Allen Park — Each week 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 2020 NFL Draft, based on the team's projected needs.
Every week, the list will aim to highlight a variety of early-, mid- and late-round prospects. This will give you a chance to watch the players performing live, instead of playing catch-up the weeks before the draft.
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina (No. 3)
No. 9 Florida at South Carolina | 12 p.m. | ESPN
Prior to this season, I wouldn't have included a defensive tackle with Kinlaw's skill set in these prospect watches, but after the Lions signed Mike Daniels during training camp, you can see a pathway for a pass-rushing interior lineman to have an impact on this roster. And given the Lions have shown a propensity for rushing just three on passing downs, a player who can consistently win on the inside would be a beneficial asset.
Kinlaw has a great build, listed at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds with long limbs. He also possesses excellent burst at the snap which allows him to generate steady backfield disruption from his interior alignment. He's already recorded a personal-best five sacks on the year, as well as a blocked kick.
Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State (No. 6)
No. 2 LSU at Mississippi State | 3:30 p.m. | CBS
With Christian Jones' contract expiring, and Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin entering the final year of their rookie contracts, the Lions would be wise to bolster the depth of their linebacking corps this offseason.
It's not a certainty that Gay Jr. will play in this game. He's been intermittently serving a suspension for a violation of team rules relating to academics. But given the magnitude of the matchup, there's a good chance the Bulldogs will want him on the field this week.
Athletic, physical and strong, Gay Jr. plays with a documented passion NFL decision-makers crave. Stellar in coverage, he had a pick-six in one of the two games he's played this year, after recording two interceptions in six starts a year ago.
Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State (No. 2)
No. 18 Baylor at Oklahoma State | 4 p.m. | FOX
A potential Marvin Jones replacement, Wallace is a lean, mean route-running machine with above-average short-area burst and long speed. He has shown a knack for getting separation against man-to-man looks and making tough catches against tight coverage when the defensive back is able to stick with him through his route break.
During his college career, he's averaged a healthy 17.5 yards per catch and has a nose for the end zone. Last year, as a true sophomore, he hauled in 12 touchdown receptions. Through six games this year, he's scoring at an even faster clip, crossing the goal line seven times in six games.
Blake Gillikin, P, Penn State (No. 33)
No. 16 Michigan at No. 7 Penn State | 7:30 p.m. | ABC
It was going to happen sooner than later, a punter making this list. What better time to do it than for a game many of you will be watching anyway?
Gillikin set the PSU record by averaging 44.0 yards per boot last season. He has a big leg, with a half dozen punts going at least 65 yards, including a 74-yard effort against Michigan a year ago. More importantly, he does a good job keeping the ball out of the end zone, with 39 of his punts (nearly one in five) downed inside the 10-yard line during his college career.
Like Detroit's Sam Martin, who is set to be a free agent at season's end, Gilliken also handles kickoffs and place holding duties for the Nittany Lions.
Also, come on, check out this sweet mullet.
Alex Leatherwood OL, Alabama (No. 70)
Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama | 9 p.m. | ESPN
There's some uncertainty with Detroit's offensive line after this season. There's still no clarity on whether the team will re-sign Graham Glasgow, backup guard Kenny Wiggins is set to be a free agent and there's a $6 million conversation about whether to move forward with Rick Wagner at right tackle. Plus, left tackle Taylor Decker is entering the final season, a non-guaranteed option year, of his rookie contract.
So the Lions can't rule out an possibility when it comes to this year's draft.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Leatherwood is versatile, having played guard and tackle for the Crimson Tide. A highly athletic lineman with exceptional quickness at the snap, he has a high ceiling if his technique can be refined via coaching and development.