clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Detroit Lions 2023 draft watch: 7 prospects, including Michigan WR Ronnie Bell

This Saturday’s Detroit Lions draft watch examines some of the team’s biggest projected offseason needs.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Penn State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

This Saturday’s NFL Draft watch list of college football (November 19) features three offensive skill players, an offensive lineman who has raised eyebrows this season, and three versatile defensive backs—including one with a unique connection to a current Lions player.

If you missed any of our previous Detroit Lions draft watch installments, you can revisit them here:

  • Top 25 quarterbacks to watch in 2022
  • September 10: Kentucky QB Will Levis, Florida QB Anthony Richardson, Baylor NT Siaki Ika
  • September 17: Georgia DT Jalen Carter, SCar DT Zacch Pickens, USC WR Jordan Addison
  • September 24: Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy, Florida DT Gervon Dexter
  • October 1: Michigan RB Blake Corum, Iowa LB Jack Campbell, Alabama DB Brian Branch
  • October 8: Alabama EDGE Will Anderson, Utah CB Clark Phillips, TAMU S Antonio Anderson
  • October 15: Tennessee QB Henson Hooker, PSU CB Joey Porter, Michigan NT Mazi Smith
  • October 22: Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez, LB Noah Sewell, Clemson DT Bryan Bresee
  • October 27: Georgia CB Kelee Ringo, Michigan C Olusegun Oluwatimi
  • November 5: Georgia TE Darnell Washington, Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs, LSU WR Kayshon Boutte
  • November 12: Arkansas LB Drew Sanders, LSU EDGE B.J. Ojulari, Utah TE Dalton Kincaid

QB Watch

  • Will Levis (Kentucky) vs Georgia (1) at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
  • C.J. Stroud (Ohio State, 2) at Maryland at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Hendon Hooker (Tennessee, 5) at Spencer Rattler (South Carolina) at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Cameron Rising (Utah, 10) at Bo Nix (Oregon, 12) at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

This is Levis’ chance to put a stamp on his senior season and prove he belongs in the top 10 NFL draft conversation. Kentucky has been massively disappointing overall, but Levis—who is widely considered a top three quarterback in this class—can wipe away a lost season with a good showing against the No. 1 team in the country.

Alright, let’s get into this week’s non-quarterbacks that Lions fans should be paying attention to.

Illinois at Michigan (3) at 12:00 p.m. ET on ABC

Illinois’ Chase Brown is the nation's leading rusher with 1,442 rushing yards through 10 games, while Michigan’s Blake Corum is third on the list with 1,349 rushing yards. We previously featured Corum, so let’s kick today’s watchlist with a closer look at Brown.

Chase Brown, RB, Illinois (Senior)
5-foot-9, 211 pounds

Canadian (Ontario) born, Brown started his career off at Western Michigan before transferring to Illinois and joining his twin brother—Sydney, a starting safety for the Illini, who is also draftable—and working his way up to a starting role in 2021. Unfortunately, Brown is dealing with an injured leg and is considered questionable to play, but he has been trending up all week and Illinois is confident (at least publicly) that he will be available in this game.

Lions fit: Running back is going to be a targeted position this offseason for the Lions and if they opt to continue with a rotational backfield, Brown can offer them a different option than what they have on the current roster, and shouldn’t cost a ton of draft capital to acquire.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs profile of Brown:

“(He’s) flashed some intriguing traits that could make him an effective change-of-pace or rotational back at the NFL level. Brown has a sprinting background and that is evident when he gets the sideline—there’s a visible second gear that takes over and allows him to manufacture some chunk gains. Brown pairs that with choppy steps in short spaces, however, allowing him to jitterbug his way through traffic and find creases as they develop... Brown has also logged a handful of kickoffs as well, giving him a potential tiebreaker versus other bottom-of-the-roster running back candidates. Most of his big runs seem to have come from zone concepts, illustrating confidence in his keys and quick reactiveness to act upon developing lanes.”

Quan Martin, NB/DB, Illinois (senior)
5-foot-11, 194 pounds

Martin, a two-year starting defensive back, is an explosive athlete who lines up all over the secondary. He got his first break as a nickel corner, then expanded his duties to include time at outside corner and free safety. After his roommate departed to the NFL, Martin has been an important piece in replacing him.

Oh, and his NFL roommate: Lions safety Kerby Joseph.

Lions fit: Martin’s positional versatility—345 snaps at nickel, 173 at free safety, and 33 at outside corner—as well as his success in run support (91.2 run defense grade per PFF) and as a tackler (90.5 tackling grade) make him a tremendous fit for what the Lions do on defense. The connection to Joseph is a nice plus as well.

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler underrated mid-round players article:

“Whether lined up as a single-high safety or as a cornerback in the slot, Martin looks comfortable in space due to his range, speed and play confidence. One might wish he were a little bigger, and his aggressiveness will take him out of position at times, but he has the lower-body athleticism to stay on top of routes and shows a knack for making plays on the ball.”

Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan (senior)
6-foot-0, 190 pounds

Bell isn’t the biggest or fastest player on the field but he is gritty, consistent, and reliable. Capable of lining up at all wide receiver positions, Bell rarely needs to leave the field, and his ability to contribute as an above-average blocker makes him an asset in all aspects of an offensive scheme.

Lions fit: The Lions need depth at wide receiver and Bell has a lot of the same attributes they enjoy in Amon-Ra St. Brown.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Damian Parson’s profile of Bell:

“Ronnie Bell is an explosive and versatile wide receiver. He aligns inside and out for the Wolverines’ offense. He benefits from pre-snap movement, ghost, jet, and orbit motions. He runs good routes from all alignment positions. I value him as a route salesman. His head fakes, eyes, and body movements manipulate defensive leverage. He possesses the speed to attack all three levels of the defense. He effectively uses his vertical ability to stress defensive backs to free space for underneath route options. He presents potential returner value too. Bell’s leaping ability and length create a plus-catch radius for his quarterback.”

Georgia (1) at Kentucky at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS

If you’re already watching this game to check in on Levis, might as well take a look at a few other prospects as well.

Chris Rodriguez, RB, Kentucky (senior)
6-foot-0, 229 pounds

After leading the SEC in rushing in 2020 and 2021, Conner was suspended for the first four games this year after being arrested for a DUI in the offseason. That situation will surely be vetted by NFL teams during the draft process, but if teams leave satisfied with his answers, he has the potential to be a rotational contributor that could be found on Day 3.

Lions fit: If you’re a fan of James Conner’s (Arizona Cardinals) sunning style then you’ll enjoy Rodriguez. The Lions have struggled in short-yardage situations for a while now, but a player like Rodriguez could quickly solve that problem for Detroit.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Damian Parson’s profile of Rodriguez:

“The description of a bruising and downhill runner encapsulates Chris Rodriguez Jr. He’s a tone-setter in the most physical conference in college football. He thrives attacking between the tackles and into the teeth of the defense. His running style fits cold-weather climates. His patience and identification skills allow him space to navigate the first and second levels of the defense. He runs with good pad level and leverage, making him difficult to bring down. His punishing and physical style is exciting as he barrels through defenders and pushes the pile with his tremendous leg drive. He seeks to hammer alley defenders by lowering his shoulder. Rodriguez follows his blocks to daylight before shifting into his next gear to maximize his opportunities. He is a volume back that gets stronger as the game progresses. His disciplined approach allows him to gain what is blocked.”

Christopher Smith, Safety/Nickel, Georgia (senior)
5-foot-11, 195 pounds

Another positional versatile defensive back who can line up all over the secondary, making his biggest impact in the slot. A two-and-a-half-year starter at Georgia, Smith returned for his senior season to try and boost his draft stock.

Lions fit: Like with Quan Martin, the Lions could use some versatility in the secondary, especially in the slot.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Damian Parson’s profile of Smith:

“Christopher Smith is one of the more versatile safety prospects in college football. His football IQ allows him to align in different positions in the Bulldogs’ secondary. The former high school cornerback’s skill set resembles a Swiss army knife. He handles assignments as a deep safety, robber, and nickel corner. Smith diagnoses route combinations and depth from his designated alignment. He has a good closing burst to quickly squeeze underneath routes. As a high or post safety, Smith showcased loose hips to transition into position to make a play on the football. There’s little wasted movement breaking out of his backpedal. Last season, he flashed the potential of his ball skills with three interceptions and four passes defended. He adds a level of toughness, physicality, and swag to the defense.”

Tennessee (5) at South Carolina at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

For those looking to scout Hooker, here are a couple more prospects to keep an eye on.

Darnell Wright, RT, Tennessee (senior)
6-foot-5, 347 pounds

A four-year starter, Wright logged reps at right tackle and right guard as a freshman, was a fixture at right tackle as a sophomore, flipped over to left tackle for his junior season, then back to right tackle as a senior. In total, coming into this game, he has 24 starts at right tackle, 13 at left tackle, and two at guard.

Despite being a five-star recruit, Wright wasn’t fully noticed by the national media until this season, and he wasn’t fully appreciated until he got the better of potential No. 1 overall pick Will Anderson (Alabama) in Tennessee’s upset victory.

Lions fit: If the Lions were to grab Wright, he would surely start inside ay right guard, with the option to kick out to tackle in the future. While he has much more experience at tackle, Tennessee’s scheme asks him to pull on certain run plays, closely matching how the Lions use their guards in their gap scheme.

An excerpt from The Draft Network’s Joe Marino’s profile of Wright:

“Darnell Wright is an experienced blocker against top competition that has improved in every season. He spent his first two seasons at right tackle before kicking to left tackle in 2021 and held his own. Wright features an appealing blend of size, power, and tenacity. He has the functional strength and mass to create displacement in the run game. I really like the power in his hands and overall grip strength. His hands are not easily displaced and it’s impressive how his punch is able to stun opponents. He displays the ability to operate his hands independently and vary his strikes. Wright’s anchor is stout in pass protection and opponents won’t find success attempting to play through him. He’s a competitive blocker with ideal temperament.”

Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina (senior)
6-foot-0, 190 pounds

Smith has been very vocal about planning on matching up with Tennessee’s superstar wide receiver Jalin Hyatt—who we previously profiled—even boasting he believes he has “better odds over the top”, which is where Hyatt makes most of his noise. This matchup alone will be worth watching this game.

Lions fit: There are plenty of reasons the Lions would love to add Smith. He is comfortable in man and zone concepts, will come up and make the sure tackle, and is overflowing with confidence.

An excerpt from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s cornerback class rankings:

“Smith won’t have the fastest 40-yard dash among the cornerbacks on this list. But his instincts, ball skills and competitive toughness are the types of traits that will endear him to NFL coaches. And he isn’t a subpar athlete, by any means, showing closing burst and fluid redirect skills in coverage. If he continues to build on what he put on his 2021 tape, Smith will be a solid NFL starter.”

Subscribe to PODD

After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.