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.
The list aims 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.
Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State (No. 88)
Michigan State at Ohio State, noon, ABC
We haven’t included a tight end on the list all season, but the Lions need more than just T.J. Hockenson at the position, particularly if they’re going to remain committed to the run.
This offseason, Detroit looked for a stopgap solution, signing Josh Hill — who eventually retired — before turning to Darren Fells. That didn’t work out either, as the two sides agreed to mutually part ways earlier this month. That’s left undrafted rookie Brock Wright to serve as the No. 2 tight end on the roster.
To Wright’s credit, he’s flashed some potential, particularly as a blocker, but there’s a reason he caught just seven passes during his college career. And even though the Lions have said he has under-the-radar ability in that department, he hasn’t been getting much separation when the team has attempted to target him in his first few games.
Ruckert offers a potential upgrade in the middle rounds. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he has an adequate frame to handle the majority of the inline blocking responsibilities for the position, and isn’t too bulky to execute assignments in space. For the Buckeyes, he’s been asked to regularly do both and shows the desired willingness.
As a pass catcher, his contributions have been modest, but have expanded during his senior year. Through the first nine games, he has 22 grabs for 256 yards. And he’s been a scoring threat throughout his collegiate career, with 12 of his 50 catches resulting in touchdowns.
Myjai Sanders, Edge, Cincinnati (No. 21)
SMU at Cincinnati, 3:30, ESPN
The Lions’ pass rush looked improved early in the season, but has regressed back to the disappointing levels of recent years. With top edge defender Romeo Okwara on the shelf after tearing his Achilles, the team ranks 30th in both pressure rate and sacks.
Sanders would offer another jolt of athleticism on the edge, a player who has a solid mix of length, burst, speed and power. In 2020, he was one of the conference’s most-disruptive pass rushers, racking up seven sacks and batting down five passes in 10 games for the Bearcats.
He’s continued to affect the pocket this season, but the sacks haven’t been there. Despite registering a steady amount of hits and hurries, he’s only been able to drop the opposing passer twice.
On the plus side, Sanders isn’t a one-trick pony. His length and active hand usage help him consistently set the edge against the run. He’s been graded one of his conference’s best at his position in that department by analytics site Pro Football Focus. But with a lean frame, similar to Julian Okwara’s, Sanders would probably need to add weight and strength to port the success to the next level.
A major question mark, in terms of Detroit’s interest, would be Sanders’ ability to drop into coverage. Cincinnati has rarely asked him to do it, but it would be a necessary skill he’d have to develop to play in coordinator Aaron Glenn’s scheme, potentially limiting Sanders’ ability to earn consistent playing time as a rookie.
Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, South Carolina (No. 1)
Auburn at South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN
Sticking with edge defenders, Enagbare’s non-stop motor feels like a strong fit for the culture coach Dan Campbell is trying to instill in Detroit.
But while the effort is the first thing that stands out with Enagbare’s game, he certainly has a developable skill set off the edge, both as a pass rusher and run defender. He’s been particularly effective getting after the quarterback, using a variety of rush moves to go both around and get inside offensive tackles.
A first-team All-SEC contributor a year ago, he finished his junior season with 30 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles in eight games.
Unlike Sanders, Enagbare does have some experience dropping into coverage, making for a potentially easier transition if he were to be selected by the Lions on the draft’s second day.
There are some injury concerns after a pair of hip surgeries in 2019 and 2020, but he’s managed to appear in all 10 games this season.
Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming (No. 48)
Wyoming at Utah State, 8 p.m., CBSSN
A couple years back, we highlighted Muma’s former Wyoming teammate Logan Wilson as a potential fit for the Lions. He ended up going a little earlier in the draft than many expected, No. 65 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals, but the scouting report held true as he’s developed into one of the league’s best young inside linebackers.
That’s not to say Muma is going to have the same success as Wilson, but there’s some intriguing mid-round potential with Wyoming’s latest linebacking prospect.
First, Muma has the build. Listed at 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, he has the length and bulk to serve as a three-down player in the NFL. And his production has exploded the past two years, starting with 71 tackles in six games last year. That’s continued into 2021, where he’s recorded 103 stops in 10 contests. Those totals are definitely Wilson-esque.
Just as importantly, Muma has started to show some production in coverage, recording the first three interceptions of his college career, bringing two back for touchdowns.
Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State (No. 2)
New Mexico at Boise State, 9 p.m., FS1
Another week, another receiver for the list, because let’s face it, the position remains at the top of Detroit’s needs.
The 6-foot, 190 pound Shakir has been productive for a while. As a sophomore in 2019, he hauled in 63 balls for 872 yards and six touchdown, following it up with 52 catches for 719 yards and the same amount of sores in half the games during the pandemic-shortened campaign in 2020.
This year, it’s been more of the same with 64 receptions, 927 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games. But over the course of his collegiate career, he’s developed from more of a purely slot option to an inside-outside threat, with strong route running, above-average body control and good hands.
Nicknamed “Swiss” because he’s as versatile as the army knife, Boise State does what it can to get the ball in Shakir’s hands as often as possible, having him situationally return kicks and punts, while working in handoffs and screen passes into his offensive usage. That’s because his ability to change directions and quickly get back to top speed make him a consistent threat to do damage in the open field. He’s among the most productive receivers after the catch in all of college football.