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Detroit Lions mock draft roundup 4.0: Closer look at defensive prospects

Taking a closer look at the prospects from the 2023 NFL Draft that have been projected to the Detroit Lions over the past week.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Furman at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are still in the hunt for the playoffs, but draft season never rests, and as always, we update you with the latest trends in our weekly mock draft roundup.

If you’re not familiar with how the roundup works, each week we will collect data from the latest expert mock drafts published over the last seven days and compile them (with links tp to the original pieces) in one easy-to-access article. In addition to providing Lions’ fans with the names of prospects being paired with Detroit over the past week, we will also provide commentary that points to trends, player fits, and overall team philosophy.

Alright, let’s jump right in.

Quarterbacks at pick No. 7

C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Mocked by: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Mocked by: Oliver Hodgkinson (Pro Football Network)

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Mocked by: Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)

Erik’s thoughts

Quarterbacks are going to continue to be mocked to the Lions for the next four months, it is what it is. There are four prospects in play. Alabama’s Bryce Young is expected to go No. 1 overall, there is no consensus order on the other three, and they are ranked by analysts' preference. We have covered each of them in previous mock draft roundups, and in our draft watchlist articles during the season. We will cover them more this offseason, but for now, we’re going to spend more time discussing the other players in play that fans might not be familiar with.

Non-QBs at pick No. 7

Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

Mocked by: The 33rd Team, Trevor Sikkema (PFF)

“Bresee plays with outstanding strength and violent hands. The Lions need help in the interior, and he would give them a talented player to pair with Aidan Hutchinson.” — The 33rd Team

Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

Mocked by: Jamie Eisner (The Draft Network)

“The Lions were able to snag Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 pick last year and get him a running mate here in Tyree Wilson. Wilson is a physically-dominant freak who can grow into a complete defensive lineman in time. He’ll immediately boost the Lions’ run defense.” — Jamie Eisner

Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

Mocked at pick No. 7 by: Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire)
Mocked at pick No. 18 by: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)

The Georgia-to-first-round pipeline continues. A year after five Bulldogs went in Round 1, expect a handful this time around too. Ringo is a long, physical corner who has matched up against some of the best players in the country.” — Ryan Wilson

Erik’s thoughts

The Lions' top pick dropped a few spots after another Rams win and with that new slot comes new defensive players.

With Bresee and Wilson mock drafters are addressing a common thought process, as pointed out by both quoted analysts: get someone to pair with Hutchinson on the defensive line. In reality, both players look like good fits based on scheme and need, as Breese (6-foot-5, 300 pounds) can play the 3-technique, and Wilson (6-foot-6, 270) can step in at closed defensive end. The Lions could use another disruptor on the defensive line and picking in the top 10 should give them plenty of options.

Another popular position mocked to Detroit is corner, but who and when is debatable. Of the 10 mock drafts we looked at this week, nine (!) of them have the Lions using a first round pick on a defensive back. The most common pairing for the Lions is Ringo, but like with quarterbacks, there is no consensus on where he (or any other defensive back for that matter) will be selected. Ringo tends to be CB1 on a lot of draft boards, and his fit with the Lions' scheme would be solid.

Lions pick No. 18

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Mocked by: The 33rd Team

“The Lions need big help on defense and Gonzalez has good speed and size. This player has all of the tools to be a top-level corner.” — The 33rd Team

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

Mocked by: Trevor Sikkema (PFF)

Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

Mocked by: Jamie Eisner (The Draft Network), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)

“Do you want a man-coverage corner with toughness, quick feet, and ball skills? Then Cam Smith is your man. Detroit can use an upgrade in the CB room, and for a team that plays a high amount of man coverage, Smith should fit like a glove opposite Jeff Okudah.” — Jamie Eisner

Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

Mocked by: Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire)

Detroit’s corner play on the outside has been a pleasant surprise so far this season, but they could still use a hybrid defender with the versatility to line up in the slot or at either safety spot. Branch is the perfect fit, having handled a similar role in Nick Saban’s defense with great success.” — Luke Easterling

Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

Mocked by: Oliver Hodgkinson (Pro Football Network)

“Clemson’s Trenton Simpson is a hyper-athletic linebacker/safety hybrid who can act as a downhill enforcer while possessing the athleticism and ball skills to be a playmaker in coverage.” — Oliver Hodgkinson

Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

Mocked by: Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)

“Verse, an Albany transfer, has been electric in ‘22, even when overcoming a knee injury. At full health, he’s a real problem, and the Lions could bookend him with last year’s first-rounder, Aidan Hutchinson.” — Ryan Wilson

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Mocked by: Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire)

Erik’s thoughts

With the depth of the defensive backs class, the Lions saw over half of the No. 18 picks slotted with secondary players. Ringo, Gonzalez, and Porter are all outside corners who are 6-foot-2, 200+ pounds, while Smith (outside corner) and Branch (nickel hybrid S/NB) should check in around 6-foot and just under 200 pounds. Any of them would add immediate competition to the secondary.

Simpson is likely going to be LB1 in this class, but he is not a traditional stack linebacker. Instead, his game is more reminiscent of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (WILL, Browns) or Isaiah Simmons (Nickel hybrid LB/Slot, Cardinals), who is the player he replaced at Clemson.

Adding an outside corner makes sense and there is an argument that the Lions may still be looking for another starter, but the hybrid defender could be a real weapon for defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. The Lions have been deploying Will Harris in somewhat of a hybrid nickel role, but he is in a contract year and it’s unknown if he will return. If the Lions want to get smaller and quicker, then Branch is the guy. If they want to get bigger and more physical, Simpson is the prospect they would look at.

As far as Verse and Mayer, I’m not sold on either fitting the game plan for what the Lions might do this offseason. Verse is more on an open than closed end, and with Hutchinson firmly situated on the open side, adding Verse would mean switching Hutchinson or altering the scheme. Mayer, is going to be a popular choice after trading away Hockenson, but I’m not sure how high the Lions value the position in the draft.

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