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2023 NFL Mock Draft: Dane Brugler makes bold trade for Detroit Lions

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler delivers his second mock draft of the 2023 season and gives the Detroit Lions some immediate help on defense, while also pairing them with a quarterback of the future.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game - Oregon vs Georgia Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Teams are being eliminated from the NFL playoffs, which signals the 2022-23 season is coming to a close, but it’s also an indicator that NFL Draft season is heating up.

Back in late November, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler dropped his first Mock Draft of the season and gave the Detroit Lions two defensive players (a defensive tackle at pick No. 3 and a cornerback at pick No. 13). Since then, a lot has happened, including the draft order being established through the first 24 picks (Lions now pick at No. 6 and No. 18 in the first round), college underclassmen declared for the draft, and our mock draft roundup series has produced six installments.

Let’s take a closer look at who Brugler paired the Lions in his second mock draft of the season ($ubscription):

Pick No. 6: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Heading into this pick, three quarterbacks, EDGE Will Anderson (Alabama), and DT Jalen Carter (Georgia) all went in the top five, leaving the Lions with an interesting choice and Brugler went with his top corner on the board. Here’s what he had to say about his projection:

“Christian Gonzalez flashed enough at Colorado to earn the No. 9 spot on my summer top-50 board, and he lived up to that hype in his one season at Oregon. With his speed/length athletic profile and the Lions’ need at cornerback, Gonzalez (the brother-in-law of former Lions’ backup quarterback David Blough) should be on Detroit’s short list for its first of two Round 1 picks.”

At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds with Olympic sprinter blood in his veins (Blough’s wife, Melissa Gonzalez is his sister), Gonzalez has been in the conversation for the top corner spot all season. He has drawn Patrick Surtain comparisons for his length, athleticism, instincts, and man coverage skills, would fit the Lions' scheme like a glove, and has CB1 shutdown potential.

I try not to put too much stock into reports of the Lions scouts attending games of prospects because speculating can get you into trouble, but it is worth noting that both Lions general manager Brad Holmes and senior director of player personnel Lance Newmark have made separate trips to Oregon for scouting purposes this season. It’s fair to say they’ve done their homework on the Oregon prospects.

Pick No. 15: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Trading up (with the Packers) from No. 18 to pick No. 15 costs the Lions pick No. 48 in this scenario, but as Brugler points out, it’s something Holmes has done before:

“In last year’s first round, the Lions made a major trade with a division foe to move up for a high-upside offensive star (Jameson Williams). They could do it again this year and invest in their future at the quarterback position.”

Here’s Brugler’s explanation for why he projected the Lions would make this aggressive move to acquire a quarterback:

“Thanks to his size, athleticism and arm, Anthony Richardson is a total freak show with a high ceiling, but he’s still figuring out how to be a consistent passer. Jared Goff’s presence would let Detroit develop Richardson at his own pace.”

At 6-foot-4, 232 pounds, Richardson has every physical trait you could want in a modern NFL quarterback: size, strength, speed, twitch, athleticism, explosion, power arm, the ability to put touch on throws, and if it all comes together he could be a top five quarterback in the NFL.

The problem is, he hasn’t put it all together yet and each of these skills have come in flashes rather than as a complete product. He is still very raw in several areas, including decision-making, throwing technique, and accuracy, which also puts him in the potential bust category.

Bottom line with Richardson is he’s a lottery ticket. If he hits, you have a Josh Allen-type player. If he fails to develop, Holmes just lost picks no. 18 and No. 48 in a year where the Lions are looking to turn the corner and make the playoffs.

Pick No. 55: Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

Pairing the Lions with Foskey creates an interesting dynamic because while Foskey the person is an ideal fit in Detroit, Foskey the player is not as smooth a positional fit.

Foskey is an above-average athlete who never stops working on a given play, has elite character, and is a weapon on special teams. He is a hybrid pass rusher that wins with length and explosion but has also shown enough range to drop into coverage at times. On special teams, he is a potential foundational piece due to his athleticism and willingness to work.

His positional fit on defense is not as clean. Foskey has a lot of desirable pass rushing traits, and while he has the size, he’s not quite efficient enough as an edge-setter to be Aidan Hutchinson’s primary backup on the open edge. He also didn’t take the next step in his development this past offseason, which brings into question how much higher his developmental ceiling is.

At the end of the day, Foskey could be used in the SAM role the Lions started incorporating more late last season. But with James Houston and Julian Okwara already in that role, it’d create a bit of a log jam at the position unless the role becomes more prominent.

Other notes on Brugler’s mock draft

  • QB Watch: Four quarterbacks were projected to be taken in the first two rounds and three of them were picked after a team traded up for them. The Colts traded up to pick No. 1 to select Bryce Young (Alabama), the Texans stayed pat at No. 2 and took Will Levis (Kentucky), the Panthers traded up to pick No. 5 to select C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), and of course, the Lions traded up as noted above.
  • NFC North: The Bears trade down and still land DT Jalen Carter (Georgia)... ouch. The Packers land EDGE Lukas Van Ness (Iowa) after their trade with the Lions. And the Vikings try to shore up their horrendous secondary with CB Deonte Banks (Maryland).
  • Local connection: Three Wolverines were selected in the second round, NT Mazi Smith went to the Browns at pick No. 42, CB DJ Turner went to the Cowboys at pick No. 58, and DL Mike Morris went to the Chiefs at pick No. 62. No other Michigan based colleges had players selected in this mock draft.

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