The Detroit Lions are in the thick of the playoff race, but there are plenty of teams that have turned the page to the 2023 offseason, and that means mock draft season is heating up. Last week, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler released his first mock draft of the season and we re-started our Lions mock draft roundup series over the weekend.
On Tuesday, ESPN got in on the action and Todd McShay dropped his first mock draft of the 2023 season ($ubscription required). Like most mock drafts being produced right now, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, and Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson were all off the board in the first three picks, leaving the Lions with some interesting choices at pick No. 4 overall.
Let’s take a look at who McShay slotted the Lions with their two first-round picks.
Round 1, pick 4 (via Rams): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Stroud is a very popular choice for the Lions right now. In our most recent mock draft roundup, 10 of the 12 mock drafts we looked at all went with the Ohio State signal caller.
Let’s hear from McShay and his reasonings for the projection:
“Everything fell perfectly for the Lions here, allowing them to draft their signal-caller of the future without moving up. Stroud has thrown 37 touchdown passes this season — and still has as many as two games left — and is third in the nation in QBR (87.7). Jared Goff has played well under center of late, but he’s not the long-term answer. Stroud — who makes good decisions with the football, displays great touch and has a big arm — could learn behind Goff for a season before Detroit moves on and builds around a talented passer on a rookie deal. Detroit has a top-five offense right now (26.2 points per game), and a very good supporting cast is already in place.”
While there is an obvious argument for the Lions to grab Stroud with the future in mind, but Goff hasn’t just “played well,” he’s played well above expectations. In fact, Goff has taken over control of this offense, is making a case for longevity in Detroit, and there are compelling counterpoints to be made that the Lions should build around Goff in the near future.
It’ll be interesting to see if draft analysts change their tune if the Lions pick moves up into the top 3, and/or if Goff continues to level up his game.
With the Lions' next pick, McShay has Detroit selecting...
Round 1, pick 16: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Again, McShay sticks with the majority of mock drafts with his selection of Porter, who was the Lions most projected player at this spot in our most recent mock draft roundup, including being paired with Detroit by Brugler and former POD writer, Kent Lee Platte, who is now with Pro Football Network.
Let’s go back to McShay for his reasonings:
“OK, time to address the Lions’ defense. We’re all excited about the potential of Will Levis (sic) in that offense, but if they keep giving up 6.2 yards per play (last in the NFL), it won’t matter too much. Jeff Okudah has been up and down after being the No. 3 overall pick in 2020, and Amani Oruwariye and Mike Hughes are both expected to be free agents in the spring. Porter — the son of former Steelers edge rusher Joey Porter — is my top cornerback, showcasing high-level recognition skills, and he’d give that defense more scheme flexibility. He didn’t have a pick this season, but he did have 11 pass breakups. Detroit walks away from Round 1 with two hard-nosed, physical playmakers on either side of the ball.”
It’s a bit surprising that McShay didn’t have a corner come off the board until pick No. 16, but it’s even more interesting that he has Porter as his top corner. Most experts that have put out early big boards have Porter as a sure first-rounder, but Brugler and The Draft Network have him as their third corner, PFF lists him fourth, while Platte’s network lists him second.
Also, it’s worth addressing the editing snafu in the second sentence, where he refers to the Lions having selected Levis instead of his actual selection, Stroud, at pick No. 4. Stroud is commonly identified as the QB2 in this class, but as the draft process unfolds, don’t be surprised if you start seeing Levis mocked higher because of his “NFL traits.” It’s very possible McShay originally had the Lions taking Levis—who went at No. 6 to the Falcons in his mock draft—but changed it, and the edit was missed in the Lions section.