Silly season is finally coming to an end as we’re only hours away from Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft. But since we still have some time before chaos ensues, it’s time to unveil my one and only mock draft of the year. Last year, I correctly mocked Aidan Hutchinson and James Mitchell to the Lions. This exercise will be what I think the Lions would do, and we’ve got a good mix of talent and grit in this mock draft, so let’s get into it.
1st round (6): Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
In his first two drafts, Brad Holmes added cornerstone prospects in the trenches on both sides of the ball with their first round picks. It’s something that the Los Angeles Rams focused on during his time there as well. My gut tells me the Lions will continue to add to their D-line and make it an even bigger strength. So that would potentially give them the choice of whoever is available between Anderson, Jalen Carter, and Tyree Wilson.
I think there is a semi-decent chance Anderson is still on the board when the Lions pick and if he’s there, I’d expect Holmes to get another earful from the league for turning in his card too quickly.
Anderson is one of the most productive edge rushers to come out of college in a while and is a versatile and moveable piece along the defensive line. He excels as both a pass rusher and run defender and would make a great pairing with Aidan Hutchinson.
1st round (18): Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
With the Lions’ second first-round pick, I have them taking one of the top cornerbacks available. Porter Jr. was available here, whom I also really like, but in the end I went with Banks because of his elite potential and athleticism.
Deonte Banks is a CB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.99 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 3 out of 2212 CB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/sEjE0GEVJ4 pic.twitter.com/Lwp2JFYWn7— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 14, 2023
This would be a great fit for both parties. Banks is the physical press-type corner that the Lions seek out, and while he is a bit raw with his technique, they have the luxury of bringing him along slowly after adding to the position in free agency. And if he develops quicker than expected, then the Lions could have a nice competition brewing at CB2.
2nd round (43)*: Steve Avila, IOL, TCU
*Lions trade the 48th, 151st and a 2024 6th round pick to the Jets for the 43rd pick
It wouldn’t be a Brad Holmes draft without some moving around. While I don’t typically love trading up for a guard early, the Lions only move up five spots here and give up very little to do so. Avila is projected to go as high as late in the first round to around the middle of the second round, right around where the Lions are picking. Dane Brugler has Avila slotted as his No. 40 ranked player on his big board, so it’s possible that a trade up would be needed to acquire him.
Avila is one of my favorite players in this draft and would immediately step in and challenge for the starting RG spot, as well as give the Lions some much-needed insurance with Jonah Jackson’s contract expiring soon.
Avila is someone that the Lions have already met with and fits that “Dan Campbell guy” personality, as featured in our own Erik Schlitt’s Grit Index piece.
2nd round (55): Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
After losing DJ Chark in free agency, the Lions still have a need for a long-term X-receiver. Tillman, to me, might be the best fit for that role in the entire draft and would provide Jared Goff with a large target in the intermediate/deep parts of the field.
Cedric Tillman is a bully against press coverage.— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) April 19, 2023
Cedric Tillman is a bully after the catch.
I like Cedric Tillman. pic.twitter.com/1whxec3uGn
Where Tillman wins is with his play strength. He can play bully ball at the line of scrimmage, at the top of the route, and at the catch point. He does a nice job of tracking the ball and adjusting his body to it in midair, as well as plucking the ball out of the air at its highest point with his late hands.
3rd round (90)*: Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State
*Lions trade the 81st overall pick to the Cowboys for the 90th and 129th overall pick
At 81, I felt like there was an opportunity to trade back and acquire an extra pick while still grabbing a couple players I really liked. Luckily, no one selected in that 81-89 range was on my radar, so we were still able to pick up some solid players and find good value.
Robinson played all over the field for the Seminoles, but projects best as a strong safety in the NFL. He is a heat-seeking missile as a downhill defender and has a knack for finding the football and making plays. Robinson is one of the few safeties that are confirmed to have met with the Lions during the pre-draft process.
4th round (129)*: Kobie Turner, IDL, Wake Forest
*Acquired in previous trade with Dallas
Ideally, the play would have been to add an interior defensive lineman earlier in the draft, but things just didn’t work out that way, unfortunately. Still, we were able to get Kobie Turner, who I’ve become a big fan of late in the draft process, and I believe he would be a nice addition for the Lions as a rotational 3-tech. In 2022, Turner earned a 93.1 run defense grade and an 88.8 pass rush grade via Pro Football Focus.
Here is an excerpt from Dane Brugler’s The Beast on Turner:
... competes hard and plays with reckless abandon … his teammates and coaches rave about his work ethic and drive (on and off the field) … consistent backfield production since he entered the starting lineup.
I’d say he sounds like a pretty good fit.
5th round (159): Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma
Gray is a guy that I’m a lot higher on than most. Getting him in the fifth round, to me, would be a complete steal. Here is what I had to say about Gray in my RB rankings article:
I really like Gray as an option in the late Day 2/early Day 3 range as someone that can challenge Swift for touches in the passing game, and has some desirable traits as a runner, to boot. He does not offer much in the speed department (only a 4.62 40-yard dash), but he’s very explosive and has a knack for making defenders miss in tight spaces and in the open field.
How he fits: Passing game specialist that can handle some carries as a complementary/change of pace back.
6th round (183): Cam Jones, LB, Indiana
I don’t know if I can think of a player in this draft cycle that fits the “Dan Campbell guy” mold more than Cam Jones. A three-time captain at Indiana, Jones is a fantastic run defender with a violent demeanor on the field. I expect the Lions to add to their linebacker unit late in the draft to add someone with developmental qualities that can also contribute heavily on special teams and Jones would be a perfect fit.
6th round (194): Carrington Valentine, CB, Kentucky
Valentine is everything the Lions look for in a late-round prospect. He has plenty of special teams experience on punt and kick coverages and is a great athlete with extreme confidence in his ability. His passion and competitiveness shine on and off the football field and when he makes a play, he’s letting the receiver and anyone around him know about it.