The Detroit Lions are back on the clock in our 2023 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft. With the team’s first pick (sixth overall), Erik Schlitt opted to select Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon. Now he’s facing a difficult decision 12 picks later with the Lions’ second first-round pick.
No. 1: Carolina Panthers, Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
No. 2: Houston Texans, C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
No. 3: Arizona Cardinals, Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
No. 4: Indianapolis Colts, Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
No. 5: Seattle Seahawks, Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
No. 6: Detroit Lions, Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
No. 7: Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
No. 8: Atlanta Falcons: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
No. 9: Chicago Bears: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
No. 10: Philadelphia Eagles: Bryan Breese, EDGE, Clemson
No. 11: Tennessee Titans: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
No. 12: Houston Texans: Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State
No. 13: New York Jets: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
No. 14: New England Patriots: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
No. 15: Green Bay Packers: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
No. 16: Washington Commanders: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
No. 17: Pittsburgh Steelers: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Before we get into Erik’s pick, which will drop on Monday, let’s run down some candidates for this pick. At the end of this post, you can vote on the choice you’d make if you were the Lions' general manager.
QB Hendon Hooker
The Lions have shown interest in the Tennessee quarterback, meeting with him at the Senior Bowl and scheduling him to come in for a top-30 visit. Hookers’ age (25) and injury status (coming off a torn ACL) are big hurdles for the quarterback, but his physical traits and unbelievable production as a Volunteer make him an extremely high-ceiling pick—and the Lions have time to develop him.
USC WR Jordan Addison
After the exit of DJ Chark in free agency, the Lions find themselves with a long-term need at the X-receiver to pair with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams. Addison—5-foot-11, 173 pounds—is far from an X prototype, but he has enough versatility to give the Lions some options. He also would provide the Lions with some special teams experience as a punter returner.
Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer
No tight ends have come off the board yet, so Detroit has its pick of the litter, whether it be Mayer, Georgia’s Darnell Washington, or Utah’s Dalton Kincaid. Mayer likely has the highest ceiling of them all. While he’s a bit undersized to be an ideal in-line blocker, he brings the necessary attitude to fight in the trenches. His receiving abilities—1,649 yards and 16 touchdowns in his last two seasons combined—are what will really tempt a needy team.
Tennessee OL Darnell Wright
Capable of playing either guard or tackle, Wright has some very clean tape at right tackle. Perhaps most notably, he shut down arguably the best defender in this year’s class: Alabama edge defender Will Anderson.
RT Darnell Wright vs Will Anderson as a true ED— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 9, 2023
Anderson relied heavily on speed-to-power and Wright wasn't having any of it pic.twitter.com/Q0GsnNP6A3
In Detroit, Wright could play guard right away, or act as a sixth offensive lineman in Detroit’s jumbo packages.
Pittsburgh DT Calijah Kancey
With Jalen Carter (and Bryan Bresee) the only defensive tackle off the board, this could be a good opportunity for the Lions to address their biggest need. Kancey would give Detroit the interior pass rush the Lions have been missing for years, but there are some concerns about Kancey’s size, no matter how many Aaron Donald comparisons he draws.
Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy
At 6-foot-5, 268 pounds, Myles Murphy is a massive edge defender who comes to the NFL with three years of solid production at Clemson. Murphy tallied at least 10.0 tackles for loss in each of those three seasons—including when he was a true freshman.
While strength and size are how Murphy mainly wins, he’s got deceptively impressive speed, as well, which has drawn comparisons to last year’s No. 1 pick Travon Walker. He’s also arguably the best run-defending edge in this year’s class.
Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness
Another massive (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) pass rushing option, Van Ness has climbed big boards as analysts rightfully look beyond his zero starts at Iowa and more at his tantalizing tape. His pass-rushing moves are underdeveloped, but like Murphy, he’s a very good run defender and can overpower offensive tackles who outsize him.
Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith
A torn pectoral shortened Smith’s senior season at Georgia, but he was just coming into his own in his football career. His production isn’t quite as impressive as the other edge options here, but that’ll happen when you’re on a stacked Georgia defensive front.
Smith wins with his speed and agility over his small size (6-foot-2, 238), but he plays with a gritty attitude of a man 30 pounds heavier. He definitely checks the Dan Campbell attitude test.
Alabama DB Brian Branch
Branch projects to the NFL as a nickel/safety option that has a ton of importance in today’s game. Though the Lions did sign C.J. Gardner-Johnson in free agency, that position remains a long-term need for the Lions.
In the meantime, Branch’s versatility will give Detroit depth at multiple positions. He brings the aggressiveness and ball skills that the Lions have clearly prioritized this offseason, tallying at least seven passes defended in each of his three seasons at Alabama.
Vote on who you’d pick below, and explain why in the comment section by scrolling down.
Who should the Lions take at 18 overall?
This poll is closed
QB Hendon Hooker
WR Jordan Addison
TE Michael Mayer (or other TE)
OL Darnell Wright
DT Calijah Kancey
EDGE Myles Murphy
EDGE Lukas Van Ness
EDGE Nolan Smith
DB Brian Branch