the prototype new-aged runner who can win with power but also has elite hands in the passing game. Henderson could easily end up as the best pro back on the field, but his durability issue could ding his stock with NFL teams.
Mullings and Traynum are former linebackers who have settled in as power options in role-specific situations. Both are redshirt juniors and are likely to return to school next season.
For the Lions, with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs in the fold through 2025, they would only likely consider a back from this group if they fell to Day 3.
The most talented group on the field in this game, Harrison is considered a top-five pick in this upcoming draft, Egbuka could also be selected in the first round, Wilson should be a top-100 pick, while Fleming and Johnson should be drafted on Day 3.
For the Lions, Harrison will likely be out of their reach come draft day, and while Egbuka might be in their range, the need vs. cost may not line up. Wilson could be an option on Day 2 and would give the Lions some serious speed by pairing him with Jameson Williams on the outside. Johnson and Fleming could also be a Day 3 fits as speed options.
Michigan: AJ Barner
OSU: Cade Stover
Stover will likely be considered a top-five tight end prospect in this class, but he is more of a pass catcher than a blocker right now, which might make him a hard sell for the Lions, who already have three balanced tight ends. Barner is one of the best blocking tight ends in college football and would be an easier sell to land with the Lions based on lower need vs. lower cost with a more preferred skill set.
Michigan: LaDarius Henderson (LT), Myles Hinton (RT), Karsen Barnhart (RT), Trente Jones (LT)
OSU: Josh Fryar (RT)
There likely isn’t a top-100 draft prospect in this group and many of these prospects may not even play tackle in the NFL, as most look better suited for guard. The Lions will likely be in the market for offensive line depth, especially for prospects that can play tackle and guard, so all of these prospects will have a chance to stand out in this game.
One thing to keep in mind: Michigan’s blocking scheme is pro-ready and they run gap concepts more than almost every college team (save maybe Kansas State), which fits the Lions' preferences like a glove.
Interior offensive line
Zinter could be a top-five guard in this class, and in 2023, he has not allowed a sack nor committed a penalty, which likely put him into the Round 2 and 3 conversation. With Michigan’s blocking scheme matching the Lions, Zinter could be a plug-and-play right guard that the Lions could land on Day 2.
Jackson has the athleticism to be selected on Day 2, and you can see how he would fit with the Lions when he pulls into space. Maybe not as plug-and-play as Zinter, but Jackson has starter upside.
Keegan is a three-year starter and captain, making him someone to keep an eye on, Nugent is a late-round center-only prospect, while Jones should end up in an NFL team’s training camp because of his run-blocking skills.
Interior defensive line
Jenkins entered the season considered a top defensive tackle, while Williams has seen his stock soar as the season progressed. Both are potential top-five defensive tackles in this class and should both hear their names called in the top-100 picks, with top-50 aspirations. The drawback for each player is size, as both are in the 6-foot-2-plus range and will likely check in under 300 pounds, making them 3-technique and out options on the defensive line.
The Lions need players who can create an interior pass rush, and while both Jenkins and Williams have that in their skill set, right now they look more like contributors early in their NFL careers, as opposed to starters.
Hall is also undersized by NFL standards, and while he flashes disruption, it’s not consistent enough for him to get more than Day 3 consideration at this time. He looks more like a return-to-school candidate than a prospect ready to jump to the NFL. Hall also missed last week’s game due to injury and it’s unclear if he will be available for this matchup.
This game offers a variety of edge rushers, both stylistically and where they are projected to be selected in the draft. The Lions should very much be in the market to add all kinds of pass rushers, so they’ll surely be keeping an eye on these players.
Tuimoloau is a traditional EDGE and his ability to set the edge and win with power fits in perfectly with the scheme the Lions currently run. The biggest question surrounding him is if he will still be on the board when the Lions are selecting.
Sawyer (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) has incredible size for a JACK/SAM pass-rushing linebacker and while his overall skill set doesn’t scream dynamic playmaker, he has NFL starter potential, which could get him selected in the top 50.
Michigan rotates their pass rushers, which can clutter their evaluations, but Harrell is the best of the group. Closer to the type of pass rusher the Lions have in James Houston, Harrell could fill a situational pass-rushing role early in his career. McGregor was supposed to be the next Aidan Hutchinson but he’s never quite been able to take that next step in his evolution. Josaiah Stewart is a similar style pass rusher as Harrell, but a bit smaller and less experienced. Harrell could make the jump for the pros but all three could benefit from another year in Ann Arbor.
Michigan: Junior Colston, Michael Barrett
OSU: Tommy Eichenberg, Steele Chambers
The Lions are deep at linebacker, so their interest here will likely be minimal, but Detroit also doesn't pass on value, so these four experienced linebackers are worth keeping on the back burner.
Eichenberg and Colston are the top two linebackers in this game and there’s not a ton separating them. Eichenberg’s ability to play downhill will appeal to the Lions' current scheme and philosophy, while Colston is more of a modern linebacker because of his ability to fly all over the field. Eichenberg has been injured and his status for this game is unclear.
Chambers and Barrett were both recruited as offensive players—running back and quarterback respectively—but made the switch to linebacker early in their college careers and have been consistently improving year after year. They both have the tenacity and athleticism to make it into an NFL training camp and use special teams to make a roster.
The Lions will surely be in the market for cornerback depth and both Sainristil and Burke are top-100 prospects. Burke has all the intangibles the NFL is looking for, speed, athleticism, and physicality, but he can get grabby far too often, and his injury history is a bit concerning.
Sainristil will be written off some boards or pegged as a slot-only corner because of his size (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) but he is a menace in coverage and has a nose for the football—he has five interceptions in 2023, two of which he took to the house. Easily one of my favorite players to scout in this class and he will definitely be one of “my guys” in this draft cycle.
Michigan: Rod Moore, Makari Paige
OSU: Josh Proctor, Lathan Ransom (injured)
Proctor and Ransom could be the more talented pair of safeties but they also have injury histories that are concerning—Ransom is currently injured—which likely negatively impacts their draft stock. The Buckeyes used Ransom in a similar way to how Brian Branch is used, and have needed to lean on Proctor more in that role after Ransom’s injury.
Moore is more of a traditional safety and would represent more of what the Lions have in Tracy Walker and Kerby Joseph. Moore has great instincts and vision, but he is also just a redshirt sophomore and could be staying in Ann Arbor for another year. Paige has developed into a quality option to have in the middle of the Wolverines secondary and can be a force at times.
The Lions could be in the market for safety depth this offseason, but the emergence of Branch’s ability to play deep, and the fact that all four of the Lions’ current safeties are under contract in 2024, has lessened the need.