Detroit Lions 2023 NFL Draft watch: Five prospects to watch for Week 7

Detroit News

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 2023 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.

Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan (No. 86)

Penn State at Michigan, 12 p.m., Fox

When it comes to Michigan’s tight ends, Erick All came into the season with more draft hype after catching 38 passes for 437 yards during a breakout campaign in 2021. But with All currently on the shelf, Schoonmaker’s playing time has doubled and he’s building his own resume for NFL decision-makers to consider.

An advanced blocker, particularly in pass protection, Schoonmaker spends about 80% of his playing time working off-tackle. Despite not flexing into the slot all that often, he’s proving he can still be a reliable component to a pass game, averaging nearly four receptions through Michigan’s first six games, while finding the end zone five times in his past 15 appearances.

Detroit has invested plenty into Brock Wright’s development two years after signing him as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, but the dividends have been middling thus far. He’s struggled the most as a run-blocker, where the team leans on him most frequently when he’s on the field.

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama (No. 9)

Alabama at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m., CBS

As the losses rack up for the Lions, the quarterback conversation comes back into play. Is Jared Goff the reason the team is floundering? No, that’s not an accurate description of how things have unfolded so far, but he still remains well outside the elite tier at the position, and his propensity for a killer turnover isn’t going away.

With the prospect of a contract extension paying north of $40 million per season, the franchise must continue to explore all possibilities. And if Detroit ends up with a top-five draft pick, Young might be as good as it gets if a new, long-term solution is considered.

He certainly doesn’t offer a prototypical frame for the position, at 6-foot, 195 pounds, but Young maximizes his skill set, which includes a strong arm, quick processing and footwork to escape pocket pressure, while keeping his eyes downfield and maintaining a throw-first mentality before scrambling.

When his pocket collapses, which admittedly isn’t all that often throwing behind Alabama’s offensive line, Young’s ability to roll out, locate a receiver and reset his feet and shoulders is reminiscent of prime Russell Wilson.

The 2021 Heisman winner has avoided major injury during his time at Alabama, but he’s currently working through a shoulder issue that merits monitoring. For the season, he’s completing 67.3% of his passes with 14 touchdowns to three interceptions.

Willie Lampkin, OL, Coastal Carolina (No. 57)

Old Dominion at Coastal Carolina, 12 p.m., ESPNU

Not every draft pick is going to project as a starter. With Evan Brown set to be an unrestricted free agent, and putting together enough tape to merit a pay raise and a potential shot at a starting job, the Lions will likely be priced out of retaining his services. That will put the team in position to add interior offensive-line depth via the draft.

Let’s be clear, Lampkin is undersized, to the point where you aren’t sure if it can work at the next level. But the college performance is simply too good to not explore the possibility. A state-champion wrestler, he has an advanced understanding of leverage and hand usage, which allows him to keep pass rushers away from his quarterback. After allowing just five pressures on 387 pass sets in 2021, he’s back at it again this year, allowing two through nearly 200 pass-blocking snaps.

He’s also good in space, whether pulling, climbing or getting out in front of screen passes, which allows him to still be effective in the run game, even if he’ll never be a mauler.

Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson (No. 11)

Clemson at Florida State, 7:30 p.m., ABC

It’s time to consider Levi Onwuzurike’s back might be a permanent issue and he’ll never offer meaningful contributions for the Lions. That would be an unfortunate blemish on general manager Brad Holmes’ resume, but you compound the mistake by lingering on it. The team shouldn’t hesitate to find more interior talent to pair with promising and productive nose tackle Alim McNeill.

Breesee comes with his own injury concerns, having missed most of last season because of a torn ACL. He’s still working toward proving he’s back to form, and after missing the last two games for non-football reasons, a nationally televised game against the Seminoles provides a good opportunity to remind people why he’s previously been discussed as a top-10 talent.

Breesee has an NFL-ready frame, at 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, and plays with good power and exceptional burst off the snap from the inside. A quality run defender who is strong enough to take on double-teams and athletic enough to make plays moving laterally, that latter skill shows up with his ability to penetrate the pocket when lined up across from an opposing guard. In his seven starts across the past two seasons, he’s generated 21 quarterback pressures.

Isaiah Foskey, Edge, Notre Dame (No. 7)

Stanford at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC

The Lions have been generating QB pressure at a slightly better rate than last year, but have had to do so by leaning more heavily on the blitz. That’s because the front four aren’t consistently winning their individual matchups as pass rushers.

Now, there’s every reason to believe things will eventually click for Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 pick in the most recent draft, but Charles Harris has regressed after his unexpected breakout season, Romeo Okwara, whenever he gets back, might never be the same after tearing his Achilles, and Julian Okwara and Austin Bryant have yet to show any consistency as professionals.

Therefore, the Lions need to continue to seek talent on the edges, and Foskey is going to be one of the top options in this class.

Breaking out with 10.0 sacks during his junior campaign last season, the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder is proving more disruptive off the edge this season, even if the sack numbers might be a little down. He tallied 32 total quarterback pressures in 13 games last season, but already has 18 through five contests this year.

Foskey brings to the table a nice combination of length, burst and hand usage, while showcasing the versatility to play multiple spots within the defensive front for the Irish. He’ll need to continue to add strength and improve his leverage to consistently set an edge against NFL offensive tackles, but that’s of secondary concern to Detroit’s need for more talent capable of affecting the quarterback.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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