With the Detroit Lions in the race for the playoffs, for many fans, the last thing they want to think about is the NFL Draft. For others draft season never stops, which is why as soon as our 2023 draft watch series concluded, we immediately kicked off our 2023 mock draft roundup series.
If you’re not familiar with our mock draft roundup series, each installment will create 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 selection—this article will be split into sections, one for each pick. 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
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Currently being mocked by Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Wilson: “Murphy won’t be 21 until next spring and while we’d like to see him play with more consistency ... he won’t be 21 until next spring. On top of that, when he’s on, he’s hard to stop, which makes him such an interesting prospect.”
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Currently being mocked by Danny Kelly (The Ringer)
Kelly: “The Lions offense under head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has far exceeded expectations in 2022, helping make Jared Goff look like a quarterback the team can win with in the short term. With that in mind, Detroit focuses here on building in the trenches. Bresee is a disruptive, physical interior defender who’d complement Alim McNeil and Aidan Hutchinson well on the Lions defensive front.”
Quentin Johnson, WR, TCU
Currently being mocked by Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire)
Farrar: “The Lions are cooking with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, and Jared Goff now benefits from receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, and D.J. Chark. But if you have the opportunity to get another transcendent receiver to add to that aerial attack, why not? TCU quarterback Max Duggan’s Heisman finalist season had a lot to do with Johnston’s ability to get downfield and separate with size (6-foot-4, 215), straight-line speed, and route awareness. Whether Goff is the Lions’ quarterback in 2023 or not (and right now, there’s a pretty good argument for him to be just that), Johnston might take that offense to an entirely new level.”
In our roundup 1.0, 10 of the 12 mock drafts we looked at had the Lions taking quarterback C.J. Stroud. A week later, that number has been reduced to four, and only five of the 13 paired the Lions with a quarterback with either of their first-round picks. Furthermore, in all five of the mock pairing the Lions with a quarterback, a quarterback went off the board first, followed by some combination of Anderson and Carter, leaving the Lions with a choice: take the quarterback they determined was QB2, or the next best player overall.
In the four drafts where the Lions were able to land Anderson or Carter, the first three picks either included two quarterbacks or had the Bears going off script and selecting an offensive tackle or wide receiver.
In the remaining four mock drafts, when QB1, Anderson, and Carter were off the board and the mock drafter didn’t want to pair the Lions with QB2, we saw the Lions take a Clemson defensive lineman or a wide receiver. With the investment the Lions have at wide receiver, I’d be surprised if they invested another top-12 pick at the position. Don’t get me wrong, they very easily could very easily spend one of the five top 100 picks on a receiver, but No. 4 seems a bit overkill.
The Clemson defenders both seem like more realistic options. Murphy (6-foot-5, 275) would be a closed end in the Lions scheme and would be a plug-and-play option opposite Aidan Hutchinson, giving them a wealth of options off the edge. Breese (6-foot-5, 300) is a pure 3-technique and would give the Lions a legitimate interior rusher to play next to Alim McNeill.
Lions pick No. 15/16
Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Currently being mocked by Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire)
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
Currently being mocked by Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
Trapasso: “The Lions get the future quarterback of the defense who can play safety or man up in the slot.”
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Currently being mocked by Todd McShay (ESPN)
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Currently being mocked by James Fragoza (Pro Football Network)
Fragoza: “There are better athletes than Devon Witherspoon (see: Ringo, Christian Gonzalez), but no player has shut down the opposition as consistently as the Fighting Illini product this season. Between his film study, short-area quickness, and instincts, WRs often find little room to breathe. Oh, and he is the hardest-hitting CB in some time.”
DJ Turner, CB, Michigan
Currently being mocked by Keith Sanchez (The Draft Network)
Sanchez: “With their second pick in this NFL mock draft, the Lions add another corner to the mix and select DJ Turner. Turner is an athletic player that can play man-to-man or zone and should step right in and become a starter to help upgrade this Lions secondary.”
Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
Currently being mocked by Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)
Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
Farrar: “If one Sewell is a good idea for the Lions, how about two? Now that right tackle and 2021 seventh-overall pick Penei Sewell is a prominent receiver in Ben Johnson’s offense, perhaps it’s about time to add Noah Sewell to Aaron Glenn’s defense. Detroit has two good linebackers in rookie Malcolm Rodriguez and veteran Alex Anzalone, but Sewell brings a different level of athleticism, versatility, and productivity to the table.”
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
A constant theme with the Lions' second first-round pick is that most pair them with a defensive player or the occasional tight end. I still think tight end and linebacker aren’t premium positions for this regime—though I wonder if they might make an exception for Sewell—and I tend to lean toward adding a player from the secondary. As of right now, the value of the defensive backs seems to be very high around this stage of the first round.
It’s still very early in the draft process but I listed the secondary players in the order that I currently like them for the Lions.