If you’re not familiar with how the Detroit Lions 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 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, we will also provide commentary that points to trends, player fits, and overall team philosophy.
Alright, let’s jump right in.
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
No. 15: Dane Brugler (The Athletic) - Trade picks No. 18 and 48
“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.” — Brugler
It’s not exactly clear why, but this was the first week where we didn’t see a quarterback mocked to the Lions with their No. 6 pick. Maybe mock drafters saw coach Dan Campbell’s end-of-year press conference where he endorsed Jared Goff. Or maybe it was general manager Brad Holmes saying Goff “proved” he‘s the team’s starting quarterback. It could be they view the return of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson—who geared his offense around Goff and help him to a career year—as a sign of the team's investment in Goff.
Regardless of the reason, the only quarterback paired with the Lions was one who most believe is at least a year away from being ready to play in the NFL. Here’s what I had to say about Richardson in my evaluation of Brugler’s mock draft.
“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.”
Offensive skill players
Quinten Johnson, WR, TCU
No. 6: Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network)
“This is more of an exploratory pick for the Lions, who don’t need to go WR again in Round 1. But it’s fun to think about what Quentin Johnston could bring to this offense. With Amon-Ra St. Brown stressing defenses underneath, and Jameson Williams spreading them thin with his speed, Johnston’s explosiveness, RAC ability, and playmaking presence could simply be too much.” — Cummings
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
No. 18: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
As fun as it might be to add another first-round offensive skill player to an already top-10 (5?) offense, at this time, it would feel like a misallocation of resources considering the needs on the defensive side of the ball.
Defense (Front 7)
Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
No. 6: Keith Sanchez (Draft Network)
“The Lions as an entire organization has made huge strides in the right direction, and they were essentially one game away from making the playoffs. This change happened with the Lions overturning this roster with players who are talented, high character, and have a genuine passion for the game of football. Will Anderson Jr. embodies all of those characteristics. This is a no-brainer pick, as they didn’t think Anderson Jr. would be available at this spot.” — Sanchez
In Sanchez's mock draft, he had two quarterbacks, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, and two offensive tackles going in the top five, which allowed the Lions to land Anderson. While this seems like a long shot, wonky things happen in the draft—no one was projecting the Jaguars to take Trayvon Walker at No. 1 this time last year, allowing Aidan Hutchinson to fall into the Lions' laps.
Now, picking No. 6 is very different than picking No. 2, but teams get silly about quarterbacks and it’s not unrealistic to think teams would make moves to get the guy they believe is a difference maker. If the top three quarterbacks go off the board in the top five, the Lions would only need one other player not named Carter or Anderson for the Lions to have a shot at one of the defensive studs.
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
No. 18: Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
No. 18: Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com)
Bresee continues to be a popular pairing for the Lions, especially with a need at defensive tackle, but there are whispers in the wind that teams are split on his evaluation, which would limit his options and drop his stock. His Clemson teammates also continue to find themselves paired with the Lions. Murphy would be an excellent complement to Hutchinson on the opposite edge—so would Wilson, who looks like he would be a steal at No. 18—while Simpson would add a multi-position flexible player to the linebacker core.
“The Lions add another athletic playmaker in Simpson, who could slide right next to Malcolm Rodriguez to form an excellent young LB corps.” — Jeremiah
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Joey Porter Jr, CB, Pen. State
No. 6: Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire)
Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
No. 18: Luke Easterling (The Draft Wire)
For several weeks now, the top of the cornerbacks class has been unsettled. As evaluators start catching up on game film of the prospects, new names start to draw more attention, and now a fourth corner, Devon Witherspoon, has thrown his name into the CB1 mix.
“I fell in love with Witherspoon’s skill set after the first game I studied. He is dripping with instincts and possesses outstanding ball skills. His feisty play style would fit the culture Dan Campbell and Co. are building in Detroit.” — Jeremiah
“Witherspoon looks like a supreme athlete, and his 2022 film was squeaky clean. He could ascend to the first cornerback off the board in this class.” — Trapasso
“Witherspoon is fast, physical, can play man, and is another player that fits the culture of the Lions.” — Sanchez
While not 6-foot-2, 200 pounds like Gonzalez, Ringo, or Porter, it’s easy to see the appeal of Witherspoon, who is expected to check in at around 6-foot, 185 pounds but plays much bigger and has the attitude to match. A fierce competitor, Witherspoon plays with controlled aggression, uses proper technique, and has great instincts in run support—often with devastating results:
Would Devon Witherspoon fit in Detroit?— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) January 21, 2023
Exhibit A is at the bottom of the screen —> pic.twitter.com/XWBb4595d3
Devon Witherspoon exhibit B —> pic.twitter.com/72Er7HAngW— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) January 21, 2023
While Witherspoon has an impressive 78.6 run defense grade from PFF for the 2022 season, his coverage grade of 92.5 leads all corners among the FBS, FCS, Division 2, and Division 3 teams. Of the 63 times quarterbacks threw in his direction, just 22 were completions, meaning he was allowing less than 35% of passes completed. In 2022, he also did not allow a touchdown, secured three interceptions, and had 14 pass breakups.
He is comfortable in man, which he would be asked to do a lot of in Detroit, and is positionally flexible, playing 85% of his 2022 snaps on the outside and 15% in the slot. Add in his ball skills, and Witherspoon checks a lot of boxes for what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn looks for in a defensive back.