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NFL draft prospects for the Lions to watch in college football Week 4

It’s Week 4 of the college football season, one week ahead of the NFL’s Week 3. And there are quite a few NFL draft prospects to watch across the big slate of college games on Saturday.

The prospect watch got off to a strong start on Friday night with an impressive but uneven performance by Liberty QB Malik Willis in the Flames’ last-second loss to Syracuse. Willis completed 14-of-19 passes for 206 yards and three TDs and also ran for 49 yards.

Who else should Lions fans pay attention to on Saturday with an eye for the 2022 NFL draft? Here are eight players to know for CFB Week 4.

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Hamilton is the top safety prospect in this class, and thus far it’s not even close. He’s a premium talent with exceptional range, ball skills and quick-twitch instincts that call to mind Ed Reed or Darren Sharper on the field. He might be the biggest difference-maker on defense in the entire draft class. He’s known for his range and INTs in coverage, but this clip against Purdue highlights just how good Hamilton is at making plays in the run game, too: Hamilton and the Fighting Irish take on Wisconsin (12 p.m., FOX) in one of the weekend’s better matchups

Adam Anderson, EDGE, Georgia

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Anderson was PFF’s top-graded pass rusher in 2020 and has picked up where he left off with three sacks already in 2021. He’s an undersized (listed at 226 pounds) pass rush specialist but Anderson can absolutely fly around the edge. His overall defensive impression has improved in the young college season. Anderson’s next tackle will equal his season total from 13 games a year ago. Lions fans who coveted Brian Burns a couple of draft cycles ago will find a lot to like in Anderson. He’s not much use in the NFL unless he can bulk up to at least 240 pounds but appears on his way. Anderson and the Bulldogs play Vanderbilt (12 p.m. SEC Network).

Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Wydermyer is the Aggies’ top receiving threat and a massive target at 6-5 and 256 pounds with what appears to be giant hands. He’s a very physical mover after the catch. The blocking isn’t outstanding but the effort and power are there. He’s one of the top tight end prospects in the upcoming draft and has proven he can work with a variety of quarterbacks. Wydermyer would be a candidate for the Lions pick in the second round. Remember–T.J. Hockenson will be the only TE under contract after 2021. And Dan Campbell once played Wydermyer’s exact role at Texas A&M… Wydermyer and the Aggies are facing Arkansas (3:30 p.m., CBS). We profiled a couple of Razorbacks last week, too.

Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor

(AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Pitre is a redshirt senior whose game has morphed from an undersized linebacker to a playmaking safety in the “star” role in Baylor’s defense. Emphasis on playmaker: Pitre returned two INTs for TDs in 2020. In 2021, playing in a similar role to the way Michigan used Jabrill Peppers, Pitre has five TFLs and a sack in the first three games. He’s not as big or speedy as Peppers but appears to have more natural instincts in coverage, especially deeper from the line of scrimmage. The likely Day 2 selection and his Baylor mates host Iowa State (3:30 p.m., FOX) in a big game in the Big 12.

Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

McBride is one of the big-time early draft risers in 2021. He showed why in the Rams’ game against Toledo with a truly astonishing performance, He was known more for his blocking coming into the season, but McBride has improved his burst and quickness off the snap and into routes. The big frame and strong hands have always been there. McBride and the Rams play Iowa (3 p.m., FS1), the best defense he will see all season. If he posts another impressive game, don’t be surprised to start seeing McBride more consistently projected into Day 2.

Amari Gainer, LB, Florida State

Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

It feels like Gainer has been at Florida State for 10 years and played every possible linebacker position. In that regard, he’s got some similarity to Detroit’s Derrick Barnes. He’s smaller (235 lbs) and faster than Barnes was coming out of Purdue. The thing to pay attention to in this clip is Gainer’s open-field speed and ability to not overrun his mark. A good QB throws this ball away, but that’s not Gainer’s fault… Gainer and the winless Seminoles host Louisville (7 p.m., ESPN2) in a good game to evaluate Gainer’s ability in the passing game. He’s a middle-round prospect with a high floor as an off-ball LB.

Tre Swilling, CB, Georgia Tech

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, he’s the son of longtime NFL linebacker Pat Swilling. And at 6-foot and 200 pounds, he’s got a legit NFL build at outside cornerback with the physicality you’d expect from the son of a great linebacker. Swilling was brilliant as a freshman, a natural ballhawk and impact talent. He’s never really emerged beyond that early promise, though his game earlier this season against Northern Illinois showed considerable potential. Swilling gets another chance to prove himself against pass-happy North Carolina and QB Sam Howell (7:30 p.m., ACC Network). The arrow is pointing back up, and a big play or two against the highly-touted Howell could push Swilling back into the third/fourth-round conversations.

George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Karlaftis is the latest in a long line of Purdue pass rushers, and he might be the most impressive athlete of the group that includes Cliff Avril and Ryan Kerrigan. He’s unusually quick for a 275-pound DE, and he has the power to play the 5-tech and still be effective. There is real polish to Karlaftis’ game already. His hand usage stands out on film. Karlaftis might fall into the first-round void between where the Lions use their own pick and where the Rams’ selection comes off the board. But he’s a definite player to watch against Illinois (3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) and the thought of reuiniting him with Derrick Barnes in Detroit is very appealing.



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