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Detroit Lions mock draft roundup 11.0: Bijan Robinson time?

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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Iowa State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

If you’re not familiar with how the Detroit Lions roundup works, each week we 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 also provide commentary that points to trends, player fits, and overall team philosophy.

Alright, let’s jump right in.

Special feature

Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas, 6-foot-0, 220 pounds

No. 18: Brentley Weissman (Draft Network), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Brian Johannes (The Huddle Report)

In recent mock draft roundups, Robinson has been paired with the Lions at pick No. 18, but the frequency has been trending up of late. The clear top running back in this class, Robinson actually makes the case that he is the best non-quarterback offensive player in this draft class.

The Draft Network lists Robinson as the No. 3 best player in this draft class, he checked in at No. 4 overall in NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s initial top-50, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein lists him among his top five, and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler lists him at No. 6 on his latest top-100 big board.

So how would he fall to the Lions at pick No. 18?

Well, Brugler addresses that in his top-100 profile, noting that Robinson “won’t be drafted as high as this ranking (or even in the top half of Round 1, most likely).” This is mainly because the running back position has been devalued as teams utilize multiple running back systems. In the last five draft cycles, Saquon Barkley was the only running back selected before pick No. 24.

That point is driven home further when you look at PFF’s draft board, where they rank Robinson at No. 27 overall, noting that “a running back has to have rare ability in order for PFF to deem him worthy of a first-round selection.”

So is Robinson the exception to the draft value rule?

He very well may be. Robinson is a rare complete package at running back and he has elite traits in several vital categories. Power, speed, explosion, elusiveness, lateral quickness, vision, reliable hands, the list goes on. Let’s take a look at just one line from each of the above evaluators' profiles on Robinson.

Keith Sanchez (Draft Network): “Robinson has the potential to be one of the rare running backs that can single-handedly carry a team to wins.”

Jeremiah: “ Robinson has all of the tools to quickly emerge as a top-tier RB in the NFL.”

Zierlein: “He has a chance to become one of the more productive runners in the league very quickly.”

Brugler: “With his unique mix of elusiveness, vision and power, Bijan Robinson makes defenders miss in different ways.”

PFF: “Don’t overthink this one: Robinson is RB1 and the best running back prospect we’ve seen since at least Saquon Barkley.”

If you’re a visual learner, Joe O’Leary put together a terrific Twitter thread of Robinson's unique runs, but if you only have time for one, I picked my favorite run from Robinson below:

So would Lions general manager Brad Holmes buck the trend and take a running back earlier than what most project?

He did something similar with Jameson Williams in 2022. He knew Williams would likely not play for the majority of the season, but his talent was just too good to pass up. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him consider doing it again in 2023 with Robinson.

Quarterback

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

No. 6: Jason McIntyre (Fox Sports)

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

No. 18: Michael Renner (PFF), Ben Natan (Bleeding Green Nation)

Erik’s Thoughts:

If Young fell to No. 6, it’d be interesting to see if the Lions were tempted enough to grab him or if they would put the pick on the trade block. Richardson remains one of the more logical choices if the Lions do draft a quarterback in the first round.

More offensive players

Quinton Johnson, WR, TCU

No. 6: Derrick Klassen (Bleacher Report)

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

No. 18: Chad Reuter (NFL.com), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)

O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida

No. 18: Russell Brown (Cover-1)

Erik’s Thoughts:

I remain vigilant in my stance that outside of quarterback and Bijan Robinson, the Lions likely avoid drafting offensive skill players in the first round. Torrence would be a very tempting option to solidify the offensive line, but unless he is the next Frank Ragnow (who was drafted 20th in 2018), I’d wait until Day 2 when addressing the offensive line.

Defense tackle

Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

No. 6: John Vogel (NFL Draft Blitz), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)

Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

No. 18: JP Acosta (SB Nation), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network)

Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh

No. 18: Kyle Yates (Football guys)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Bresee is still getting connected to the Lions on a regular basis, but now it’s exclusively at No. 18 as his stock is sliding. Kancey’s stock is trending in the other direction and is starting to get more mentions as a potential first-rounder. Still, at 6-foot-0, 280 pounds, Kancey would be a tough sell as an interior-only player, but for teams with scheme versatility, his first step is getting him noticed.

Edge Rusher

Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

No. 6: Pete Fiutak (College Football News)

Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

No. 6: Todd McShay (ESPN), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)

Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech

No. 18: Benjamin Robinson (Footballs Outsiders)

Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

No. 18: Ryan Phillips (The Big Lead)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Wilson and Murphy have been regulars in this section, while Van Ness has made an occasional inclusion, and this is White’s first time in the roundup. White was a bit of an afterthought for most analysts until Jeremiah listed him as the No. 8 player on his top 50 board. At 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, White would be a closed end in the Lions system playing opposite Aidan Hutchinson and in a rotation with Josh Paschal. Where he lands will likely be determined by a team who values traits over experience and polish.

Linebacker

Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

No. 18: T.J. McCreight (The 33rd team)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Simpson remains a unique defensive prospect who can be a matchup piece for a defensive coordinator. Despite the talent, there are some strong Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Browns pick No. 52 in 2021) vibes surrounding Simpson, and he could see a similar drop come draft time.

Defensive backs

Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

No. 6: Brentley Weissman (Draft Network), Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Michael Renner (PFF), Brett Whitefield (Fantasy Points), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Brian Johannes (The Huddle Report), Ryan Phillips (The Big Lead)

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

No. 6: JP Acosta (SB Nation), Chad Reuter (NFL.com), T.J. McCreight (The 33rd team), Russell Brown (Cover-1), Ian Cummings (Pro Football Network)
No. 9: Kyle Yates (Football guys) - Lions trade pick No. 6 and receive picks No. 9 and 39
No. 18: Jason McIntyre (Fox Sports), Pete Fiutak (College Football News)

Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State

No. 6: Benjamin Robinson (Footballs Outsiders)
No. 18: Ben Natan (Bleeding Green Nation)

Brian Branch, NB/S, Alabama

No. 18: Brett Whitefield (Fantasy Points), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)

Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

No. 18: Todd McShay (ESPN), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)

Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

No. 18: Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)

Clark Phillips, CB, Utah

No. 18: Cory Giddings (Bleacher Report)

Mekhi Blackmon, CB, USC

No. 18: John Vogel (NFL Draft Blitz)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Well, it appears draft analysts have connected the dots between Witherspoon and the Lions because nine mock drafters paired them together at pick No. 6 overall. Gonzalez was not far behind with eight pairings to Detroit, but there are still a few analysts who think it might be at pick No. 18.

Whitefield’s double dipping of Witherspoon at No. 6 and Branch at No. 18 would be an incredible investment in the secondary, and one that I am here for.

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