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Detroit Lions 2024 draft watch: 7 players to watch, including CB Kool-Aid McKinstry

This Saturday’s Detroit Lions draft watch examines seven players in head-to-head matchups to watch.

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Alabama v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

This week’s Detroit Lions draft watch features multiple head-to-head matchups over two games between four high-profile teams:

  • Texas A&M (23) at Miami at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Texas (11) at Alabama (4) at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

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

Texas A&M (23) at Miami

Keep an eye on the trenches in these competitions, as there will be fun big-boy battles regardless of which team is on offense. When TAMU is on offense, keep an eye on the first two prospects in this section, then when Miami’s offense takes the field, keep an eye on the next two players.

Bryce Foster, C, TAMU (Junior)

6-foot-4, 330 pounds

An excerpt from PFF’s Max Chadwick’s 10 prospects to know at every offensive position:

“Foster played only four games this past season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He wasn’t very impressive on those limited snaps, earning just a 22.0 pass-blocking grade. It’s what Foster did as a true freshman that earned him a spot on this list. Playing in the toughest conference in college football, he started all 13 games at center for Texas A&M. He was a PFF Freshman All-American and led all true freshmen centers with a 73.0 run-blocking grade. If Foster makes serious strides as a pass-protector, he could very easily be the top center in this class.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

As will be a theme throughout this year’s series, offensive linemen who have power, athleticism, movement skills, and some positional versatility are going to show up in these articles. Foster first caught my attention when he showed up on The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list in 2022 ($) for his ability to bench press over 400 pounds and his elite shot putting skills.

Leonard Taylor, DT, Miami (Junior)

6-foot-3, 305 pounds

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s defensive tackle preview ($):

With his size and athleticism, Taylor might be the most talented defensive tackle in all of college football, but he is still more raw than a complete football player at this stage in his development. Taylor has the potential to be DL1 and a surefire first-rounder by the time April arrives. For that to happen, however, NFL scouts need to see him unlock all of his talent on a more consistent basis.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

The Lions will surely be in the market for a pass rushing interior presence to pair with Alim McNeill. While Taylor will likely be a 3-technique in the NFL—the same position as McNeill—Lions coaches have shown the willingness to flex their defensive scheme to adjust to their players and would likely be willing to make it work for a player as talented as Taylor.

McKinley Jackson, NT, TAMU (Senior)

6-foot-2, 325 pounds

An excerpt from Brugler’s defensive tackle preview ($):

“Jackson has a functional body type at nose tackle that really works for him. With his shorter stature, he is able to play from a low position, exploding upward and staying underneath blocks. He has surprisingly long arms (33 3/4 inches), which allow him to forklift roadblocks and pry himself from blockers. Though he looks heavy, Jackson doesn’t play heavy and has impressive movements for a 320-plus-pounder.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

Built to play nose tackle, Jackson would be a tremendous plug-and-play player to align next to McNeill without having to adjust the defensive scheme. With a unique combination of being stout and long, Jackson can simultaneously keep offensive linemen at bay while also presenting a difficult target to hit. Brugler noted in his write-up that Jackson gives him “Javon Hargrave vibes”, which makes a ton of sense.

Javion Cohen, LG, TAMU (Senior)

6-foot-4, 305 pounds

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Ryan Fowler’s profile of Cohen:

Javion Cohen presents an intriguing skill set. Primarily aligned at left guard, he is at his best when working up to the second level as a puller and when working double teams or duo blocks prior to climbing uphill. Cohen is excellent at sealing interior defensive linemen on outside zone, where his lower half and explosive feet put him in a position to win.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

A two-year starter at left guard at Alabama—where he did not allow a sack over 24 starts—Cohen transferred to Miami for his senior season and is their starting left guard. Cohen is an above-average athlete who has a high football IQ and loads of experience in different blocking schemes. Combine that with his best trait being as a puller, and he should be on the Lions' radar.

Texas (11) at Alabama (4)

Texas and Alabama have oodles of potential 2024 draft prospects, with as many as 10 prospects that could be selected from each school in April. Just looking at potential first-round prospects, Alabama EDGE Dallas Turner could be EDGE1, JC Latham should be a top-four OT, while Texas QB Quinn Ewers is in contention to be QB3 in this class, and TE Ja’Tavion Sanders is among the best at his position.

I ended up picking the following three players because I think they fit potential holes on the Lions 2024 roster, and there are going to be potential head-to-head matchups all day.

Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas (Junior)

6-foot-0, 172 pounds

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Keith Sanchez’s profile of Worthy:

“Xavier Worthy is an explosive down-the-field threat that has the speed to consistently run past defenders. He uses that speed to set up other elements of his game. Worthy is versatile in alignment, which allows offensive coordinators to utilize him in multiple ways and allows him to be put in situations to take advantage of matchups and coverage. Worthy’s speed means he can take screens or end-arounds and convert them into big-play opportunities while also beating off coverage when he is bracketed down the field.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

If the name sounds familiar to Wolverine fans, it’s because Worthy was originally committed to Michigan but ended up asking for his release from his letter of intent after issues with the admissions department delayed his enrollment at the eleventh hour. At Texas, Worthy has shown he is a tremendous athlete with unique intangibles. He can be a vertical threat with his elite speed, while his agility also allows him to operate as a gadget player. He is undersized by NFL standards, but his ability to contribute in a variety of ways line up with traits the Lions scouts have previously desired.

Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas (Junior)

6-foot-4, 196 pounds

An excerpt from PFF’s Trevor Sikkema’s Early 2024 WR rankings:

“The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Mitchell might not be a polished product yet, but he is a promising one. His feet are lightning quick out of his releases, and that helps him navigate and avoid press coverage, as well as close zone defenders. His flexibility and fluidity look to be the foundation of a really nice route runner. He may need to continue putting on weight to improve the strength profile in his game (contested catching as well as just taking and dictating contact). Mitchell being this high on the list is me betting his top-end flashes will turn into consistency — a bet I’m willing to make right now.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

A Georgia transfer, Mitchell has WR-X written all over him at the NFL level. The Lions have been looking for a long-term solution at the “X” position since opting to move on from Kenny Golladay, and Mitchell figures to be one of the top options for that role in yet another deep wide receiver class.

Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Texas (Junior)

6-foot-1, 195 pounds

An excerpt from Brugler’s cornerbacks preview:

“McKinstry offers many of the characteristics that NFL teams covet at the position. He has size, movement skills and ball awareness and enters the 2023 season as the top draft-eligible defensive back for many around the league. Last season against Texas was probably his worst game in coverage of the six 2022 tapes I studied. All eyes will be on him when Quinn Ewers and the Longhorns offense go to Tuscaloosa this September.”

How he’d fit with the Lions:

In the conversation for CB1 in this draft class, McKinstry was a rare freshman starter in Alabama Nick Saban’s scheme—Lions’ nickelback Brian Branch being another. McKinstry is a fluid and long athlete with lockdown corner upside. Last season, he broke out, securing 16 pass breakups, illustrating his nose for the football and ability to make plays. The Lions could be in the market for an elite outside corner next offseason, and scouts surely got a long look at him while evaluating Branch last draft.

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