As the college football season continues to roll on, so does our Detroit Lions draft watch lists. This Saturday (September 18) has another fun slate of games, and in order to maximize your viewing pleasure, we’ve identified one game in each TV time slot, as well as multiple prospects in each game that we believe Lions scouts may be keeping their eyes on.
As always, let’s start by revisiting our quarterback watch.
If you missed our previous article highlighting which quarterbacks to watch each week this season, be sure to give it a bookmark. This week there are two quarterbacks on the docket, one at noon and the other a mere 10 hours later.
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (Senior)
at Indiana, Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, on ESPN
Ridder is playing like a professional quarterback right now and he has Cincinnati ranked as the No. 8 team in the country. Through two games, the Bearcats have 91 points scored and Ridder is averaging an impressive 11.4 yards per pass attempt. Of course, it helps when your first pass of the season goes for 81 yards and a score:
Ridder has NFL size, an NFL deep ball, is a four-year starter, a duel threat, is putting up big-time points on the board, but struggles with consistently placing the ball accurately. If you were a Trey Lance fan, make some time for Ridder.
When Ridder isn’t on the field, keep an eye on…
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (Junior)
“Sauce” hails from Detroit and played his high school football at Martin Luther King. He started day one at Cincinnati and has been building a resume as a tall, lengthy corner with a nose for the football. He should hear his name called early on Day 2 of the draft.
Christian Harris, LB, Alabama (Junior)
at Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, on CBS
Harris is a prototype new-age NFL linebacker. He’s fast to the ball, has good eye discipline, can stack and shed blocks, weaves through traffic with ease, understands blitzing angles, and can cover tight ends/receivers/backs all over the field. There’s a bunch of Fred Warner (49ers LB) to his game and pairing him with Derrick Barnes (after a year of development) would give the Lions a potentially dangerous duo for the future.
#RollTide LB Christian Harris has soooo much ability and is still scratching the surface!
WR/S in high school. Started as a freshman for Saban at WLB. Coverage upside. Proven blitzer. Defeats blocks with length/quicks. High-end athlete. Really, really fun player in the #SEC pic.twitter.com/re0s6sobDG
— Fran Duffy (@EaglesXOs) June 21, 2021
When Harris isn’t on the field, keep an eye on…
Brenton Cox, Jr., EDGE, Florida (Junior)
Cox is a pass-rushing outside linebacker who wins with a variety of moves. When he has a plan, he can put together some impressively athletic pass rushes, but he needs to be more consistent if he wants to be considered a top-100 prospect in this draft. Also working in his favor with NFL scouts is his ability to set the edge, something 250-pound linebackers don’t typically have in their skill set coming out of college.
Originally, I had CB Kaiir Elam in this spot, but Cox put up some bulletin board material for Alabama this week—“We’re ready, of course. The big question is are they ready?”—and I’m curious to see if he can back it up.
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (Senior)
vs Auburn, 7:30 p.m. ET, on ABC
If the Lions target a WR1 in free agency (there’s a lot of potential options in 2022) there’s still a chance they’ll be looking for another receiver to complement him and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Enter Jahan Dotson.
Dotson (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) is an outside receiver who can threaten defenses in a variety of ways. His speed and separation skills make him a true vertical threat, while his quickness and YAC skills make him an option on slants, in the screen game, and on trick plays. He’s undersized, which will likely take him out of the Round 1 conversation, but his skill set is exactly what the Lions are missing and he could be an option on Day 2.
When Dotson isn’t on the field, keep an eye on…
Bo Nix, QB, Auburn (Junior)
Former NFL QB Jordan Palmer is regarded as one of the best QB gurus in the business and has helped several eventual first-round picks sharpen up their game. In 2014, Palmer trained Blake Bortles (drafted third overall in 2014) and got a taste for the coaching life. Since then, he has trained:
2016: Jared Goff (first overall pick)
2017: Patrick Mahomes (10th) and Deshaun Watson (12th)
2018: Sam Darnold (third), Josh Allen (seventh), Kyle Allen (UDFA)
2019: Drew Lock (42nd)
2020: Joe Burrow (first)
2021: Trevor Lawrence (first)
One of his projects in 2021, Bo Nix.
Nix didn’t make my Quarterback Watchlist because he still has a lot more developing to do, but Palmer believes he has the potential to be the top pick in the draft.
“Nix broke several records for an Auburn freshman QB, and Palmer believes he will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft because of aspects beyond his physical traits,” ESPN’s Ben Baby wrote in 2020
Can Nix show enough progress this season to start winning over analysts, or is that still at least a year away?
Jayden Daniels, QB, Arizona State (Junior)
at BYU, 10:15 p.m. ET, on ESPN
A day one starter at ASU, Daniels has shown poise in his demeanor and his decision-making beyond his years, never shying away from a big moment. A duel-threat quarterback by trade, but he prefers to stay in the pocket whenever possible and is willing to take a hit to make a play. When he does cut and run, he has sharp vision to find the hole and the quickness to get upfield in a hurry.
ASU Soph. Jayden Daniels (@JayD__5)
Live arm capable of downfield shots
Instinctive runner with plus athleticism
Calm and collected composure under pressure
Willing to sacrifice his body to make the play
At 18 years old: 60.7 CMP%, 2943 YDS, 17 TDs, 2 Ints pic.twitter.com/xRr8ljr7QQ
— Carter Donnick (@CDonnick3) May 25, 2020
There are two things working against Daniels and his pro potential. First, he regressed his sophomore season and scouts will be looking for him to rebound in 2021. Second, he’s really thin (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) which is concerning at the next level, especially for a quarterback who is willing to run and willing to take a hit. Adding weight/strength will be a priority for him before he sees an NFL field.
When Daniels isn’t on the field, keep an eye on…
Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU (Redshirt Sophomore)
With QB Zach Wilson in the NFL, BYU is leaning on its running game this season, and Allgeier (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) is the team’s most effective option. A one-cut bruiser, he averaged “a ridiculous 7.6 yards per carry, of which 4.7 came after contact last season,” per PFF. Schematically, Allgeier fits the Lions’ scheme and would be a nice complement back to the Lions backfield.