Well, I think it’s safe to say that Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft shaped up differently than anyone could have expected. We knew it was going to be unpredictable, but Brad Holmes and the Detroit Lions made that look like an understatement.
After trading back to the 12th overall pick, the Lions shocked everyone by taking the No. 2 running back off the board in Jahmyr Gibbs. And after many (including myself) were suspecting they would ignore linebacker until the mid-to-late rounds, they went and got Iowa LB Jack Campbell with the 18th overall pick. Two great players, but questionable value? I guess that remains to be seen.
Heading into Day 2, the Lions have three picks as it stands—all in the second round. They have the 34th overall pick acquired in the trade down, as well as the 48th and 55th overall picks.
Here are my top 10 available players that the Lions may consider on Day 2 of the draft:
Joey Porter Jr., Cornerback, Penn State
Perhaps the most surprising non-QB fall is Porter Jr. who was linked to some teams in the mid-teen range. Only four corners were selected in the first round, so maybe teams are feeling like they can really dip into this deep class on Day 2 where the real value can be realized. Porter Jr. had been linked to the Steelers a lot when they held the 17th pick, and they’re right at the top of the second round at 32 overall, so it’s possible he comes off the board immediately.
Brian Branch, Safety, Alabama
Another surprising fall. Branch is a guy that many seemed to like for the Lions with the 18th overall pick, so I think getting him at 34 would make a lot of people happy. He is listed as a safety, but has a lot of experience as a slot corner, too, and would be a nice long-term fit for the Lions’ secondary.
Steve Avila, Offensive Guard, TCU
Avila is one of my favorite players in this draft and I even mocked him to the Lions in my one and only mock draft this year. He would be great value even with the 34th overall pick, and would come in Day 1 and challenge for the starting right guard job. He is a phenomenal pass blocker with some grit to his game as well.
O’Cyrus Torrence, Offensive Guard, Florida
Torrence is another guard prospect that would fit the Lions’ culture perfectly. He’s a total road grader in the run game and one of the nastiest lineman in this draft. He’s not quite as athletic as someone like Avila and he’s still figuring things out as a pass protector, but he would immediately add value to the running game if he manages to win the starting RG job.
Michael Mayer, Tight End, Notre Dame
If the Lions are looking to continue their streak of drafting the least valuable positions in football, then they could look at tight end early on Day 2. At least it would make more sense to draft one on Day 2 than on Day 1. In all seriousness, Mayer is the most complete tight end in this draft and plays a position of need for the Lions. It would make a lot of sense.
Darnell Washington, Tight End, Georgia
Washington is the other top option if the Lions are looking for a tight end. He tested extremely well athletically but doesn’t quite look to be an elite athlete on film. He brings immediate value as a dominant run blocker and fits well as an inline TE.
Will Levis, Quarterback, Kentucky
With Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, and Anthony Richardson gone, I don’t love what’s left from the QB crop, but Levis was projected to go in the top five in most mocks. He’s worth taking a look at, and while he has a low floor, his ceiling is still very high. The Lions would be one of those situations where he can develop behind a proven starter and potentially pay dividends for the Lions in the future if he turns out to be the real deal. Hendon Hooker is also an option here for many of the same reasons, and the Lions have shown interest there.
Cam Smith, Cornerback, South Carolina
I still expect the Lions to add a cornerback at some point in this draft. I don’t have Smith in the same tier as Porter Jr. and Branch, but he is still a very solid CB for the Lions to consider on Day 2. He would immediately step in as one of the lengthier CBs on the Lions’ roster and he would fit right in with the Lions’ man-heavy scheme.
Cedric Tillman, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Tillman is probably more of an option in the 48-55 range for the Lions and would be a perfect fit as an X-receiver in the Lions’ offense. They have a long-term need there, and Tillman does a really nice job of playing bully ball at the line of scrimmage and in contested situations. He will be a nice option for Goff in the intermediate/deep parts of the field.
Keeanu Benton, Defensive Tackle, Wisconsin
The Lions’ biggest need to me is still at defensive tackle. I’m sure defensive coaches still have the Carolina Panthers game seared into their minds and they desperately need someone that can help improve their run defense. Benton would step in on Day 1 and add value there, but he is also a capable pocket mover and has plenty of upside as a pass rusher. This would be a great addition, even with their first pick in the second round.