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.
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
No. 6: Eric Edholm (NFL.com)
“If the Lions stay here, why not use the pennies-from-heaven Rams pick on an eventual successor for Jared Goff? Trading down certainly has some appeal, but Stroud possesses some Goff-like traits from the pocket and could sit a year if needed.” — Edholm
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
“Before you click off the page, Lions fans, hear me out. Yes, Jared Goff looked good with Ben Johnson calling plays. But is that enough to be a legitimate contender? Even in the Rams’ high-powered offense, Goff maxed out at three points versus the Patriots in Super Bowl 53. Let Goff be the bridge QB to Anthony Richardson, who may actually be more pro-ready than some analysts believe. The Chiefs took Patrick Mahomes to sit behind Alex Smith for a year when many believed it was a wasted pick — look how that turned out.” — Fragoza
After two weeks of no quarterbacks being mocked to the Lions, the concept that the Lions will invest in their quarterback of the future is too tempting to ignore for a few analysts. And that’s the overwhelming common theme, with all three of the above mock drafts: the future.
At this stage, most people have acknowledged that Goff will be the Lions starter in 2023, but until (if?) he receives a contract extension, like it or not, this ideology will remain present in Lions offseason discussions.
Offensive skill players
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
No. 18: Joe Marino (Draft Network)
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
No. 18: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
Like with quarterback, the chance to add one of the top offensive skill players at their position to an offense that is already cooking is very tempting. Argue positional value all you want, but at the end of the day, putting Robinson in this offense would be a huge win.
I remain skeptical that the Lions will invest in a tight end in the first round, but there is a lot of talent at the top of this class, and many, including Mayer, have the balanced skillset the Lions look for at the position. Like with Robinson, he would give Detroit’s offense a nice boost, but the cost value of using this high a pick at this position is debatable.
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
“In a defensive tackle class that feels light on impact players after Jalen Carter, Calijah Kancey sure made his case to be the second one selected this coming April. Though he’s undersized at 6-foot-1 and 280 pounds, he is an absolute menace on the interior with fantastic burst, great use of natural leverage, the fastest hands in the east and a motor that just does not quit. He recorded 27.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons with a 22.7% pass rush win rate.” — Sikkema
Bresee continues to be one of the most mocked players to Detroit—the top spot changed this week to a different player—but where his value stands remains a mystery. Half the analysts think the Lions will have to use their top pick to acquire him, while the other three believe his will slide to No. 18—including Detroit Lions writer/legend Mike O’Hara.
Kancey is quickly “rising” up draft boards but will he ascend all the way up to DT2? At 280 pounds, there will be people pointing to the fact that Lions general manager Brad Holmes was one of the main players in the LA Rams selecting Aaron Donald—who is basically the same size—but Donald remains the exception, not the rule.
While Kancey is a talented player, if you look around at where he falls on some of the top draft analysts' big boards, it doesn't feel like he is in the first-round conversation just yet. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah didn’t include him in his top 50, nor did The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, and even PFF has him at No. 38 in their rankings.
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
“Wilson embodies the Dan Campbell ethos. He’s big, powerful, and athletic—and he lives in opposing backfields. He’d be a great complement to last year’s top pick, Aidan Hutchinson.” — Kelly
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
No. 18: Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
Another player gaining more and more steam to Detroit is Tyree Wilson. The Texas Tech edge rusher is dripping with potential and at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, with the range to contribute from a standing pass rusher down to the 3-technique, he would be a very appealing option on the Lions front.
Murphy should remain in the conversation as EDGE2—behind Alabama’s Will Anderson—and will be in competition with Wilson for that spot. The hype on him has slowed a bit, but we’re just getting started this offseason.
Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
No. 22: Arif Hasan (Pro Football Network) - Lions trade pick No. 18, receive picks No. 22, 86
“The Lions might reach a little bit here in order to replace Alex Anzalone, a locker-room leader that has often been injured and will hit free agency. No one seems to move smoother at the position than Drew Sanders, who could be what many projected Anzalone to be coming out of the draft were it not for injury.” — Hasan
Sanders is going to jump Clemson’s Trenton Simpson as LB1 on some teams' boards, especially those looking for a traditional linebacker. And while I like the fit in Detroit, I will agree with Arif’s above assessment that No. 18 feels like a “reach” to select him.
Sanders, 6-foot-5, 232 pounds, was an EDGE rusher at Alabama before transferring to Arkansas and switching to a stack linebacker role. He is still learning the position, but Sanders is further ahead of where Derrick Barnes (who made a similar transition) was during his draft process.
There’s a lot to like about Sanders. He is a smooth athlete, heavy hitter, secure tackler, still has pass rushing instincts, and is very much a modern day linebacker. The Lions don’t tend to over-invest in their linebackers, but if they see how some of the modern day linebackers get paid during this free agency period, they may be open to changing their tune.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
No. 6: Luke Easterling (Draft Wire), Trevor Sikkema (PFF), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
No. 15: Nick Baumgardner (The Athletic) - Lions trade picks No. 18 and 46, receive No. 15
No. 18: Danny Kelly (The Ringer), Mark Schofield (SB Nation), Eric Edholm (NFL.com)
“Devon Witherspoon’s physical and unrelenting style would be a perfect fit in Detroit, so much so that the Lions might even entertain taking him at No. 6. Here, it’d be even better. GM Brad Holmes’ decision to trade up for Jameson Williams last year proved he’ll do what it takes if the right guy is sitting there. The Lions have two picks in the second round and can dangle the better one to pay for a player they love (on offense or defense) if the board falls right.” — Baumgardner
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
No. 6: Mike O’Hara (DetroitLions.com), Joe Marino (Draft Network), Charles McDonald (Yahoo Sports)
No. 9: Arif Hassan (Pro Football Network) - Lions trade pick No. 6, receive picks No. 9, 61, 113
No. 18: Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Pete Fiutak (College Football News)
Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State
No. 18: Matt Urben (Falcons Wire)
Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
“The Lions defense played much better the second half of the season, but it still needs more upgrades if it’s going to become a consistent contender in the NFC North. Cam Smith could develop into a shutdown corner that Detroit lacks, as his length and instincts will translate well to the next level.” — Stackpole
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
No. 18: Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
“Maryland teammate and fellow CB Jakorian Bennett got much of the buzz in the fall, but Deonte Banks put together the type of season that will land you in the top-50 conversation. He’s a fluid athlete who is also a big, physical corner who can match up with NFL wide receivers.” — Wilson
Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
No. 18: T.J. McCreight (The 33rd Team)
“Forbes feels like a perfect personality fit for Dan Campbell and company. The Lions are lacking a defensive player on the backend, and Forbes is a guy who plays with fire and swagger.” — 33rd Team
Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami
No. 18: Joe Borback (Pro Football Network)
“Another player that is showing up more often at the top of mocks, Tyrique Stevenson has first-round potential. From his size to his gameplay, there’s plenty that warrants a high selection.” — Broback
Let’s start with Witherspoon, who has taken over the top spot as the most mocked player to Detroit this week. And it’s not just the quantity of analysts pairing him to Detroit, it’s some pretty heavy hitters in the draft community. How much the Lions will value him will likely come down to his athletic testing checking the box because his game film suggests he would be fit like a glove in Detroit. If he is as athletic as his game suggests, I agree with what Baumgardner had to say in the above blurb: “the Lions might even entertain taking him at No. 6.”
Gonzalez is still also very heavily in the conversation for the Lions and his combination of athleticism and skills will make him a very attractive candidate. When the NFL Combine rolls around a month from now, expect he and Porter to start getting a lot more love, as their athleticism will shine through.
In addition to the above three corners commonly paired with the Lions, there were four more names that entered the mix this week. Cam Smith is right behind the top three for me—in my second tier of corners—and his press-man skills will make him a very tempting choice for the Lions' defense. He should be in the conversation for the Lions at No. 18.
Banks, Forbes, and Stevenson all fall into my third tier of corners. Banks is steady and has great size, but I wonder if the scheme fit is as solid as it is for some of the other corners on this list. Forbes is highly talented and very instinctual but he is also very skinny in his lower half and that raises some red flags for his ability to tackle at the NFL level.
Stevenson is a hot name right now because of the Senior Bowl. He is one of the best corners at the event and is currently being coached by Lions assistant Shaun Dion Hamilton. At 6-foot-1, 214 pounds, Stevenson plays with the physicality and man coverage skills the Lions look for in a corner. For me, though, his tape is a bit inconsistent and he feels more like a second-round option at this stage.