College football is moving into conference play around the country. The Detroit Lions will have their collegiate scouts out and about at several games to investigate some potential draft prospects of interest.
There are several games that feature multiple prospects of interest, including two matchups in the Great Lakes region that the Lions staff is confirmed to be credentialed for attending. The prospects here are largely drawn from those matchups.
Here are eight prospects to watch on Saturday, September 23rd with an eye for how they might appeal to the Lions in the 2024 NFL draft.
Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
Egbuka isn’t as renowned or lofty as teammate Marvin Harrison Jr., but that makes him more likely to fall into the first-round range where the Lions could realistically select him.
The 6-foot-1 speedster is a high-end playmaker outside the numbers, but Egbuka has enough play strength and short-area quickness to win anywhere on the field. He’s feisty and he’s smart–two traits that are scouting catnip for Brad Holmes’ Lions.
Egbuka and the Buckeyes will be in action in South Bend against Notre Dame on Saturday night in a game where the Lions are confirmed to have two reserved press box seats set aside.
Blake Fisher, OT, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s left tackle is Joe Alt, a very likely top-10 overall pick. But their right tackle, Blake Fisher, seems like a more Lions-type of prospect and range where he’s a realistic choice.
Fisher is 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds of nasty energy. He missed most of 2021 with an injury and spent much of 2022 getting back to full speed. Fisher looks spry and more comfortable engaging in space this year, and his draft stock is looking better by the week. Ohio State has some intriguing edge rushers that should challenge Fisher more than he’s seen thus far in 2023.
Marist Liufau, LB, Notre Dame
Liufau was very impressive working between the tackles in Notre Dame’s win over Wake Forest. He’s shown growth in athleticism and reactive foot quickness in his senior season. Liufau, listed at 239 pounds, has also shown some ability to generate pressure off the edge without sacrificing containment on the mobile QBs.
He’s generally expected to be a Day 3 prospect, a draft range where the Lions could be looking for more young off-ball LB help to supplement 2023 first-rounder Jack Campbell.
Jackson Powers-Johnson, OC, Oregon
Powers-Johnson is Oregon’s center this year, but his versatile background makes him appealing as a potential Lions target. He’s played both guard spots and also started at defensive tackle for the Ducks.
Much like ex-Lions reserve OL Evan Brown, Powers-Johnson has initial power with his punch but doesn’t always have the bulk or brute strength to sustain it. He wins by following up the punch with quick hands and coordinated feet. Powers-Johnson has all the trappings of a long-term reserve lineman who can capably step in and start if needed.
Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon
Franklin is built similarly to Jameson Williams, but he’s got a different style of game. The speed is not as high-end, but the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Franklin has more wiggle to his speed and route-running.
He wins from the slot, but he’s not really a slot receiver. Franklin can win outside, but he’s not a straight outside receiver either. A likely first-rounder, the Ducks standout is a flexible weapon with good-not-great hands and ability after the catch.
Franklin and Powers-Johnson will play in front of Lions representation when Oregon hosts upstart Colorado in a big PAC-12 game on Saturday night.
Xavier Weaver, WR, Colorado
Weaver gets a little overshadowed in the Sanders family hype in Boulder, but he’s definitely elevated his NFL draft profile with a strong start. A transfer from South Florida, Weaver is a polished receiver with good feet and excellent precision to his routes.
One area where he’s thrived is in quickly transitioning from receiver to runner. While he’s not big at 6-foot-1 and 180, he’s got decent play strength and can run through arm tackles. Ask Nebraska…
Max Melton, CB, Rutgers
Melton is off to a great start for the Scarlet Knights, who quietly have one of the best scoring defenses in the nation. In limited playing time–thanks to blowout wins over Northwestern, Virginia Tech and Temple, Melton has broken up three of the six passes thrown his way. That includes an INT at Northwestern.
Now Melton gets a big step up in class of opponent when Rutgers heads to Michigan in a noon kick on Saturday. Melton is good at baiting QBs in off-man and zone coverage. Yet he’s also shown he can play more physically when asked. A good game against J.J. McCarthy and the Wolverines could solidify Melton as a Day 2 prospect.
Kris Jenkins, DL, Michigan
Jenkins has the size and strength to make an instant impact in the NFL, bulking up for his senior season to hit over 300 pounds. He’s the featured performer of a deep rotation for the Wolverines and could have been a top-50 overall pick in 2023.
Now he’s back, bigger and better than ever. There isn’t a lot of range to Jenkins’ game, but his father made a very good living for years in the NFL without being able to move much laterally either. The younger Jenkins isn’t as brute strong in hi anchor as his dad, but he’s got the same powerful hands and surprising quickness for a guy his size. He’s look very nice playing with Alim McNeill in Detroit, if the Lions are interested in a likely first-round DT.