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.
The 2023 NFL Combine is in the rearview mirror and while the event can provide a lot of valuable information, we also need to caution ourselves against recency bias. With some mock drafts, we can get a glimpse from insiders on “what they’re hearing,” while others not so tied into the behind-the-scenes game will overreact and move workout warriors up higher than they should be.
The key to evaluating this week’s mock drafts will come down to who you trust and believe to be in the know about your team.
Alright, let’s jump right into this week’s roundup.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
No. 6: Charles McDonald (Yahoo Sports)
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
No. 18: Ryan McCrystal (Sharp Analysis)
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
In 2021, the Panthers were in need of a quarterback and when they were on the clock at pick No. 8, they elected to pass over quarterback Justin Fields and drafted cornerback Jaycee Horn. Fast forward two years and the Panthers have fired their coach, still need a quarterback, and just gave up two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and Pro Bowl wide receiver DJ Moore—to the team who drafted Fields—for a chance to finally land their signal caller.
Regardless of which quarterback the above mock drafts paired with the Lions, the theme was always that they were always paired with the third or fourth quarterback off the board—and it was usually the fourth—which is the same spot the Panthers faced in 2021.
Now, in this “do you take or pass on a quarterback” debate, the Lions having Jared Goff obviously puts them in a very different spot than the Panthers. But at the end of the day, he may very well not be on the roster in two years when his contract expires. So ask yourself, which quarterback do you think the Lions have ranked fourth on their draft board? For me, that’s Levis. Now ask yourself, is passing on Levis something you think the Lions might regret in two years?
More offensive players
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Jordan Addison, WR, USC
No. 18: Sam Monson & Mike Renner (PFF)
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
No. 18: Brooks Kubena (Houston Chronicle)
Robinson was becoming a popular pick to mock to the Lions before the combine, but after him checking all the appropriate boxes, he’s going to continue to be a popular choice for Detroit.
This is the first time Addison has been mocked to the Lions in the 13 editions of the roundup. I get the appeal of adding a wide receiver to an already explosive offense, and Addison is WR1 on my Lions-based draft board, but I’m not sold on any of the receivers in this class being worth a top-18 pick.
Washington entered the combine as TE2 on my Lions-based draft board and blew up the combine both in testing and on-field drills. Like with receiver, there is plenty of talent in this class, but I’m not sold on the value of any of the tight ends for the Lions equaling pick No. 18 overall.
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Bresee and Kancey were my top two standouts at the combine, and with defensive tackle being one of the Lions' top needs, it’s no surprise to see them paired with Detroit.
Kancey’s hype has been building for weeks now and with most of his testing numbers matching Aaron Donald's, I can’t imagine the hype slowing down anytime soon. There were two numbers that separate Donald from Kancey: arm length (32 5/8 vs 30 5/8 respectively) and bench press, where Donald crushed it with 35 and Kancey opted not to participate. Those two numbers, combined with Kancey’s non-Donald-like hand aggression, should give you pause on the comparison.
At 6-foot-1, 281 pounds, it’s hard to project a player who is significantly undersized for the position to be able to consistently handle his own at the next level. At the same time, when Brugler—who is arguably the most tuned-in analyst in the draft community—slots him with your team, it’s worth taking note.
Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
No. 6: Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech
No. 18: Dan Wilkins & Dane Belbeck (The Score)
Nolan Smith, Pass rushing LB, Georgia
No. 18: Ralph Vacchiano & Ben Arthur (Fox Sports)
Not long ago, the thought that Anderson would fall to the Lions at pick No. 6 seemed ludicrous. But after the Panthers-Bears trade, we may be just one Arizona Cardinals (pick No. 3) trade away from four quarterbacks going off the board in the top four, and the Seahawks grabbing Jalen Carter (as many project they would in this scenario), leaving Anderson to fall into the Lions’ lap.
Could the Lions get arguably the best defensive player in the draft for the second year in a row? It may not be as far-fetched as we once thought.
Wilson—who Birkett and Meinke paired with the Lions—seems like a more realistic choice, while there are still some who like Murphy or Van Ness at this spot. Van Ness made some money at the combine for sure, but top six seems a bit rich.
Smith makes his debut on the roundup this week, and his combine performance likely led decision-making here because he is more of a SAM linebacker in the Lions scheme, a role James Houston has settled into nicely. There is no doubt the talent is there, but would the Lions be willing to change their scheme for Smith? That is a question I’m not sure any of us have the answer to.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
No. 18: Calvin Watkins (Dallas Morning News)
I have a feeling the linebacker pairings are going to become more and more infrequent as we get closer to the draft and people begin to see there may not be a round one linebacker in this class.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
No. 6: Ben Raven (MLive), Lance Zierlein (NFL.com), Sam Monson & Mike Renner (PFF), Scott Bair (AtlantaFalcons.com), Dan Wilkins & Dane Belbeck (The Score)
No. 9: T.J. McCreight (The 33rd Team) Lions give up No. 6 and 81, receive No. 9 and 41
No. 18: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
No. 6: Colton Pouncy (The Athletic), Dane Brugler (The Athletic), Todd McShay (ESPN), Mike Sando (The Athletic), Nate Davis (USA Today), Brooks Kubena (Houston Chronicle), Luke Easterling (Bucs Wire), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Hayden Winks (Underdog Fantasy), Kyle Stackpole (CBS Sports), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News), Nick Suss (The Tennessean), Calvin Watkins (Dallas Morning News), Ralph Vacchiano & Ben Arthur (Fox Sports)
No. 18: Derrik Klassen (Bleacher Report)
Brian Branch, NB/S, Alabama
Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
No. 18: Sam Farmer (LA Times)
Gonzalez and Witherspoon continue to be the two most mocked players to the Lions. The big influx toward Gonzalez this week is likely because he worked out at the combine and Witherspoon did not. Still, there are a lot of heavy hitters in the Lions and draft communities that have zoned in on these two players, and understandably so.
What is interesting about the pairings at No. 18 is that most of the mock drafters that gave the Lions an edge rusher at No. 6 made sure not to miss on pairing the Lions with another high-level defensive back.
Personally, I’m on board with Pouncy’s option to double dip at defensive back, and while I 100% agree on grabbing Branch at No. 18 if there, I still like Witherspoon a tick more than Gonzalez—though I would not be disappointed with either.
For some additional NFL Draft content, check out my coverage of the 2023 NFL Combine.