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 less than three weeks away from the 2023 NFL draft and analysts are scrambling to find the right matches of teams and prospects. Being so close to the end of this series, in this installment, if a mock draft expanded beyond the first round the other top 100 projections were also included. Hopefully, this will introduce new prospect names to Lions fans and help expand their knowledge base ahead of the big event.
Alright, let’s get started with this week’s roundup.
Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford
No. 81: Michael Renner (PFF)
After a few weeks of projecting a quarterback at pick No. 6—or even trading up—this week was absent of pairings between the Lions and one of the top four quarterbacks in the class.
Hooker has become a very popular choice for the Lions recently, and with him taking a top-30 visit to Allen Park next week, expect this projection to continue. While Hooker remains a logical pairing for the Lions—who can afford to let him heal properly from ACL surgery and won’t need to rush him into action—his projections remain all over the map, ranging everywhere from high in the first round to late in the third.
This is McKee’s first time on the roundup, and for good reason, as PFF seems to be the only publication that believes he will go in the top 100 picks.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
No. 11: Dave Birkett (Free Press) Lions trade pick No. 6, acquire picks 11, 72, and 2024 2nd
No. 18: Todd McShay (ESPN), Nick Baumgardner (The Athletic), Matt Urben (Falcons Wire), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Will Brinson (CBS Sports), Geoff Hobson (Bengals.com)
Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA
No. 81: Jeff Risdon (Draft Wire)
“Hey, Bijan” has become a simple weekly note (with a link to a breakdown of his fit with the Lions) in the roundup, as Robinson has consistently been connected to Detroit for a few months now. And while he has been a regular, the volume of projections this week is by far the highest we have seen this offseason—including one from local beat writer, Dave Birkett.
“Robinson is one of the most talented players in the draft, a do-it-all running back who (Todd) McShay said Wednesday is a better prospect than Saquon Barkley was when he went No. 2 to the New York Giants in 2018,” Birkett wrote. “The Lions signed David Montgomery in free agency and return D’Andre Swift, but Swift is in the last year of his deal and Robinson has impact potential as a rusher and receiver. He could be for the Lions what Todd Gurley was for the Los Angeles Rams when Lions QB Jared Goff helped that team reach the Super Bowl.”
In the constant tug between elite talent and the devaluation of the running back position, many are projecting pick No. 18 to be the sweet spot for the “when to take Bijan” conversation.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
No. 18: Brett Whitefield (Fantasy Points)
Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
No. 18: Michael Renner (PFF)
Wide receivers have been sprinkled in the roundup off and on all offseason, with Johnston being the most common pairing with Detroit. The Lions don’t have a clear WR-X on the roster, and Johnston is the top receiver for that role in this draft class.
This is the first time we have seen Smith-Njigba in the roundup this offseason, despite him potentially being the first receiver off the board on draft night. For the most part, his absence has likely been because he takes the majority of his snaps in the slot—90+% in 2021, 80+% in 2022—and the Lions have Pro Bowler Amon-Ra St. Brown in that role. Whitefield believes Smith-Njigba’s game is capable of expanding beyond being a slot-only receiver, and the combination of him, St. Brown, and Jameson Williams would be an impressive trio of pass catchers.
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
No. 18: Lance Zierlein (NFL.com)
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
No. 18: Pete Prisco (CBS Sports)
Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
No. 81: Ian Valentino (Pro Football Network)
We did it. It took us expanding the mock drafts through three rounds, but we have finally seen a week where the Lions were paired with all six of the projected top tight ends in this class. It’s worth noting that amongst this group of six, the Lions have reportedly only met with LaPorta and Kraft, both at the NFL Combine.
O’Cyrus Torrence, RG, Florida
No. 18: Curt Popejoy (Draft Wire)
Steve Avila, IOL, TCU
Blake Freeland, OT, BYU
No. 81: Dalton Miller (Pro Football Network)
Torrence and Avila both have top-30 visits planned with the Lions and both would immediately challenge for a starting right guard role in 2023. Pick No. 18 seems a bit rich for either player, but both should be off the board no later than the second round.
Freeland is a player I profiled during the season because I liked his athleticism and swing tackle capabilities. I do believe he could be a very nice fit with the Lions but also believe this selection is at least a round (or two) early.
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
No. 6: Erik Schlitt (SB Nation mock draft), Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Curt Popejoy (Draft Wire), Pete Prisco (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports), Matthew Freedman (Fantasy Pros), Fox Sports Staff, Geoff Hobson (Bengals.com)
Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Brian Bresee, DL, Clemson
Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin
Zacch Pickens, DT, South Carolina
No. 81: Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)
Karl Brooks, DT, Bowling Green
No. 81: Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)
People are very aware the Lions could use some interior defensive line depth but who and when they will address this is all over the map.
The Lions appear to be legitimate contenders for Jalen Carter, with most pointing to locker room culture and strong coaching staff as reasons why any off-the-field concerns could be contained. Beyond him, there seems to be a pretty even distribution of projections, with many expecting the Lions to address the position on Day 2.
Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
No. 6: Mike O’Hara (DetroitLions.com), Todd McShay (ESPN), Damian Parson (Draft Network), Michael Renner (PFF), Adam Rank (NFL.com), Hayden Winks (Underdog Fantasy), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz (USA Today), T.J. McCreight (33rd Team), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
No. 18: Steve Palazzolo (PFF)
Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
No. 18: Sam Farmer (LA Times)
Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech
Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
No. 55: Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
Those dreaming about the Lions landing Will Anderson can keep those dreams alive another week, but Wilson is by far the more popular choice. Many have settled on Wilson’s upside landing him as a top-six prospect and fitting the Lions’ trend of building through the trenches. There are still Murphy believers out there who think he will go in the top 10, but most projections have him landing in the 10-20 range recently.
Van Ness and Smith are still getting some Lions love, while White returns to the roundup after about a month of being absent. Anudike-Uzomah has only made the roundup once before, but if the Lions are looking for pass rushing depth and a player capable of operating as Aidan Hutchinson’s backup on the open end, this range is good value for his skill set.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
No. 48: Dalton Miller (Pro Football Network)
Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
The Lions grabbing a linebacker in the second round would buck the recent trend of how Detroit appears to value the position, but Simpson and Campbell are amongst the top of this class. Based on past usage, there’s not a lot of room for snaps for either player, unless they quickly climb the depth chart or find a situational role—i.e. Simpson as a coverage linebacker in the Chris Board role.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
No. 6: Erik Schlitt (POD Community mock draft), Lance Zierlein (NFL.com), Steve Palazzolo (PFF), Sam Farmer (LA Times), Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports), Will Brinson (CBS Sports), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown), Harris Oates (Draft ID)
No. 11: Brett Whitefield (Fantasy Points) — 3 team trade
No. 13: Jeff Risdon (Draft Wire) — Lions trade picks 6 and 183, acquire picks 13, 42, and 207
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
No. 18: Fox Sports Staff
Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
No. 18: T.J. McCreight (33rd Team)
Sydney Brown, S, Illinois
No. 55: Ian Valentino (Pro Football Network)
Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami
No. 81: Curt Popejoy (Draft Wire)
JL Skinner, S, Boise State
No. 81: Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire)
As predicted last week, Witherspoon’s private workout has vaulted him back into the limelight for Detroit. Both he and Gonzalez remain in competition with Wilson and Carter as popular choices for the Lions if they stay at pick No. 6 or move around via trade.
Beyond pick No. 6, adding a defensive back is still a popular choice, with preferences varying. Branch, Porter, and Banks have been mocked in the back half of the first round most of the offseason and make regular appearances in the roundup. While adding a Day 2 safety, like at linebacker, seems to create a logjam of depth both now and in the future—the Lions' top four safeties are all signed through 2024 or beyond.
Additional recent NFL Draft content from Pride of Detroit
Prospect visits (which continuously updates):
- Follow along with our visits tracker
- Lions will host Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson
- Lions will host Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker
- Lions will host Tennessee OL Darnell Wright
Alex Reno’s positional breakdowns:
- Ranking the Lions’ best options with the 6th overall draft pick
- Ranking the top 10 fits on the offensive line
- Ranking the top 15 cornerbacks
- Ranking the top 13 defensive tackles
- Ranking the top 10 off-the-ball linebackers
Erik Schlitt’s recent mock draft picks coverage:
- Devon Witherspoon NFL profile, fit with Lions (POD Community mock draft)
- Jalen Carter’s fit in Detroit (SB Nation mock draft)
More from POD:
- POD Community mock draft tracker
- From Morgan Cannon: Witherspoon talks about a potential reunion with Kerby Joseph
- From Mike Payton: Why the Lions should be interested in UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson
- From Ryan Mathews: Ryan and Erik’s 7-round Lions mock draft