At this point, even the the most hearty of draftniks are likely tired of 2023 NFL Draft coverage. We are just now hours away from the NFL Draft, and mock draft simulators are on their last leg. Rumors are running rampant, and if you’re like me, you’ve just submitted to the actual results. There’s no point in trying to find the true answers of what will happen over the next three days, because we’ll know soon enough at this point.
... but let me indulge you one final time. I’m not too much of a fan of doing mock drafts. So, instead, let me offer you five predictions for the Detroit Lions’ 2023 NFL Draft that I guarantee will either become true or won’t.
The Lions won’t take a quarterback at all
While I think the Lions are keeping their options open at the quarterback position, I ultimately think they will pass on drafting a quarterback—even late in this draft. Detroit’s constant insistence that they won’t “force” a quarterback pick tells me they aren’t going to trade up into the top five for one, and I think the only reasonable one who will be available at six is Florida’s Anthony Richardson. I do think the Lions are a nice landing spot for him, but I don’t think Detroit is looking to take on a project that high.
I’m not a huge fan of taking a flier on any of the late-round prospects in this draft, and that wouldn’t upgrade Detroit’s backup spot over Nate Sudfeld, which I still believe the Lions are looking to do. Plus, with Teddy Bridgewater currently having an offer from the Lions on the table, Detroit has no reason to force this.
The one quarterback who I think has a small chance of being drafted by the Lions is Hendon Hooker. Detroit has done their research on him, but, again, he’s a long-term project and I don’t think that’s something they’ll spend a first-round pick on. If he’s there at 48, though...
Detroit will trade out of 18, and eventually up into the fourth round
We’ve heard the rumors that the Lions have made calls to trade down out of the 18th-overall pick. However, I think it’s just as likely they trade up from 18. Lions general manager Brad Holmes—whether I like it or not—is an aggressive selector when it comes to draft day.
“Regardless of what we did at the end of the season, again we’ve just got to stay aggressive still, keep our foot on the gas and make sure we’re acquiring the best players,” Holmes said last week.
As of Thursday morning, the Lions have Pick 81 (third round) and then don’t select until Pick 152 in the fifth round. I would be shocked if the Lions don’t find a way to grab a pick in between then. They have enough late-round ammo to trade up into that fourth round, but they could also acquire it via a trade down earlier in the draft. Either way, that middle of the draft is too valuable for Holmes to sit on his hands for several hours.
The Lions will draft a tight end on Day 2
I never really bought into the hype that the Lions were happy with their tight end crew. Yes, they managed to score a ton of touchdowns after T.J. Hockenson was traded, but the blocking skills of James Mitchell, Brock Wright, and Shane Zylstra are average, at best. I’m sure the Lions have plenty of faith in Mitchell—who only scratched the surface in his rookie season coming off an ACL tear—but they need a high-upside player to pair him with.
And this just so happens to be a uniquely deep tight end draft. It’s hard to know where these guys will fall, but Darnell Washington, Dalton Kincaid, Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, Sam LaPorta, and Luke Schoonmaker all seem like realistic Day 2 options.
The Lions will draft a guard who doesn’t start in 2023, but will in 2024
Detroit has done a ton of homework on this year’s offensive line class, particularly with guards. A look at our 2023 NFL Draft visit tracker shows at least six top-30 visits with offensive linemen: Darnell Wright, Steve Avila, Jordan McFadden, O’Cyrus Torrence, Antonio Mafi, and Chandler Zavala. That’s 20 percent of their visits spent on one position.
That being said, even if they draft one of these players in the first three rounds, it’s likely they’ll spend Year 1 as a reserve. Detroit restructured the contract Halapoulivaati Vaitai—a player they really like and who appears to be close to healthy. He now counts $5 milion against the cap and would count more if the Lions opted to cut him. He’s not going anywhere, and that’s a lot of money to spend on a player you intend on benching. However, with his contract automatically voiding in 2024, the long-term need remains.
The addition of Graham Glasgow gives Detroit depth in case the right player doesn’t fall to them, but they’ve done enough research to suggest filling that long-term need is a priority.
Alright, here’s my dart throw for the first six picks in the draft:
- Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young
- Houston Texans: EDGE Tyree Wilson
- Tennessee Titans (via trade): QB C.J. Stroud
- Indianapolis Colts: QB Will Levis
- Seattle Seahawks: EDGE Will Anderson
- Detroit Lions: CB Devon Witherspoon
As much as I want Jalen Carter to be the guy, I just think the Lions value character far too much to take a potential risk here. I’m not convinced Carter is a bad person or someone who won’t work hard, but there is enough smoke here for me to believe the Lions will not take the chance. Plus, Carter thinks he’s going to be a Philadelphia Eagle, which suggests he thinks Detroit will pass on him.
Devon Witherspoon shouldn’t be considered a consolation prize, though. He’s a heck of a player, and there’s a reason why just about everyone is mocking him to the Lions this week.