It’s 2023 NFL Draft watch season. With the Detroit Lions sitting at the bottom of the league at 1-6 in the middle of a five-game losing streak, there isn’t much hope on the horizon for the 2022 season. And with Tuesday’s big trade of T.J. Hockenson, even the front office is starting to prioritize the vision beyond this year.
So for our weekly 2023 NFL Draft picks watch, we’re expanding our view for the rest of the season. Not only are we tracking the Lions’ two first-round picks (thanks, Rams), but we’ll now be tracking their pair of second-round picks with the Minnesota Vikings’ selection now possessed by Detroit.
Note: Remember tiebreakers are decided by strength of schedule. Tankathon, the resource we reference for this article, uses the full 17-game schedule to calculate strength of schedule, not just games played thus far.
Lions’ pick: First overall
The Lions remain fairly comfortably in the first overall pick spot. The Lions and the Texans (1-5-1) are the only one-win team left in the NFL, but there are four teams that have just two wins (Panthers, Steelers, Jaguars, and Raiders). That means the Lions could theoretically jump way down in the draft order with another win or two. Working against their favor in keeping a high draft pick is their current strength of schedule, which is at .576 for the entire season—the second-toughest schedule in the NFL. Remember, if two teams have the same overall record, the higher pick goes to the team with the easier schedule.
Next week: vs. Packers (3-5)
Rams’ pick: 14th overall
The Rams’ loss to the 49ers has sent them to 3-4 and out of a current playoff spot. If Los Angeles misses the playoffs this year, the pick will be no lower than 18.
According to Football Outsiders, the Rams’ current playoff odds are just 21.6 percent. That makes sense considering they’re currently third in their own division, behind the 5-3 Seahawks and a 49ers team (4-4) that has already swept them.
Unfortunately for the Rams—and fortunately for the Lions—the schedule doesn’t really ease up for Los Angeles. Per Football Outsiders, their remaining schedule is the 10th-hardest in the NFL.
Next week: @ Buccaneers (3-5)
Lions’ second-round pick: 33 (but really 32)
Obviously, the Lions currently have the first pick in the second round. However, the Dolphins have forfeited their first-round pick due to tampering allegations. So Detroit is technically in line for the 32nd pick in the draft, even though it’s Round 2, Pick 1.
Vikings’ second-round pick: 62 (but really 61)
The Vikings currently hold the NFL’s second-best record at 6-1, only behind the Philadelphia Eagles. They’re comfortably the NFC’s two-seed, as they’ve got a 3.5-game lead in the NFC North, and they’ve got a little separation between the non-Eagles division leader (5-3 Seahawks, 4-4 Falcons).
With their playoff odds currently at an extremely comfortable 93.4 percent, don’t expect this pick to ever raise about 50 unless Minnesota suffers an epic collapse down the stretch.
Lions fans will find themselves in an interesting conundrum come playoff time, due to the conditional pick Detroit has included in the trade. If the Vikings win a playoff game, the Lions will send back a 2024 fifth-round pick instead of a 2023 fourth-round pick. The problem, though, is every postseason win the Vikings pick up lowers the second-round pick. A first-round exit by Minnesota would mean the pick would fall between 51-56, rather than 57-64.
Per the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, that potential difference is somewhere between 50-100 points. The difference between a fourth and fifth-round pick is 20-70, depending on how high the pick is in each round. With the Rich Hill trade chart, the second-round difference is about 15-20 points. While the difference between a fourth and fifth-round pick is about 11-17.
In other words, the difference is pretty negligible with a slight preference towards getting the higher second-round pick. That said, it’s unquestionably in the Lions’ interest for the Vikings’ playoff run to go no longer than one win deep.
Next week: @ Commanders (4-4)