Allen Park — Each Saturday during the college football season, we’ll highlight five prospects with locally televised matchups who could be a fit for the Detroit Lions in the 2022 NFL Draft, based on projected needs.
Every week, the list will aim to highlight early-, mid- and late-round prospects. This will give you a chance to watch the players performing live, instead of playing catch-up in the weeks before the draft.
Owen Pappoe, ILB, Auburn (No. 0)
Auburn at No. 17 Arkansas, 12 p.m., CBS
Pappoe has been battling an ankle injury that’s sidelined him the past two weeks, but after being a game-time decision last Saturday against Georgia, we’re hopeful he’s back in the mix for a matchup with the Razorbacks.
Like several of the linebackers we’ve covered in this space in recent weeks, Pappoe is a bit on the lighter side, listed at 226 pounds, but there’s room to add some weight on his 6-foot-1 frame without losing much, if any of his trademark athleticism.
How he managed to get the Twitter handle @thefreak is beyond us, but it’s certainly appropriate. Although measurables are a little unreliable for high school recruits, he had the best overall profile at his position in his recruiting class after reportedly running a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and posting a 40-inch vertical.
More impressively, he started every game as a true freshman in college football’s best conference, before doubling his production as a sophomore last season, registering 93 tackles, 4.0 sacks and an interception in 11 games.
As to where he’ll land in the draft, that’s still up for debate. Some analysts have projected him to be the first inside linebacker off the board, while others think he’s more likely to be selected at the end of Day 2.
Yusuf Corker, S, Kentucky (No. 29)
No. 11 Kentucky at No. 1 Georgia, 3:30 p.m., CBS
An under-the-radar, middle-round safety option, Corker is a smart and physical free safety who will eagerly lay the lumber to anything moving across the middle of the field. But it’s controlled physicality, as ball carriers are rarely able to escape his grasp for extra yardage, leading one of the lowest yards per catch figures in college football last season when targeted in coverage.
After playing sparingly as a freshman, Corker led the Wildcats with 74 tackles his sophomore season. Always around the ball, he exceeded that tackle total in 2020 (77), despite playing two fewer games.
Named second-team all-conference by analytics website Pro Football Focus, Corker is durable despite his aggressive playing style, starting 30 consecutive games. Plus, he’s managed to step up his playmaking in the pass game to start this season. After recording six pass breakups across 24 games the previous two seasons, he already has matched that total in six games this year.
David Bell, WR, Purdue (No. 3)
Purdue at No. 2 Iowa, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Big Ten’s freshman of the year in 2019, Bell earned first-team, all-conference honors as a sophomore after catching 53 passes for 625 yards and eight touchdowns in just six games for the Boilermakers.
Bell suffered a concussion that cost him some time this year, but he’s been as explosive as ever when on the field, hauling in nearly eight balls per game while averaging a personal-best 16.3 yards per grab and finding the end zone three times in four contests.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Bell expertly uses his frame to his advantage. He remains calm no matter how tight the coverage and has a knack for high-pointing the ball, making contested catches and rarely putting catchable passes on the ground.
A physical outside option, he’d make for an interesting pairing with Amon-Ra St. Brown because of their shared willingness as mix it up with defenders. It’s easy to see Bell’s on-field mentality appealing to the Lions just as it did with the rookie out of USC.
Nik Bonitto, Edge, Oklahoma (No. 11)
TCU at No. 4 Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m., ABC
We’ve said it countless times before and we’ll say it countless more times in the future, you can never have enough pass-rushing talent. Plus, it’s difficult to say what Detroit’s pass-rush situation will look like heading into the 2022 offseason.
Trey Flowers feels as good as gone with a pending $23.2 million cap hit, while the resurgent Charles Harris might be tough to re-sign given he’s already set a career-high with 4.0 sacks through five games.
Beyond that, there’s plenty of unknowns with those who will remain under contract. Will Romeo Okwara come back from his Achilles injury as good as he was before he went out, and can either Julian Okwara or Austin Bryant turn the corner as reliable options in the rotation?
Regardless, as stated, you can never have enough juice off the edge, and Bonitto is one of the best players in this class at getting to the quarterback. The standup rusher had 9.0 sacks in 10 games a season ago and is right back at it in 2021, dropping opposing passers behind the line four times in five games.
Bonitto wins with an explosive first step, advanced technique, impressive bend and a hot-running motor. His athleticism also plays in coverage, which is something the Lions would ask him to do, situationally.
The biggest question mark is his run defense. He’s got good length and plays with physicality and effort, but at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, he has the potential to get overwhelmed by NFL tackles and tight ends when trying to set a hard edge.
Jayden Daniels, QB, Arizona State (No. 5)
No. 18 Arizona State at Utah, 10 p.m., ESPN
Detroit is tracking toward a top-3 draft pick, but it remains up for debate whether any of the quarterbacks in this class will be worthy of being selected at that spot. Trying to find a reliable backup with long-term franchise potential after the first round is one of the more difficult challenges and NFL GM faces, but Daniels merits consideration because of his dual-threat ability and strong arm.
Unlike many collegiate dual-threats, Daniels isn’t quick to bail on his pocket, seeking to make plays with his arm first. He has a cannon, able to drive the ball all over the field, but accuracy has been the biggest knock on his game, particularly the consistency with his deep ball.
On the plus side, his completion percentage is way up this year, sitting at 70.1% through six games, after hovering just above 60% his first two seasons.
The other issue with Daniels is his size. At 6-foot-3, height isn’t an issue, but he’s listed at 185 pounds, concerningly slender when expected to hold up against the potential punishment that comes with the territory of a quarterback not afraid to make plays with their feet.