Detroit Lions 2022 draft watch: 17 top-100 prospects will battle today

Pride of Detroit

The college football season is just a week away from conference championships, with bowl games and the College Football Playoffs right around the corner. As the regular season winds down, the Detroit Lions scouts are still diligently working through their profiles while the front office is building their big board.

In this week’s Lions 2022 draft watch, we will be highlighting key matchups between 17 players who could potentially land on Detroit’s top-100 big board. Here are the games we will be focusing on today:

  • Ohio State (2) at Michigan (5) 12:00 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Penn State at Michigan State (12) 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Alabama (3) vs Auburn 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
  • Texas A&M (15) at LSU 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

If you’re interested in going back and looking at the previous watchlists to revisit some of the players profiled, you can find those links here:

Alright, let’s get to this week’s Top-100 matchups.

Ohio State (2) at Michigan (5) 12:00 p.m. ET on FOX

OSU LT Nicholas Petit-Frere (6-5, 295, Redshirt Junior) versus
UM EDGE Aidan Hutchinson (6-6, 261, Senior), David Ojabo (6-5, 250, Redshirt Soph.)

Petit-Frere started at right tackle in 2020, but his upside persuaded coached to flip him to left tackle this fall, and shift former left tackle Thayer Munford (6-5, 320, senior) inside to guard, allowing up and comer Dawand Jones (6-7, 360, Junior) to crack the starting lineup at right tackle.

All three are draft eligible—the other two starting offensive linemen are not—but Petit-Frere is the only one considered a lock to be a top-100 player. In fact, he should be considered a potential first-rounder due to his athleticism, flexibility, and upside.

Michigan’s pro-style 3-4 defense (modeled after the Baltimore Ravens) doesn’t rely on Hutchinson or Ojabo playing a specific side and instead will flip them around looking for the best matchup. Each defender brings a different skill set to their games and has enough in their toolbox to keep offensive tackles off balance.

Hutchinson looks like a long lost Watt brother, bringing the power of JJ and the bend of TJ to the table, and can win in a multitude of ways. He’s a top-five pick with No. 1 overall aspirations.

Ojabo only started playing football in 2017 and is extremely raw still, but there is no denying his athleticism/upside, and he is going to have teams picking in the bottom half of the first round interested in him, if he makes the jump to the NFL. He reminds me of Penn State’s EDGE Jayson Oweh, who despite also being very raw, was selected with the 31st pick in the 2020 draft by the Ravens.

Expect Petit-Frere to face off against both Hutchinson and Ojabo in this game, which should give scouts a lot of information about the three potential first-rounders.

OSU WR Garrett Wilson (6-0, 186, Junior), Chris Olave (6-0, 185, Senior) versus
UM DB Daxton Hill (6-0, 195, Junior)

Speaking of three potential first-rounders, not only does this game feature three studs in the trenches but they have three skill players who are each among the top-five best players at their position and could all hear their names called in the first 32 picks.

As is the case at several positions in this draft cycle, there is no clear No. 1 player at their position, but Wilson and Olave are both in contention to be the first wide receiver selected.

Wilson can play both on the outside and in the slot, chewing up the cushion and creating separation early in his routes. His ability to put his foot in the ground and make hard cuts before and after the catch are elite. He understands route concepts, gains leverage on all varieties of defensive backs, and can make plays all over the field.

Olave is also an above-average separator, as his routes are precise and crisp. He spends most of his time on the outside but the Buckeyes will also shift him inside. He’s capable of creating a big target at all three levels, but his deep route concepts are where he will find a home in the NFL.

Hill is a new-aged hybrid defensive back, capable of lining up in single-high, split zone, in the slot, and on the outside at corner. He has legit sub-4.4 speed and isn’t afraid to stick his nose into the mix in run defense. Don’t be surprised if he is the second safety off the board after Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton.

While Michigan likes to move Hill around, I don’t expect them to spend a significant amount of time matching him up against either Ohio State receiver, instead, letting the matchups happen organically. When a situation does call for isolation, look for Hill to take one receiver and Vincent Gray (6-1, 191, Senior) the other.

Penn State at Michigan State (12) 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

MSU RB Kenneth Walker III (5-10, 212, Junior) versus
PSU LB Brandon Smith (6-3, 245, Junior), Safety Jaquan Brisker (6-1, 200, Senior)

Walker jumped into the Heisman race after just one game in East Lansing and week after week, he has proven to be a dominating force on the ground. Unfortunately, he injured his ankle last week against Ohio State and his status is still up in the air for this game. Furthermore, it’s being reported that the Spartans have been hit by the flu and could be without as many as 20 players, including “6-8 starters” per Brett McMurphy, and it’s not known if Walker is amongst that group.

If Walker is able to play, he will surely be the offensive focus, as he is arguably the best running back in college football, and if he jumps for the NFL, could be the first back selected.

Tasked with stopping Walker will be Nittnay Lions LB Smith and safety Brisker, who both look like Day 2 prospects.

Brisker doesn’t quite have Hill’s range at safety, but he is very position flexible, capable of playing split zone, single-high, in the slot, and as a robber. He is a plus tackler, which will be extremely important when trying to stop Walker, but he has recently displayed some ball skills and created turnovers.

Smith was one of the first players I profiled this season because he is a freaky athlete who has a rare size (6-3, 245) and speed (rumored sub-4.4 40-yard-dash) combo. He’s improving against the run and in coverage but he’ll have his hands full with Walker—assuming he plays.

Alabama (3) vs Auburn 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS

Bama WR Jameson Williams (6-2, 189, Junior), John Metchie III (5-11, 196, Junior) versus
AUB CB Roger McCreary (6-0, 190, Senior), FS Smoke Monday (6-1, 200, Senior)

Challenging Ohio State’s duo to be the first wide receiver off the board is Williams, who is an Ohio State transfer. He was behind Wilson and Olave on the Buckeyes depth chart, but a transfer to Tuscaloosa has opened up doors for him and he is thriving at Alabama. With 4.3 speed, he can pressure defensive backs all over the field. He has the ability to catch a slat and take it to the house, and just as easily run past defenders on vertical routes.

Heading into the season, Metchie was thought of as the next great Bama receiver but he has been overshadowed by Williams. Metchie is an inside/out receiver who creates separation with speed and creativity. He routinely sets up moves with his ability to accelerate and deaccelerate, consistently finding ways to get open.

McCreary is Auburn’s best defender but he will have a daunting task in front of him today. He possesses the long speed to hang with the Bama receivers, and he is athletic enough to challenge them at different spots on the field, but he is going to need some help.

While Monday is an intriguing safety prospect—like the other safeties profiled today, he can play in a split zone scheme, as a deep defender, over the slot in coverage, and in the box—and if he is going to make any noise today it may be by baiting Bama quarterback Bryce Young (not draft-eligible as a true sophomore) into some risky throws.

Texas A&M (15) at LSU 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

TAMU RB Isaiah Spiller (6-1, 225, Junior), WR/RB Ainias Smith (5-10, 190, Junior), and TE Jalen Wydermyer (6-5, 255, Junior) versus
LSU LB Damone Clark (6-3, 245, Senior)

Spiller entered the season as RB1 on several draft boards and he will challenge MSU’s Walker to be the first running back drafted. With above-average vision, patience, and contact balance as a runner, as well as terrific passing game skills, he has the potential to be RB1 in an NFL rotation.

Smith is a hybrid offensive playmaker who lines up in the slot, on the outside, and in the backfield, reminding some of Curtis Samuel in his skill set. He uses his speed, quickness, and suddenness, to set up his routes and separate from defenders, but isn’t going to be a team’s primary option which should push his stock to Rounds 2 or 3.

Wydermyer may be the top tight end prospect in this class based on projectability, but there are still flaws to his game that he will need to clean up before he can be a TE1 in the NFL. He is a savvy route runner and capable of making the tough catch, which should draw attention on Day 2.

Clark has flown a bit under the radar this season because his tape wasn’t great in previous seasons. But in 2021, the light came on and he is developing into a terrific prospect. Highly intelligent, Clark is an off-the-ball MIKE who can blitz, stop the run, and carry slot receivers in zone and man coverage. There will be times in this game where Clark will be matched up with all three Aggies, and if he shows the ability to hang with all three his stock will continue to rise up draft boards.

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