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Mock draft roundup 16.0: Active free agency shifts analysts' projections for Lions

Taking a closer look at the prospects from the 2023 NFL Draft that have been projected to the Detroit Lions over the past week.

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Syndication: Online Athens Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

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 are nearly three weeks into the NFL’s 2023 free agency period and analysts have slowly begun to alter their mock drafts based on player movement. For the most part, since the end of the regular season, the Lions have been heavily paired with defensive backs in mock drafts. But after the Lions added three potential starters to the secondary, analysts' focus has shifted to the three position groups the Lions did not address in free agency: Defensive tackle, quarterback, and tight end.

While it’s easy to connect the dots and believe the Lions will address those positions early, it’s important to understand that general manager Brad Holmes’ drafting strategy heavily focuses on adding the best available talent, as opposed to attempting to fill needs.

“When you’re approaching the draft and you’re just looking to fill those question marks, fill those holes, I do think that that can equate to some mistakes. I say back in St. Louis even, it got to a point where we had a pretty strong defensive line and we had some concerns elsewhere, but we just kept adding to our defensive line. And it just turned into this beast that was just a strength of the football team. So again, when you’re trying to stick to that depth chart, you’re trying to fill every hole, I just think that’s not the way that we do it. We just try to take the best player for us.”

This approach means virtually every position group is on the table, regardless of their offseason moves. Adjust your future mock drafts accordingly.

Alright, let’s get started with this week’s roundup.


Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

No. 3: Brad Spielberger (PFF) Lions trade picks 6, 48, 81, 2024 1st and 4th
No. 3: Kent Lee Platte (Pro Football Reference) Lions trade picks 6, 18, plus two 2nd rounders
No. 6: Charles McDonald (Yahoo Sports), Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown), Anthony Amico (The Aggregate)

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

No. 6: Jason McIntyre (Fox Sports)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Brad Holmes has traded up in each of the last two drafts, including in the first round last offseason. But would the Lions make the move to jump from pick No. 6 to No. 3 when history shows us that it would likely cost a significant amount of draft capital? Two of the above mock drafts suggest it would cost the Lions two first-round picks and two second-round picks to move up. I totally support the idea of going and getting “your guy,” but that cost is too rich for me.

If Richardson slides to pick No. 6 and the Lions grab him, I can make sense of that, even if it’s not my preferred outcome. Taking the Levis at that spot is even less exciting.

Offensive skill players

Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

No. 18: Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Jack McKessy (The Draft Network)

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

No. 18: Eric Edholm (, Keith Sanchez (The Draft Network), Will Brinson (CBS Sports), Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain), Brendan Donahue (Sharp Football Analysis)

Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

No. 18: Cynthia Frelund (, Brad Biggs (Chicago Tribune), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Hey, Bijan.

As I alluded to in the introduction, there was a massive influx of mock drafts pairing the Lions with a tight end. There’s a bit of a logjam at the top of the tight end class and different analysts—like NFL teams—all have different tight ends at the top of their boards. Dane Brugler of the Athletic and the folks over at the Draft Network side with Mayer as their top tight end, while NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and PFF like Kincaid as their top guy.

For the Lions, I don’t think it’s close. Mayer is more complete and one of the best blocking tight ends we have seen in recent years, while Kincaid is an elite pass catcher who struggles as a blocker. Logic points to the Lions liking Mayer.

Offensive linemen

Darnell Wright, RT/RG, Tennessee

No. 18: Pride of Detroit (Mock Draft)

O’Cyrus Torrence, RG, Florida

No. 18: Luke Easterling (Athlon Sports)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Projecting the Lions to take an offensive lineman at pick No. 18 has occasionally popped up in mock drafts this offseason, but I believe it’s a more realistic option than what most are anticipating—which is why Ryan Mathews and I grabbed Wright in our mock draft this week.

Defensive tackle

Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

No. 6: Luke Easterling (Athlon Sports), Keith Sanchez (The Draft Network), Jack McKessy (The Draft Network), Brad Biggs (Chicago Tribune), James Fragoza (Pro Football Network), Ben Axelrod (WKYC Cleveland), Andrew Wilbar (Behind the Steel Curtain)
No. 18: Mike Tannenbaum (ESPN)

Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh

No. 6: Cynthia Frelund (
No. 18: Bucky Brooks (, Bruce Feldman (The Athletic), Brad Spielberger (PFF), Hayden Winks (Underdog Fantasy)

Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern

No. 18: Anthony Amico (The Aggregate)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Welcome to the Jalen Carter party. Over the last month, Carter has seen his stock tumble as people react to questions about his off-the-field character. Three weeks ago, in roundup No. 14, we went into detail about Carter’s obstacles and our conclusion essentially was that his interviews with teams will be very significant. Since then, we have learned that Carter will meet with the Lions as one of their top 30 visits, and hopefully, the Lions will gain the perspective they need to make a decision.

But it’s not just the visit that has sparked this wave of projections of Carter to the Lions. Most believe—especially those projecting the marriage—that the locker room in Detroit could be exactly what Carter needs, whether there are concerns or not. With a glaring need to add talent to the defensive tackle position, the Lions’ culture may actually end up affording them the most talented player in the draft.

Kancey is also being connected to the Lions more frequently, and until analysts can get past the fact that Holmes was a catalyst in bringing Aaron Donald—an undersized Pittsburgh defensive tackle—to the Rams, expect this trend to continue.

Keep an eye on Adebawore, who is nearly identical in size to Kancey, but a better athlete with longer arms and will likely be available on Day 2. Adebawore is not as experienced playing inside as Kancey is, as he played mostly on the EDGE at Northwestern, but he can wreck games with his versatility.

Edge Rusher

Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

No. 6: Jordan Reid (ESPN), Bruce Feldman (The Athletic), Mike Tannenbaum (ESPN)

Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

No. 6: Diante Lee and Nate Tice (The Athletic)

Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

No. 11: Josh Edwards (CBS Sports) Lions trade pick 6 to Titans for picks 11 and 41

Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia

No. 18: Ben Axelrod (WKYC Cleveland)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Edge rusher, like the secondary, was a position the Lions made some noise at in free agency, re-signing John Cominsky and altering the contracts of Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris assuring they would not be cap casualties. As a result, things have tapered off in volume here. Wilson remains the most realistic option at pick No. 6 amongst this group, due to his potential developmental ceiling.


File not found.

Erik’s Thoughts:

There may be one linebacker selected in the first round, if any, and the chances of that player coming off the board ahead of pick No. 18 seems slim.

Defensive backs

Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

No. 6: Bucky Brooks (, Hayden Winks (Underdog Fantasy), Brendan Donahue (Sharp Football Analysis)
No. 11: Pride of Detroit (Mock Draft)
No. 18: Jason McIntyre (Fox Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

No. 6: Eric Edholm (, Will Brinson (CBS Sports), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports)

Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

No. 18: James Fragoza (Pro Football Network)

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

No. 18: Diante Lee and Nate Tice (The Athletic)

Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

No. 18: Jordan Reid (ESPN), Charles McDonald (Yahoo Sports), Brian Bosarge (Draft Countdown)

Erik’s Thoughts:

Defensive back should remain in play for the Lions in the first round for two main reasons. First, the starting roles are far from settled, and second, corner remains a long-term need. So if the Lions think one of the defensive backs is the best player available when they are picking, they may still select that player despite the influx of talent this offseason.

Witherspoon and Gonzalez remain two of the top options at pick No. 6, even though Witherspoon has seen his stock slide a bit after not being healthy enough to test at the Combine or Illinois pro day. He will be holding a private workout on April 5 and will likely start garnering more attention again then—because his game film is awesome.

If the Lions add a defensive back at pick No. 18, Banks makes a ton of sense, as he fits the physical style of play the Lions prefer and has a ton of athleticism—he registered a 9.99 RAS score among corners.

Additional NFL Draft content from Pride of Detroit

Check out the positional rankings from Alex Reno and my coverage of the 2023 NFL Combine.

Alex Reno’s positional breakdowns:

Prospect visits (which continuously updates):

Erik Schlitt’s NFL Combine coverage:

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