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.
This week represents a weird dilemma for the roundup because of the start of the 2023 free agency period. Most of the mock drafts from the beginning of the week didn’t factor in any free agency moves, while the ones being published as the week went on had the benefit of seeing some of the roster additions.
For the most part, the Detroit Lions needs have stayed the same, and the pairings seem to reflect that, but there is still some shuffling of big boards from the Combine happening and there was one incident that seemed to impact views—but more on that in a bit.
Alright, let’s jump right into this week’s roundup.
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
No. 6: Gordon McGuinness (PFF)
While the quarterback rankings have been all over the place this season, most analysts are starting to rank Bryce Young (Alabama) and C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) as the top two prospects, followed by Anthony Richardson (Florida) due to his upside. All three are typically off the board by the time the Lions are on the clock at pick No. 6.
That brings us to Will Levis, who regularly checks in fourth on big boards. Of the draft big boards I am keeping an eye on, the one that ranks Levis the highest is PFF’s, so it was a bit surprising to see one of their analysts have him going fourth in his mock draft. I wonder if things will change in their next update.
More offensive players
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
No. 18: Ben Standig (The Athletic), John Vogel (NFL Draft Blitz)
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
No. 18: Dave Helman and Carmen Vitali (Fox Sports), Oliver Hodgkinson (Pro Football Network)
Hey, Bijan, nice to see you again.
Smith-Njiba is showing up for the first time in this season’s roundup, and as tends to happen in mock drafts, his presence comes with more than one analyst’s projection. Don’t get me wrong, Smith-Njiba is very much in the conversation to be the top wide receiver off the board, but this feels more reactionary to the NFL Combine than an actual projection to the Lions.
Smith-Njiba had a heck of a Combine. He looked sharp in routes, his 6.57-second 3-cone time (which measures the ability to change direction at high speeds) is insane and completely believable if you’ve watched him play. But Smith-Njiba is almost entirely a slot receiver, taking close to 90% of his snaps at the “Y.” The problem with pairing him to Detroit is they have a Pro Bowler in Amon-Ra St. Brown who sees the majority of his snaps out of the slot as well—and I can’t see the Lions making a major shift to the Sun God’s role when things are working so well.
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
No. 6: Ryan Fowler (Draft Network), Natalie Miller (Draft Wire), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports) John Vogel (NFL Draft Blitz)
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
No. 18: Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire)
Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
No. 18: Gordon McGuinness (PFF)
No 26: Russell Brown (Lions Wire) - Lions trade pick No. 18, receive picks No. 26 and 58
The Jalen Carter saga continued this week but may be coming to a close.
After leaving the Combine early to turn himself in to Georgia police after an arrest warrant was issued for his involvement in a fatal car crash, Carter has been dealing with the legal process for the last two weeks. At its conclusion, Carter pled no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing, which resulted in no jail time, a $1,000 fine, 80 hours of community service, and one year of probation. Carter’s attorney issued a statement detailing the situation and pushed back against media reports that had published false information, providing further clarity.
While Carter’s legal troubles may be in the past, there are still plenty of questions NFL teams will want answers to—including his pro day performance.
Georgia held their pro day on Wednesday and Carter showed up nine pounds heavier than he was at the Combine two weeks earlier. He was unable to finish the workout and many deemed it an incredibly poor performance. The pro day was televised on ESPN’s SEC network and plenty of people got a first-hand look at what looked like a lackluster effort combined with poor conditioning. While this showing could be viewed as a lackadaisical effort, it’s also very understandable that the young man struggled with the stress of a very serious off-the-field incident.
How much will this impact Carter’s stock?
Some think it will drop him out of the top 10, while others think the impact will be minimal. For example, we have never had more than two projections of Carter to the Lions in any of the previous roundups—because most had him off the board ahead of pick No. 6— but this week those projections doubled.
For me, I think Carter’s explanation of recent events to teams will be the determining factor in his stock. If he has a believable story with legitimate answers, his stock may not be impacted at all. But if he can’t deliver a proper response, there may be enough red flags there that some teams not want to gamble on him with a top pick—despite being arguably the best player in college football last season.
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
No. 6: Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
No. 18: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
No. 18: Mark Schofield, Joseph Acosta, and Jared Mueller (SB Nation), Trevor Sikkema (PFF)
Wilson should remain very much in the mix at No. 6 because his upside is there, and after the Lions' free agency additions at cornerback, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get mocked more to Detroit as soon as next week.
Murphy’s stock continues to drop, and after not working out at the Combine or at Clemson’s pro day, it’s not overly surprising. Murphy plans to hold a private workout in April in an eleventh-hour attempt to get some performance drills in for NFL teams.
Smith is another player who showed out at the Combine, and while he is plenty deserving of being selected in this range, the fit is not totally smooth. Smith (6-foot-2, 238) is basically the same size as James Houston and would fill a similar role as a pass-rushing SAM linebacker. Unless the Lions change their scheme—which doesn’t seem likely based on re-signings like John Cominsky and Isaiah Buggs—there probably wouldn’t be room for both Smith and Houston.
Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
No. 18: Joe Broback (Pro Football Network), Brad Menendez (Draft Countdown)
Sanders is arguably the only plug-and-play linebacker in this class, but with the Lions re-signing Alex Anzalone for three years, as well as returning Malcolm Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes, this position group is probably not viewed as a first-round priority by the Lions.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
No. 6: Dave Helman and Carmen Vitali (Fox Sports)
No. 18: Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
No. 6: Mark Schofield, Joseph Acosta, and Jared Mueller (SB Nation), Russell Brown (Lions Wire), Ben Standig (The Athletic), Trevor Sikkema (PFF), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Brad Menendez (Draft Countdown), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network), Oliver Hodgkinson (Pro Football Network)
No. 18: Natalie Miller (Draft Wire)
Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
No. 18: Ryan Fowler (Draft Network)
Witherspoon and Gonzalez remain the most popular mock draft projections for the Lions and it’s hard to disagree, despite the free agent signings of Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley. With both Jeff Okudah and Moseley in the final year of their contracts, the Lions could use this opportunity to draft an elite-level corner without feeling the need to rush him to the field.
Brents had a great Combine—stop me if you’ve heard this before—checking in at 6-foot-3 with 34-inch arm length and jumping out of the building (41.5-inch vertical jump and 11-foot-6 broad jump) but for him to jump into the first round would be quite a leap from where he has been projected. That being said, Fowler said in his write-up that “Brents is CB1 on three teams’ boards I’ve spoken to,” suggesting he may be someone the draft media has been overlooking.
For some additional NFL Draft content, check out my coverage of the 2023 NFL Combine.