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Lions post-free agency mock draft: Daniel Jeremiah, Mel Kiper take different paths

Breaking down two of the latest Detroit Lions mock drafts after the first wave of free agency.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The landscape of the NFL Draft has likely shifted dramatically over the past week. With players all on the move in the first few days of free agency, team needs have drastically changed, which has likely altered the draft boards of many teams.

The Detroit Lions are likely no different, as their free agency bonanza—mainly focused on defense—has lessened the needs at several different positions.

So how have two of the most notorious mock drafters responded to the Lions’ active free agency period? On Tuesday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and’s Daniel Jeremiah offered their latest mock drafts, but the two took somewhat different paths. Let’s look at each mock draft and pick our favorite.

Daniel Jeremiah Mock 3.0

Pick 6: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

In Jeremiah’s mock, three quarterbacks went off the board, as well as Alabama edge defender Will Anderson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. That left the Lions with an option at the top cornerback, a top-four quarterback (Will Levis), another defensive line prospect (Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson or Clemson’s Miles Murphy), or even a potential offensive line option.

But despite Detroit’s massive investment in the cornerback position in free agency, Jeremiah stuck with one of the more commonly-mocked players to Detroit in Devon Witherspoon. I wouldn’t say this is an unrealistic option, as Detroit only has two cornerbacks signed beyond 2023 (Cameron Sutton and Chase Lucas). Witherspoon may not immediately get into the starting lineup, but he could be a huge addition in 2024 and beyond if the Emmanuel Moseley signing doesn’t turn into a long-term deal.

Pick 18: DT Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

Jeremiah failed the Can You Talk About Calijah Kancey Without Mentioning Aaron Donald test. Here’s what he said about Kancey:

Lions GM Brad Holmes spent a lot of time around Aaron Donald during his previous stop as the Rams’ director of college scouting. Kancey isn’t on Donald’s level — nobody is — but his explosive quickness would beautifully complement Detroit’s young edge rushers to give the Lions a fearsome pass-rush group.

Stylistically, the comparisons have their merit, but their production in college is not even close, and expecting Aaron Donald domination at the next level is a fool’s errand.

That said, defensive tackle remains one of the team’s biggest short and long-term needs. The Lions did not make any moves at the position in free agency, other than re-signing nose tackle Isaiah Buggs to a two-year deal. They need some pass rush up the middle and Kancey would provide that.

Mel Kiper Jr. Mock 3.0

Pick 6: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

In Kiper’s scenario, four quarterbacks are taken in the first five picks, with Will Anderson being the sole non-QB pick. That gave Kiper the option to take Carter—who wasn’t available in Jeremiah’s mock—and the ESPN draft guru jumped at the opportunity.

Obviously, there are now serious character concerns about Carter, because otherwise this would a slam-dunk pick. The legal proceedings are now a thing of the past, as Carter pled “no contest” to reckless driving and racing charges, resulting in 12 months probation, 80 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine. Additionally, Carter’s attorney, Kim Stephens, put out a public statement to debunk some previously reported details about Carter’s involvement in the incident. Per Stephens, Carter did not leave the scene until an officer told him he could, and Carter was not responsible for the accident himself.

Unfortunately for Carter, his on-field devotion was questioned shortly thereafter following an unimpressive performance at Georgia’s Pro Day. Those present said he was unable to finish certain drills and weighed nine pounds heavier than he did at the NFL Combine.

That said, there are also plenty coming to Carter’s defense. Todd McShay, who actually raised initial questions about Carter’s character before January’s car accident, had this to say about Carter on a recent podcast:

“And the other thing is like with Jalen, specifically, I’ve spent 95% of my time talking about how great of a player he is on the field. I even emphasize, like, yeah, you might not get in practice what you want to get in practice. But that dude will play his ass off for you.

Carter’s character will continue to be a hot topic of debate until draft night.

Pick 18: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

If you weren’t off board with Kiper’s mock by the Carter pick, this may be where you’re jumping ship. The Lions have not had a good history of drafting tight ends in the first round, but that alone shouldn’t discount selecting Meyer at 18. The Lions did nothing to upgrade their tight end room this offseason, and while the Lions are likely higher on their young crew—James Mitchell, Brock Wright, and Shane Zylstra—they could certainly stand to upgrade from that group of players.

Meyer would be an interesting choice. He’s the consensus top tight end in the draft. He didn’t blow up the NFL Combine, but he finished with a more-than-acceptable 8.08 RAS. Mayer would bring a big receiving threat, as he tallied 1,649 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in his last two years with the Fighting Irish. But he also brings a tenacious attitude to blocking that could catch Dan Campbell’s eyes:

With about two-thirds of his snaps coming inline vs. the slot, Mayer is a decently-balanced option who could bring more to the receiving game than Detroit’s current group of tight ends have to offer.

But the question becomes do the Lions value tight end enough to spend a first-round investment on it? Detroit is still trying to figure out what they have in 2022 fourth-round James Mitchell, who just barely got his feet wet last year coming back from a torn ACL. And while I’m sure offensive coordinator Ben Johnson would love another offensive target to integrate into their game plan, it may be viewed as a bit of a luxury considering their current skill position depth.

Which mock draft do you like the most? Vote in the poll below and discuss in the comment section.


Which mock draft is better?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Daniel Jeremiah (Witherspoon, Kancey)
    (2845 votes)
  • 32%
    Mel Kiper (Carter, Mayer)
    (1380 votes)
4225 votes total Vote Now