The 2023 NFL Draft is exactly 86 days away, but the fun of it all starts on Tuesday when the Senior Bowl squads get together for their first practice. Scouts from all teams will be in the area and you can bet your bottom dollar that the Detroit Lions will walk out of this thing interested in someone.
Last year, the Lions coaching staff had a better eye on everything when members of their coaching staff oversaw the American team. They won’t have the full staff involved this year, but with the Senior Bowl’s new rules that have team’s assistants joining coaching staffs this year, the Lions will have defensive assistant Shaun Dion Hamilton on the American team staff. He’ll be working with the defensive backs.
Here are four players that Dion Hamilton and the Lions scouts should definitely keep an eye on:
Christopher Smith: DB, Georgia
It’s always good draft scouting practice to look at Georgia Bulldog defenders, but Smith’s evaluation goes beyond the jersey he wore at college. Smith worked his way into the starting lineup after spending two years as a gritty special teamer, before becoming one of the Bulldogs’ most steady players in the secondary, playing alongside 2022 NFL Draft standout Lewis Cine.
Smith excelled at safety (and some nickel corner) last year even without Cine, tallying five tackles for loss, five passes defended and a team-leading three interceptions.
As for his fit with the Lions, our own Erik Schlitt profiled Smith back in November and tagged him as a versatile safety/nickel defender that could fill Will Harris’ role if the Lions choose not to re-sign the defensive back:
Another positional versatile defensive back who can line up all over the secondary, making his biggest impact in the slot. A two-and-a-half-year starter at Georgia, Smith returned for his senior season to try and boost his draft stock.
Lions fit: Like with (Illinois DB) Quan Martin, the Lions could use some versatility in the secondary, especially in the slot.
Kyu Blu Kelly: Cornerback, Stanford
A true contender for the 2023 Detroit Lions Name Bracket, Kelly is on the National Team and won’t be working with Hamilton. But that doesn’t mean scouts won’t get a good look at him.
Kelly was one of the best corners in the Pac-12 his junior year. He finished the season with two picks and 11 passes defended. His senior season wasn’t as productive on the stat sheet but he possesses a lot of draftable skills that will appeal to the Lions. He’s currently projected to go anywhere between Day 2 and 3.
One of the reasons I think the Lions take a look is because of his scouting report from the Draft Network. In the “Top Reasons to Buy In” section, they list playstyle and demeanor as the reason to draft him. You want to see a guy like that in this Lions system. A guy that comes to play. It might help that his dad Brian Kelly played for the Lions—although it was the 2008, 0-16 Lions.
Kenny McIntosh: RB, Georgia
The Lions could very much be looking towards the future at running back with yet another year of D’Andre Swift hampered by injury. McIntosh could fill that role nicely, because he not only has some of the athletic and pass-catching skills that Swift does, but he’s bigger (6-foot, 207 pounds) and more physical of a runner than Swift is. That said, while he does have great athleticism, he doesn’t quite have the breakaway speed Swift does. He would still be a great value pick in the middle rounds.
Lions fit: McIntosh is an ideal fit for a gap scheme with his patience and vision. He trusts that his offensive linemen will hit their blocks and he runs downhill through the gaps. McIntosh’s pass-catching is elite and he would give the Lions a rotational player with a Kenyon Drake-like skill set, that they won’t have to pay a high draft price for.
Nick Broeker: Guard, Ole Miss
The Lions offensive line was strong last season, but there are a lot of questions about what this team is going to do at right guard. Will Evan Brown stick around? Will Halapoulivaati Vaitai be able to come back healthy and ready to go or will he be a cap casualty? What the Lions should really do is find their next option there, even if he’s just a depth guy in 2023.
Ole Miss’s Nick Broeker can be that guy. The thing I like the most about Broeker is that he’s a flat-out athlete. The guy ran a 4.90 coming into college, an impressive mark for a 315-pound lineman. He played multiple sports in high school and his athleticism has also allowed him to play multiple positions on the field.
Technique and polish are important—and something Broeker needs to work on—but they can be taught. Athleticism is something that makes you a threat if you walk through the door with it. Broeker is currently slated to go on Day 3.