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Mike Payton’s 7-round Detroit Lions mock draft 2.0

A full seven-round Detroit Lions 2023 mock draft in which the team addresses several of their short and long-term needs.

Alabama v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Last week, I entered the mock draft chat with my first full seven-round mock draft. This week I’m at it again. Although this time, I’m going to do things differently. I talked a lot about how the Lions should be looking to trade down in this draft recently. I still think that’s the way to go, but I’m staying put at every pick in this one—at least in the first round.

To do this draft, I used Pro Football Network’s mock draft simulator. Here’s what I came out with. Here’s how the first five picks of the draft laid out before I got the chance to pick at six.

  1. C.J. Stroud
  2. Bryce Young
  3. Will Anderson
  4. Anthony Richardson
  5. Tyree Wilson

Pick No. 6: Jalen Carter, IDL, Georgia

Carter has been in the headlines for some bad reasons since the NFL Combine. It’s really hard to tell if his legal issues were an anomaly from a young kid who made a mistake or a sign of things to come.

The Lions haven’t been completely clear about the character they’re looking for in their players. On multiple occasions they have said they’re looking for guys who love football and that’s it.

Carter certainly seems to love football and he definitely excels at it. There is a risk with this pick, but make no mistake, the Lions are getting an absolute monster of a defensive tackle with this pick. Detroit can really take a large step on their defensive front with the game changer that is Jalen Carter. Look at what Carter can do in a short period of time.

Yes, please.

Pick No. 18: Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

The Lions did a lot to improve their secondary this offseason, but there’s still some work that can be done on the safety position. Enter the best safety in the draft. Branch is a versatile safety that accelerates like a Corvette. He’s not the fastest guy on the field, but his ability to get to his top speed fast is a very helpful trait.

The one issue for Branch is that he had a bad combine. Is that going to sour the Lions or any other team on him? It really shouldn’t. The tape says it all for a guy like Branch. He can just do so much. He can play either safety position, he can play in the slot, he can stop the run and he can rush the passer. Just look at some of his highlights here. The guy can do it all. Imagine him with Tracy Walker and Kerby Joseph.

Pick No. 48: O’Cyrus Torrence, OG, Florida

Drafting for the immediate is great for the Lions, especially since this is a team that is going to be contending to win their division and more in 2023. But you have to use some of these picks to plan for the future. Here’s a pick that might just be for both.

The Lions offensive line is one of the strengths of this team, but there are a lot of questions about the guard position on the right side. Right now I couldn't tell you who is starting there Week 1 and beyond. Torrence could answer that question right away.

This guy is a beast on the interior. He has imposing size at 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, and he has a ton of strength to back that size up. Look at him take on two Florida State defenders by himself with ease.

Jared Goff would love this guy. David Montgomery and D’Andre Swift would too.

No. 55: Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State

I took Henley in my first mock draft, and I’m taking him again here. I really like this player. Here were thoughts on him from the first mock draft:

I love a player who converts from one position to another and gets better. Henley fits that bill. The former wide receiver turned linebacker brings a lot to the table. The big thing he can bring to the Lions is his coverage ability. Those receiver hands and instincts really show up in his coverage tape. He’s so good that over the past two seasons, he’s tallied five interceptions and an outstanding 86.2 PFF coverage grade. Take a look at a little sample here:

Pick No. 81: Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion

I had to make a decision here. The Lions are reportedly in on a tight end in this draft, and I could have grabbed one earlier. Admittedly, I’m reaching for need here a little bit, but I have my reasons.

I want Kuntz in Detroit. Not for what he currently is, but for what he could be after being coached up. The guy is a monster of a man. He stands at 6-foot-7 and the man can fly. He registered a 40-inch vertical at the combine. That’s insane for his size. Look at it!

It’s not just that, Kuntz is an athlete. He had the highest recorded RAS grade of any tight end since at least 1987. On top of all that, he can be both a blocking tight end and a pass catching tight end. He just needs to be coached up before he can reach his full potential. It would be nice if that potential was met in Detroit.

Pick No. 152: Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford

In my previous mock, I attacked the wide receiver position a lot earlier. I still think it’s something the Lions should prioritize. Nevertheless, there were players I couldn’t pass up on this time. So we land with Stanford’s Michael Wilson. This is not a bad problem to have at all.

There’s one word that comes to mind when you watch the film on Wilson: separation. The guy does it without a problem. He regularly separated from opposing defenders at Stanford, but he really made himself stand out at the Senior Bowl with this ability. Look at him work his way out of this jam here. He goes from nicely covered to wide open in a flash.

The only real problem I personally have with Wilson is that I wish he was bigger. I tend to gravitate towards the receivers that are tall in stature. At 6-foot-1, Wilson isn’t exactly small, I just wish he was 6-foot-4. Still, he would be a great addition to a group that already features a couple guys who are great at separating from defenders.

The other issue is that Wilson has dealt with a lot of injuries in the last couple seasons. He’s missed 16 games. That might be hard to square with, but the talent is there. He’s the type of guy who could have gone much higher than this if he was able to stay healthy. With a new training staff in town and a solid enough receiving corps for now, this feels like a risk worth taking.

Pick No. 159: Riley Moss, CB, Iowa

Yes, I’m picking the guy that my previous pick just beat for a touchdown. The reason I’m doing this is not because he got beat, but because it was pretty hard to beat him. I’m also picking a cornerback with the pick the Lions got in exchange for trading a cornerback.

Moss is no joke. He’s an athletic corner who is also a ball hawk. He grabbed four picks during the 2021 season. He didn’t touch that in 2022, but he did have 11 passes defensed.

The reason I didn’t go corner higher is because the Lions focused so much of their offseason beefing that group up. That’s why it’s a perfect spot for the Lions to grab a guy who won’t play right away and will be more of a long-term project for the Lions. Anyone in the hands of Aaron Glenn and Dre Bly has a real chance of succeeding.

Pick No. 183: YaYa Diaby, EDGE, Louisville

Let’s keep adding to that defensive line. Diaby is another super athletic player. He had a 9.86 RAS after putting up an impressive combine.

Diaby is the kind of player who makes you wonder why he’s not slated to go much higher. Other than the Jaguars, who reportedly brought him in for a top-30 visit, it seems like most teams aren’t looking in his direction Maybe the Jags saw this.

Even if Diaby is a guy whose ceiling is to be a solid backup, the Lions should be looking to get all the solid backups they can get. Depth is the name of the game.

Pick No. 194: DeWayne McBride, HB, UAB

You didn’t think I would leave this draft without a running back did you? I really thought about taking Bijan Robinson early in the draft just spurn our fearless leader Jeremy Reisman, but I didn’t do that. I instead waited till the last pick to grab a guy I truly don’t believe will make it to this pick in real life.

McBride is was a stud in the C-USA. He ran for 1,371 yards and 13 touchdowns at UAB last season. That’s not even the sticking point here. The big take is that he led the country in yards after contact. He’s a bruiser of a running back who can also run with finesse—just the type of guy the Lions offense could use. Take a look at this.

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