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Detroit Lions 2024 draft watch: 8 players to watch, including Alabama’s Chris Braswell

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

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game - Miami v Alabama Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week’s Detroit Lions draft watch focuses on a half dozen games that feature a possible future solution at SAM linebacker, a battle amongst top-skill players, and a deeper look at five interior offensive linemen.

Here are the games we are watching this week:

  • Kansas State (23) at Texas (7) at 12 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Ohio State (1) at Rutgers at 12 p.m. ET on CBS
  • LSU (14) at Alabama (8) at 7:30 p.m. ET on CBS
  • Purdue at Michigan (3) at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Washington (5) at USC (20) at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Oregon State (16) at Colorado at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN

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

LSU (14) at Alabama (8)

Chris Braswell, EDGE/SAM, Alabama (Senior)

6-foot-3 12 , 252 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s mid-season Top-50 ($):

“If you watch the Alabama front seven to see Dallas Turner, Braswell (9.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles) inevitably will jump off the screen. There is some tightness when he turns the corner, but Braswell is able to slam his hands into blockers, convert his speed to power and collapse the pocket in different ways.

“High-energy force players like Braswell usually find sustainable roles in the NFL.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

Braswell is Alabama’s standup “JACK” pass rushing linebacker, and while he spends the majority of his time in the box, he does have 37 coverage snaps this season—just over 10% of his total usage, per PFF. He’d be a quality option for the Lions' “SAM” linebacker role, which has become more prevalent this season.

There are still some parts of Braswell’s game that need polish—2023 is his only season as a starter—which could cause him to slide into the Lions' projected draft range, but he is loaded with first-round size, athleticism, and potential.

Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU (Junior)

6-foot-4, 205 pounds

An excerpt from Draft Wire’s Jeff Risdon’s article on Thomas being a draft riser:

“Thomas has always had good size and speed, but he appears to have added more lean muscle to his 205-pound frame. It’s helped him through contact and given him better balance. He’s always had the ball tracking and strong hands, but Thomas has added more polish and attention to detail to his game. [...] Thomas has been more consistent in working in-breaking routes from his typical outside alignment. He’s quick to recognize the coverage and find soft spots between zones and inside cover brackets.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

Thomas is LSU’s wide receiver opposite projected first-round pick Malik Nabers—who we profiled earlier this year—and his growth over this season likely puts him in the conversation for the first round as well. If a team is looking specifically for a WR-X, he should be in the top 5 of that style receiver in this class.

Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama (Redshirt Sophomore)

6-foot-0, 196 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s mid-season Top-50 ($):

“Although he might not receive as much notoriety as teammate Kool-Aid McKinstry, Arnold (40 tackles, one INT, six passes defended) has played well this season and has NFL starting-level traits himself.

“At 6 feet 0 and 195 pounds, he has quick, controlled footwork in his pedal and transitions to stay on top of routes. He also might be the most competitive corner in the draft.

How he’d fit with the Lions:

If you’re a top-100 cornerback, you’re likely going to be on the Lions radar, and Thomas looks like he fits the bill of a top-50 prospect. Along with Kool-Aid McKinstry—who we profiled earlier this year—Arnold will have a tough task ahead of him trying to defend Thomas and Nabers this week. How each of these four potential first-rounders performs will go a long way in their draft evaluations.

Kansas State (23) at Texas (7)

Cooper Beebe, G, Kansas State (Senior)

6-foot-3 12, 331 pounds

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

“Beebe has the power and frame to be an effective player in close-quarters combat. I believe that he’s ideally a fit for a vertical run game, be it inside zone or in gap schemes to encourage aggressiveness to reset the line of scrimmage. His versatility may be billed as a plus in college, but I see him as an interior only player in the pro game.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

I profiled Beebe ahead of the 2023 draft where he was one of my highest-ranked guard prospects for the Lions, and after returning to school for another year of polish, he has only gotten better. What makes Beebe such a good fit is his positional versatility (he has started at every position on the offensive line except center) experience in a gap scheme (roughly two-thirds of Kansas State’s 300+ rushing attempts have used a gap blocking scheme), and his tenacity as a run defender. He uses his hands well and executes a variety of techniques with an NFL level of proficiency, making him a plug-and-play guard.

Ohio State (1) at Rutgers

Donovan Jackson, G, Ohio State (Junior)

6-foot-4, 320 pounds

An excerpt from Anthon Sports’ Kyle Crabbs’ profile on Jackson:

“Jackson’s got all the tools. He’s a sufficient athlete with effective surge in the run game and a powerful enough anchor to sit down against interior rushers. This, given the scarcity of quality linemen across the NFL, should set a floor to his valuation that will get him drafted fairly early. His continued maturation in the fundamentals and instincts to a changing picture post-snap will determine the ceiling of his draft stock, though.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

The Lions prefer their offensive linemen to be athletes who can pull and get out in front of their running backs, and as you can see in the video above, Jackson is a smooth mover. A two-year starter at left guard for Ohio State, the big question will be: will he jump for the NFL or stick around for his senior year?

Purdue at Michigan (3)

Zak Zinter, G, Michigan (Senior)

6-foot-5 12, 322 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s pre-season IOL to watch list ($):

“Zinter checks a lot of boxes that NFL teams look for in a guard prospect. He moves well on his feet to mirror in small spaces or use his range as a puller. He prioritizes his technique and is clearly intelligent with the way he stays one step ahead and works in concert with his neighbor. And Zinter uses his long arms to deliver pop at contact, both in the run game and pass protection.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

Like Kansas State, the Wolverines are another heavy gap-power blocking team (roughly 60% of their offensive line blocking schemes are gap-focused), and like Beebe, Zinter is the top prospect on their offensive line. A three-and-a-half-year starter at Michigan, Zinter is a big reason why their offensive line has won the Joe Moore Award each of the past two seasons and could be headed for a third consecutive recognition in 2023. A team captain with a mean streak, Zinter would be a perfect fit on the Lions line and in their locker room.

Washington (5) at USC (20)

Troy Fautanu, T/G, Washington (Redshirt Junior)

6-foot-4, 319 pounds

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

“Fautanu offers the kind of play demeanor that will aid in his transition to the pro game. He’s a tenacious and relentless blocker who looks to finish reps and ground defenders. That, paired with his athleticism and effective length, should afford him a role with nearly any offensive line unit and scheme across the league. His versatility will be his greatest asset for his valuation.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

While Fautanu is a dynamic pass protecting left tackle for the Huskies, his size and movement skills could land him at guard for several NFL teams. For the Lions, he would assuredly project inside with emergency tackle range.

Oregon State (16) at Colorado

Taliese Fuaga, OT/G, Oregon State (Redshirt Junior)

6-foot-6, 334 pounds

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

“Fuaga is an absolute terror in the run game, and if you’re planning on docking him for playing on the right side of the offensive line, it is time to wake up to the new NFL — you need good tackles on both sides. Fuaga has impact starter ability, and thanks to an NFL frame, a stout punch, and a heavy anchor, I’d expect he lives up to that potential.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

If you like Halapoulivaati Vaitai, then Fuaga is the player you’ll want to pay attention to in this draft class. His initial punch is devastating and can absolutely relocate defenders with its power. Like Fautanu, some teams will look at him inside, while others will want to keep him at right tackle. The Lions would surely like him inside early in his career, with the range to push outside to tackle as an injury replacement, along with the option of shifting him outside at tackle later on in his career.

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