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.
We’re a dozen days into the 2023 free agency period and the Lions' aggressiveness has filled several major holes on their roster. With several weaknesses addressed and/or upgraded, it has thrown analysts' mock drafts into a blender and projections are all over the place. The majority of projections still have the Lions looking defense, but there was a noticeable uptick in the number of offensive players paired with the Lions this week—including one player that was mocked to Detroit by two prominent local beat writers.
Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
Whenever a player is mocked to the Lions by a local beat writer it’s worth noting, but when two project the same player in the same week, it makes you sit up and take notice.
Skoronski is arguably the top offensive lineman in the 2023 draft cycle and currently lands in the top 15 on most major draft big boards, including being fourth on The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s board, sixth on NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein rankings, eighth for NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, 12th on PFF’s Draft board, and 14th for The Draft Network.
For context, Skoronski has been so good at left tackle that Northwestern kept him on the blind side over Rashawn Slater (Chargers left tackle and pick No. 13 in 2022) who they used at right tackle.
Even though all of Skoronski’s college snaps (2,363) have come at left tackle, he is projected as being able to play all five spots on the offensive line. His combination of athleticism (RAS: 9.28 as a tackle, 9.89 as a guard) quickness, footwork, balance, hand usage, and perfect technique are the driving forces in that projection. He could bulk up a bit in his core strength but there are not many flaws in his game.
The biggest knock analysts have with Skoronski is his lack of arm length (32 1/4 inches — almost two inches below the NFL offensive tackle average). It’s rare for an offensive tackle to survive in the NFL with 33-inch arms, which is why it’s rumored that several teams consider him an interior offensive lineman-only prospect.
That being said, Skoronski’s positive attributes strongly suggest that if a team moves him inside, he has Pro Bowl potential from Day 1—which is where the Lions would use him if they did select him.
The Lions' offensive line is the strength of their team, and there is an argument to be made to keep the unit strong in order to maintain success, but is the cost to acquire him worth the investment?
Positional value is important to the Lions. There is a reason they have drafted offensive tackle, defensive end, and wide receiver in the first round of the last two drafts, while waiting until Day 3 to address positions such as tight end and linebacker, which are deemed less valuable from top to bottom.
While Skoronski has positional range, he would be a guard for the Lions for at least two seasons (if not his entire career), and guards tend to have lower positional value across the league. Let’s take a quick look at where the first guard was selected in the five most recent drafts:
- 2022, Kenyon Green, pick No. 15
- 2021, Alijah Vera-Tucker, No. 14
- 2020, Robert Hunt, No. 39
- 2019, Chris Lindstrom, No. 14
- 2018, Quenton Nelson, No. 6
Nelson is the anomaly of the group but for good reason, he absolutely dominates inside. But he is the exception, not the rule. Typically, even the top interior offensive linemen go off the board in the teens, with starting value being found all the way through Day 2.
For example, on the Lions’ starting interior offensive line, Pro Bowler Frank Ragnow was selected with pick No. 20, Pro Bowler Jonah Jackson was pick No. 75, Graham Glasgow was pick No. 95, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai was pick No. 164 (fifth round) overall.
So this begs the question: Is Skoronski the dominant player Nelson is and worth the price tag at pick No. 6 or is his value closer to pick to 14/15 because of positional value?
In my opinion, it’s a luxury pick to take an interior offensive lineman inside the top 10, especially when historically you can find value on Day 2. But at the same time, the Lions do have a long-term need at the position—Jackson, Glasgow, and Vaitai are all in the final year of their contracts. The roster is set up right now to be able to draft some luxury, and Skoronski looks like a Pro Bowl level player right out of the gate.
Alright, let’s jump into the rest of this week’s roundup.
Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Most mock drafts have Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), and Anthony Johnson (Florida) coming off the board in the first four picks, so if the Lions don’t move up, it looks like Levis would be their next option at quarterback.
Offensive skill players
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
No. 18: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)
Quintin Johnston, WR, TCU
No. 16: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports) - Lions trade pick No. 6, receive picks No. 16, 97, and 2024 1st round
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
No. 6: Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
Johnston has made his way back into the projections for the Lions, and with DJ Chark now in Carolina, I do expect to see more wide receivers—specifically WR-Xs—being paired with the Lions. Of note, the Lions did meet with Johnston at the NFL Combine.
The biggest fallout from the Lions' free agency moves seems to be felt most at tight end. This would be another luxury pick for the Lions, but at pick No. 18, it’s a bit more palatable. Mayer and Washington represent more of what the Lions are looking for, due to their blocking skills, while Kincaid is arguably the best pass catching tight end in the draft but has a lot of work to do as a blocker.
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
No. 18: Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com)
As we discussed in last week’s roundup, Carter’s projected fall due to off-the-field concerns is notable, but also possibly overblown. In our Friday open thread, we asked the question: would you support the Lions drafting Carter? And at the time of this publishing, 75% of Lions fans said yes.
Even if Carter is not in the mix for the Lions at No. 6—because was drafted earlier or they pass on him—defensive tackle depth remains one of Detroit’s most glaring needs and the debate between Bresee vs. Kancey vs. them being reaches, will continue over the next month.
Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
No. 6: Jeff Risdon (Draft Wire)
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
Despite contract renegotiations for Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris almost assuring they’ll be on the roster for 2023, several analysts continue to “draft for the future” for the Lions on the edge.
Bottom line here is, there’s value at edge rusher in this draft class and the Lions drafting for value is becoming a common projection.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
No. 16: Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network) - Lions trade picks No. 18 and 81 for No. 16
I like Simpson as a player and his coverage skills would be a big upgrade for the Lions’ defense, but I don’t like the value here and I’m not sure how he gets on the field in their current scheme—especially with C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the mix for the Lions' slot/hang role.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
No. 6: Michael Renner (PFF), Russell Brown (Fantasy Pros), Brentley Weissman (Draft Network), Pete Prisco (CBS Sports), BJ Rudell (Pro Football Network), Nick Guarisco (Action Network), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown), T.J. McCreight (The 33rd team), Cam Mellor (Pro Football Network)
No. 18: Charles Davis (NFL.com)
Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
No. 18: BJ Rudell (Pro Football Network)
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Lions have invested heavily in defensive backs this offseason but there remains a potential long-term need, so selecting a corner in the first round is a real possibility. Witherspoon, Gonzalez, and Banks have been the most popular options to pair with the Lions and they all match the Lions' scheme and athletic preferences.
Keep an eye on Banks who has seen his stock rise of late. After testing at elite levels at the Combine, analysts have begun combing through his game film, and there’s a lot to like—especially for the Lions.
An example (against Ohio State) of the type of physicality #Maryland CB Deonte Banks brings to the table as a press-man corner. Love his fit in Detroit, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh.— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) March 20, 2023
Shouldn’t get outside of the top-20. pic.twitter.com/LQZBLEV0kQ
Additional NFL Draft content from Pride of Detroit
Check out the positional rankings from Alex Reno and my coverage of the 2023 NFL Combine.