Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
This is a great Saturday to watch some college football. There are several excellent matchups on the slate, and some of those feature NFL prospects who would fit in the Honolulu Blue and Silver.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Big Ten followers know a lot about Shazier, and his national profile will only grow after this prime time affair. Shazier is a classic 4-3 weakside backer, on the smaller side at 6’2” and 225, but like Tampa’s Lavonte David, he has outstanding range and good power for his size. More pertinent for Lions fans, Shazier is very good at making plays on the football. Wisconsin is a tough test for him, as they sport a physical line and perhaps the best RB in the nation in Melvin Gordon, who reminds me of former Buckeye Robert Smith more than a little bit. If Shazier shows he can bring down Gordon and James White in space, as well as keep himself clean from blockers, this game cements Shazier as a top 25 talent. If the Lions are interested in addressing that spot early, Ryan Shazier would be a great option. This is the Brent Musburger/Kirk Herbstreit special on the ABC family of networks.
Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame
Saunders is the skinny successor to Ryan Broyles as the Sooners’ slot receiver. He is perhaps the quickest player in America, right there with Oregon’s DeAnthony Thomas and Northwestern’s Venric Mark. Despite weighing 165 pounds soaking wet, Saunders does have strong hands and surprisingly strong ankles and feet to break tackles. Two things to watch with Saunders: can he run away from defenders in open space, and can he block? Those are both significant questions in his draft stock. The Lions have placed a renewed emphasis on perimeter blocking, and Oklahoma figures to try and run outside the tackles to avoid Notre Dame’s excellent interior defensive line. How well Saunders handles those assignments will help determine if he’s a 2nd round pick or a 5th round pick. If he slides closer to the latter, Detroit figures to have interest. You can watch on NBC at 3:30 ET if you can tolerate Mike Mayock’s incessant Irish homerism. I’ll be at the game in person checking out Saunders and others.
Sean Parker, S, Washington vs. Arizona
When you watch the Huskies safety, you can be forgiven if you think you’re watching a thicker version of Louis Delmas. Parker isn’t as fluid as the Lions safety, but they share a stylistic zeal for being ball-seeking missiles of boundless energy. Like Delmas, his aggressiveness plays against him at times, and you’ll notice he dives when he tackles too often. What better injury insurance for Delmas’ chronically touchy knees than a younger and slightly smaller version of him? Parker figures to be a 3rd-5th round pick, his ceiling limited by his size (listed at 5’10” and 185) and average open field speed. He’s a very smart, instinctive, and intense football player, and you can watch him attack RichRod’s gimmicky Arizona offense on Fox at 7 PM ET. This is Gus Johnson’s call; you’ve been forewarned.
John Fulton, CB, Alabama vs. Ole Miss
Don’t hold Mike Evans’ outstanding performance in the win over Texas A&M against Fulton, because everyone is going to struggle with the Megatron-sized Aggie wideout. Fulton has the size and speed the Lions like in a corner; at a legit 6’ and mid 4.4 time in the 40, Fulton has the physical measurable Detroit covets. He’s been battling turf toe and it has hurt his burst to the ball somewhat. Fulton fits the Nick Saban physical press corner mold, and he consistently demonstrates strong hands. He’s a late-round prospect that isn’t getting much attention right now. Watch how he handles Ole Miss wideout Donte Moncrief, another physical wideout like Evans. This is the 6:30 PM ET feature game on ESPN, with the always pleasant Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge on the call. For the gambling crowd, I like Ole Miss +14.5 quite a bit.
Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia vs. LSU
He’s not the fastest guy off the line, but Lynch plays a role for the Bulldogs similar to how the Lions use Brandon Pettigrew. He’s a physical in-line blocker who can release pretty well after chipping on the edge rusher. LSU has rangy linebackers that can all run, and safety Craig Loston closes quickly on the ball. Watch to see if Lynch can create space for himself after he releases, and also if he can handle himself down blocking in the run game. Lynch is a third day prospect who could develop into a solid #2 tight end in the NFL, and he has the frame to easily bulk up to 270+ pounds. There are scads of prospects to watch in this game, the featured viewing on CBS at 3:30 Eastern. If you fancy yourself a draft evaluator, you need to DVR this and watch it at least three times.