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Mock draft roundup 17.0: Bijan Robinson sees uptick in projections to Lions

Taking a closer look at the prospects from the 2023 NFL Draft that have been projected to the Detroit Lions over the past week.

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NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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

No. 48: Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)
No. 81: Nick Baumgardner (The Athletic), Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)

Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford

No. 81: Michael Renner (PFF)

Erik’s Thoughts:

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.

Running back

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 (

Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA

No. 81: Jeff Risdon (Draft Wire)

Erik’s Thoughts:

“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.

Wide Receiver

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

No. 18: Brett Whitefield (Fantasy Points)

Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

No. 18: Michael Renner (PFF)

Erik’s Thoughts:

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.

Tight end

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

No. 18: Lance Zierlein (

Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

No. 18: Adam Rank (, Dalton Miller (Pro Football Network)

Dalton Kincaid

No. 18: Pete Prisco (CBS Sports)

Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State

No. 48: Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)
No. 55: Curt Popejoy (Draft Wire)

Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa

No. 48: Damian Parson (Draft Network)
No. 55: Todd McShay (ESPN), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)

Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State

No. 81: Ian Valentino (Pro Football Network)

Erik’s Thoughts:

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.

Offensive linemen

O’Cyrus Torrence, RG, Florida

No. 18: Curt Popejoy (Draft Wire)

Steve Avila, IOL, TCU

No. 36: Jeff Risdon (Draft Wire) trade
No. 48: Michael Renner (PFF), Thor Nystrom (Fantasy Pros)

Blake Freeland, OT, BYU

No. 81: Dalton Miller (Pro Football Network)

Erik’s Thoughts:

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.

Defensive tackle

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 (

Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh

No. 18: Mike O’Hara (, Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz (USA Today)

Brian Bresee, DL, Clemson

No. 18: Thor Nystrom (Fantasy Pros), Harris Oates (Draft ID)

Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan

No. 48: Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News), Ian Valentino (Pro Football Network)
No. 55: Doug Farrar (Touchdown Wire)

Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin

No. 55: Nick Baumgardner (The Athletic), Jeff Risdon (Draft Wire), Dalton Miller (Pro Football Network)

Zacch Pickens, DT, South Carolina

No. 81: Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)

Karl Brooks, DT, Bowling Green

No. 81: Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)

Erik’s Thoughts:

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.

Edge Rusher

Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama

No. 3: Nick Baumgardner (The Athletic), Lions trade picks No. 6 and 48 for pick No. 3
No. 6: David Howman (Blogging the Boys)

Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

No. 6: Mike O’Hara (, Todd McShay (ESPN), Damian Parson (Draft Network), Michael Renner (PFF), Adam Rank (, 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

No. 6: Colin Cowherd (Fox Sports), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)
No. 18: Dave Birkett (Free Press), Matthew Freedman (Fantasy Pros)

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

No 18: Jeff Risdon (Draft Wire), Shane Hallam (Draft Countdown)

Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State

No. 48: Curt Popejoy (Draft Wire)
No. 55: Thor Nystrom (Fantasy Pros)

Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State

No. 55: Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)

Erik’s Thoughts:

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

No. 18: Ian Valentino (Pro Football Network)
No. 48: Todd McShay (ESPN)
No. 55: Michael Renner (PFF), Damian Parson (Draft Network), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)

Erik’s Thoughts:

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.

Defensive backs

Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

No. 6: Erik Schlitt (POD Community mock draft), Lance Zierlein (, 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

No. 6: Matt Urben (Falcons Wire), Ian Valentino (Pro Football Network), Thor Nystrom (Fantasy Pros), Dalton Miller (Pro Football Network)

Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

No. 18: Fox Sports Staff

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

No. 18: Hayden Winks (Underdog Fantasy), David Howman (Blogging the Boys), Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)

Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

No. 18: Damian Parson (Draft Network), Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports), Josh Edwards (CBS Sports)

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)

Erik’s Thoughts:

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):

Alex Reno’s positional breakdowns:

Erik Schlitt’s recent mock draft picks coverage:

More from POD:

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