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Detroit Lions mock draft roundup 1.0: Initial look at first-round prospects

Restarting the series where we identify the players that have been mocked to the Detroit Lions over the past week.

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The 2022 college football regular season is over, the conference championships have been settled, and the next meaning football won’t be played until the bowl games begin. But with many of the top draft prospects opting out of their bowl games to prepare for the NFL Draft, we at Pride of Detroit are shifting our gears away from our weekly Draft Watchlist series (we profiled over 80 players this year), and are turning our attention towards 2023 NFL mock drafts.

If you’re not familiar with our mock draft roundup series, each of our weekly posts will feature an overview of the most popular mock drafting publications from the previous week. The focus, of course, is centered on who the analyst pairs with the Detroit Lions, and selected reasonings as to why.

Because the Lions hold two first-round draft picks—their own and the Rams’, the final pick from the Matthew Stafford trade—these articles will be split into sections. One for each pick, and if a mock draft carries over into Round 2 or beyond, the Lions picks will also be included where appropriate. Additionally, I’ll share some of my thoughts about patterns, players, and/or themes I see occurring.

Alright, let’s jump right in.

Rams pick No. 4

C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Currently being mocked by J.P. Acosta (SB Nation), Kent Lee Platte (Pro Football Network), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown), Jacob Infante (Windy City Gridiron), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network), Eddie Brown (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Platte: “C.J. Stroud has been compared to Goff, but I think those comparisons are only true when you look at Stroud against what people thought Goff was going to be coming out of Cal and not what he’s been in the NFL. Stroud has a better arm, is more accurate, and works better both in and out of structure. Drafting Stroud would take everything they’ve been able to do with Goff and put someone under center who can do the things Goff cannot.”

Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

Currently being mocked by Damian Parson (The Draft Network)

Parson: “The Rams are far worse than anyone could have imagined. As a result, the Lions are the beneficiaries with a top-five pick in this NFL mock draft. Aidan Hutchinson has been impactful as a rookie on this defense. Now imagine him rushing off the edges with Jalen Carter generating interior pressure on passing downs. Carter has an unreal blend of size, athleticism, arm length, and physical strength. He is a monster in the middle and will help bring the ROAR back to the Lions’ defense!”

Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

Currently being mocked by Rob Rang (Fox Sports)

Rang: Yes, the Lions could select a quarterback here. But with the team playing better recently with veteran Jared Goff and an effective running game, adding even more firepower to a good young defensive lines just feels like the route head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes want to take. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound Wilson doesn’t yet get the national acclaim of some of his peers in this defensive line class but his length, power and upside are exciting and could remind longtime Lions fans of another surprise top-five pick years ago: Ziggy Ansah.”

Erik’s thoughts

Nearly everyone putting out mock drafts right now is pairing the Lions with Stroud, and while that logic has merit, at this time, I’m not sold the Lions will be targeting a quarterback. Now things may change as the season plays out, but if the Lions show that they are in a win-now mode, they may look elsewhere to boost their roster.

Simply put, the biggest influencing factor for me is that the offense is rolling and has the potential to enter next season with a similar group of players capable of producing the same output. While on defense it’s a different story. They are lacking impact players, and if the opportunity presents itself to add a difference-maker like Carter, I can absolutely see general manager Brad Holmes taking it.

Lions pick No. 15

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

Currently being mocked by J.P. Acosta (SB Nation), Kent Platte (Pro Football Network), Eddie Brown (San Diego Union Tribune)

Platte: “Joey Porter Jr. comes with NFL bloodlines, but he’s proven in 2022 that he’s a lot more than his name. His athletic talents jump off the field, and he’s taken a similar year-to-year progression that Daxton Hill did before the Bengals drafted him in the first round. Porter’s aggressiveness and speed would be a welcome addition to the Lions’ secondary.”

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Currently being mocked by Joe Broback (Pro Football Network), Jacob Infante (Windy City Gridiron)

Broback: “Christian Gonzalez made a great decision by transferring to Oregon. His development took off, and he finds himself on a great trajectory. His 6’2″ frame gives him good length to make plays on the football. There are some aspects Gonzalez must iron out, but again, he’s on the right path to giving Detroit two great corners.”

Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

Currently being mocked by Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire)

Trapasso: After grabbing Stroud in the top 5, the Lions get the future quarterback of the defense who can play safety or man up in the slot.”

Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

Currently being mocked by Damian Parson (The Draft Network)

Parson: “What a defensive facelift the Lions have undergone with this NFL mock draft. Carter was added to dominate on the interior and now adding Jared Verse should excite Lions’ fans. Verse plays with good leverage and understands how to win the edge. He is a tough and gritty player. A defensive front with Carter, Hutchinson, and Verse sounds like a heavenly trio for Detroit.”

Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

Currently being mocked by Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown)

See above.

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Currently being mocked by Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Rob Rang (Fox Sports)

Rang: T.J. Hockenson was dealt to Minnesota just before the trade deadline, and the Lions could use a bigger, stronger replacement, especially as the team adopts a run-heavy attack.”

Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

Currently being mocked by Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)

Edwards: “Detroit selected Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the first of two first-round picks. Stroud was accustomed to having premium outlets in Columbus, so the Lions make him feel at home, adding Washington with wide receivers Jameson Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown.”

Erik’s thoughts

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: It seems unlikely the Lions would take a tight end in the first round. Now, Holmes will always look to add the best player, and both Mayer and Washington can be studs at the next level, I just don’t think the Lions value the position that highly, and it’s not an intricate part of their offensive scheme.

Even though they are getting contributions from all three edge players they drafted last year, I don’t mind an edge rusher here as adding pass rushing depth is always a smart play. From what I know about Verse, this feels a little rich, but I do think Wilson would be valuable opposite Aidan Hutchinson.

The real money seems to be on the Lions taking a defensive back at this spot, and I like all three of the players listed here. Gonzalez and Porter would be instant contributors on the outside, while Branch would fit in as a do-everything slot defensive back and would be best used in the role where they currently deploy Will Harris—who is a potential free agent.

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