In previous years, conversations surrounding the Detroit Lions tend to turn to the draft after Thanksgiving, but with the team still “in the hunt”, we at Pride of Detroit have been slow to shift our focus in that direction. That being said, when The Athletic’s Dane Brugler—arguably the best NFL Draft talent evaluator in the business—drops his first Mock Draft of the season ($ubscription), it’s worth paying attention to.
The Lions hold two picks in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft—following the Matthew Stafford trade—and with the Los Angeles Rams falling apart, Detroit gets an opportunity to add a massive difference-maker at the top of the draft.
Pick No. 3: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia (6-foot-3, 310)
Last season, Georgia’s defense dominated college football and it led to five Bulldogs being drafted in the first round, including first-overall pick Trayvon Walker. But if you listened to Draft analysts at the time, Carter was the prospect most pointed to as the best player on the team. Now that he is draft eligible, the Lions are able to reap the rewards of a flailing Rams team and land one of the most dominating interior players to enter the league in years.
Carter is the definition of a “disruptor.” Capable of routinely beating blocks and penetrating upfield, Carter would give the Lions a force they haven’t had inside since Ndamukong Suh.
With an explosive first step and an arsenal of pass rush moves, Carter can pretty much go wherever he needs to on the field. Need him to pass rush? No problem. Chase down a running back on a backside screen? He’s got that range. Hold the gap and defeat the block and stop the running back? Yup, he can do that too.
Pairing Carter with Alim McNeill on the interior, and bookending them Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal, would immediately give the Lions one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL.
Pick No. 13: Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State (6-foot-2, 200)
This offseason, the Lions will most likely need to add depth at corner, as well as a player capable of challenging for a starting role. Porter—the son of former Steelers All-Pro linebacker Joey Porter Sr.—is long, fast, and physical. Capable of staying in phase with all different types of receivers, as well as stepping up in run support, Porter can play in a variety of coverage schemes, with a base rooted in press-man.
Porter was the third of six defensive backs projected to go in the first round in Brugler’s mock draft—Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo went off the board earlier—and his aggressive style of play matches up well with what Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn requires in his defensive backs.
Other notes on Brugler’s mock draft
- QB Watch: Three quarterbacks were projected to be selected in the first round with Alabama’s Bryce Young going first overall, while Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud went fifth to the Carolina Panthers, and Kentucky’s Will Levis landed 14th to the Indianapolis Colts. If this is how the draft played out, the Lions would have opted to pick a defensive player over a quarterback, twice, passing over Stroud for Carter and Levis for Porter.
- NFC North: The Bears landed Alabama EDGE Will Anderson with the second pick, the Packers also got an edge rusher at No. 8 in Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, while the Vikings grabbed Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba at pick No. 29.
- Michigan connection: The first round of Brugler’s mock draft did not have any players projected from any of the universities in the state of Michigan, though he did mention University of Michigan nose tackle Mazi Smith as a player the Saints could target in the second round (their first selection in this draft).