Lions draft prospect of the day: Malik Mustapha, S, Wake Forest

Today’s Lions Draft Prospect of the Day is one of the most physically impressive figures in the 2024 draft class. 

The focus for these potential Lions prospects is on players who should hold some appeal for Detroit in the draft. Not all will be top-100 players, though today’s featured player could threaten to crack that mark. 

Malik Mustapha, S, Wake Forest

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 209 pounds (measured at NFL Scouting Combine)

Mustapha was a three-year player and two-year starter for a good Demon Deacons defense, primarily playing as a box safety. A transfer from Richmond after one year, Mustapha racked up 175 tackles, four sacks, 10 pass breakups, four INTs and also forced four fumbles in his three years in Winston-Salem. He was a team captain in his final season and appeared in the Senior Bowl. He led all DBs in bench press reps at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine with 22.

The Lions met with Mustapha at the Senior Bowl and informally at the combine. Age is not verified, but he was in the high school class of 2020.

What I like

  • Very impressive muscular build

  • Despite being very muscular, he’s not stiff as an athlete

  • Big-time hitter with an enforcer mentality in short-area coverage and run defense

  • Really good closing burst to the point of attack; GPS timed over 23 MPH in-game

  • Impactful between-the-tackles run defense, an excellent terminator of interior run plays

  • Good at avoiding blocks, and his angles to the ball have shown improvement

  • Disciplined in containment and gap assignment in the run game

  • Can turn and run with any RB or TE in coverage

What worries me going into the NFL

  • Bites hard on play-action and well-run route fakes and has never gotten better at avoiding it

  • Can be very late to recognize the ball in the air

  • Does have special teams experience but missed as many tackles (6) as he made for Wake Forest in kick coverage

  • Lacks length in coverage

  • Has an oddly small tackling radius with short arms (30″)

  • Missed tackle rate over 18 percent for three years, did improve in 2023 (12.5% per PFF)

  • Instincts in coverage are spotty

  • Wasn’t asked to blitz despite often being in an alignment where he could


Mustapha has a first-guy-off-the-bus build and the explosive athleticism to match. He did play some high safety and a little bit of heavy slot in college, but Mustapha doesn’t have the savviness or ball awareness in coverage to do that very often. In the NFL, he’s a box safety who is really more of an undersized linebacker. Think of a shorter Miles Killebrew but with much better run defense. Mustapha generally projects in the 90-150 overall range, an area where the Lions don’t currently have any selections.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire