The phrase “it’s always draft season” is an accurate statement for many fans and media, and it’s certainly true for all 32 NFL organizations. But with the Detroit Lions playing deep into the postseason, we at Pride of Detroit are just now able to join the offseason party.
While we have already covered over 100 college players in our weekly in-season Draft Watchlist series, we haven’t touched much on the NFL Draft since Thanksgiving, outside of previews for the National Championship game and Senior Bowl.
So with that said, it’s time to jump back into our mock draft round series for the 2024 offseason, where we can get to know some of the top players in this year’s draft class. As a reminder, the Lions currently hold the No. 29 overall pick in this draft.
Note: 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.
Additionally, for this initial installment, we’ve expanded our search parameters and added more explanations than what is typical.
With a potential Jared Goff contract extension looming and Hendon Hooker prepped to take on QB2 duties, the Lions appear set at quarterback. This will probably be the only time this section is included in this year’s Mock Draft Roundup.
Offensive skill players
Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas
Source: Tony Catalina (Pro Football Network)
“The Lions add more offensive firepower to complement Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Sam LaPorta. This feels like a luxury pick for the Lions, but with a playmaker on the board and a chance to continue to add to their high-powered group, the Lions add Adonai Mitchell to the fold and keep the good times rolling.” — Catalina
While most fans and analysts expect the Lions to pick a defensive player or offensive lineman in the first round of this draft cycle, there will still be a few who project the Lions to take an offensive skill player because of Lions general manager Brad Holmes’ track record—he has taken an offensive skill player at pick No. 12 in each of the last two drafts and has proven to value talent over need.
At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Mitchell is a prototype WR-X and would perfectly complement Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams. He is currently projected to be selected somewhere between picks No. 25 and 50, so it wouldn't be a reach to see him come off the board close to this spot.
Kingsley Suamataia, OL, BYU
Source: PJ Moran (Fantasy Pros)
“The Lions don’t really care about how others think they should go about the Draft; they are on the hunt for ass-kickers, positional value and projections be damned. Detroit should also never allow its offensive line to lose its place among the league’s elite. It surprised some that Suamataia was listed as a guard at the Senior Bowl, but that probably is where his elite athleticism has the highest potential to be unlocked. (He has a personal connection to Penei Sewell, too.) Jonah Jackson is a pending free agent and should land a massive payday.” — Moran
Currently, the Lions' top three guards are unrestricted free agents and Detroit could very easily be in the market for an impact starter. Suamataia checked in at No. 3 on The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman’s ”Freaks List” because he is reportedly so athletic that he can outrun BYU’s linebackers... at 6-foot-6, 325 pounds.
As far as his connection to Sewell, they’re cousins and have trained together every offseason for the past six years.
BYU LT Kingsley Suamataia (#78) is an intriguing OT/G that could interest the #Lions for several reasons.— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) February 10, 2024
Played LT in 2023, RT in 2022
Has guard movement skills
I could see him starting at G early in NFL career
Trains with cousin, Penei Sewell
Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois
Source: Joe Broback (Pro Football Network)
“Newton was a wrecking ball at Illinois and brings unique experience to the Lions’ defense. The Illini staff moved Newton across the line, giving him experience at tackle and end. While he’s not a traditional defensive end, Detroit can utilize Newton in certain packages.” — Broback
Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas
“Adding Texas DT Byron Murphy II to their front seven gives the Lions a ludicrous behemoth who can obliterate offensive linemen with power or explosiveness as an unstoppable force.” — Murphy
T’Vondre Sweat, NT, Texas
“After being labeled an underachiever by scouts as an underclassman, Sweat changed several habits and put dominant-level play on his senior tape. For a player north of 360 pounds, he is an impressive mover with the natural power to shut things down up front. The Lions took a major step with their run defense this season, and Sweat would continue that focus.” — Brugler
The Lions are certainly going to be in the market for a defensive tackle this offseason because outside of Alim McNeill, there’s nothing but question marks. Isaiah Buggs started next to McNeill in 2022 but was benched and then released in 2023. Buggs was beaten out by Benito Jones (a restricted free agent), who was benched in favor of 36-year-old, off-the-street Tyson Alualu (who is a free agent) late in the season. Levi Onwuzurike has still not returned to form from his back injury and Brodric Martin is still in the developmental phase.
If the Lions were to target a defensive tackle in the first round, Newton, Murphy, and Sweat seem to be the only ones in the conversation. Newton and Murphy are 6-foot-1, 300-pound 3-techniques, while Sweat is a 6-foot-4, 360-pound monster at nose tackle.
Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA
Source: Matt Miller (ESPN)
“(Latu) has easy bend and burst around the edge, and he is able to hug the corner before closing on the quarterback. Medical reports for the next two months will be huge for Latu after he medically retired while at Washington — and we’re being conservative with him still being available at No. 29 for now. But following two healthy seasons at UCLA and 23.5 sacks during that time, the Lions could bring in a player with double-digit sack potential to line up opposite Aidan Hutchinson. And that’s a terrifying proposition for NFC North quarterbacks.” — Miller
Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State
Source: Bucky Brooks (NFL.com)
“The Lions need to find a complementary pass rusher to place opposite Aidan Hutchinson. Robinson is a freak athlete.” — Brooks
Darius Robinson, DL, Missouri
“Robinson made the move from the interior to defensive end with impressive results this past season at Mizzou. He can rush from inside or the edge and help create a fearsome front for the Lions.” — Zierlein
Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington
Source: Jordan Reid (ESPN)
“The Lions’ culture is built on toughness, physicality and relentlessness. If there’s one prospect in this class who checks all three boxes, it’s Trice. His game centers around power, and he created first pressure on an FBS-high 71 plays this season. Trice also never comes off the field, with a level of effort sure to catch the eyes of GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell. With seven sacks in 2023, he could serve as a complementary pass-rusher to Aidan Hutchinson, allowing James Houston to stay fresh in a designated pass-rushing role once healthy.” — Reid
The Lions have some quality options at defensive end but lack a superstar opposite Aidan Hutchinson and could be searching for a prospect to fill the void. Latu is the best of this bunch, and likely shouldn’t fall to the bottom of the first round unless his medicals show concerns. Chop Robinson is an intriguing prospect who has ties to Lions 2023 DL coach John Scott Jr., who was Robinson’s position coach at PSU. Darius Robinson is framed similarly to John Cominsky and Josh Paschal but has some more juice in his pass rush. Trice’s work ethic and production are off the charts in snaps and pressures, two areas the Lions focus on.
The Lions roll four deep at off-the-ball linebacker (MIKE and WILL) and it would be surprising to see them address the position in the first round. Now, it’s worth noting that the SAM linebacker role could certainly be addressed, but players who fit this role would likely be in the EDGE section.
Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
“Mitchell leveled up this past season, not allowing a single touchdown pass as the nearest defender in coverage, despite being targeted 59 times. He picked off five passes in 2022, but he gave up four scores — he was much more consistent in 2023, though he had only one interception.” — Kiper
Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa
Source: Keith Sanchez (The Draft Network)
“This will be no shocker at all. The Lions need to address the secondary. Cooper DeJean is a corner with length and athleticism that can find the football. This is exactly the type of player that fits well with the Lions’ culture.” — Sanchez
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
“Wiggins is a height-weight-speed corner. He’s very rangy and will help a Lions defense that should often be playing with a lead, given the team’s talent on offense.” — Jeremiah
Ennis Rakestraw, CB, Missouri
“Detroit was forced to shuffle its secondary this season and needs better coverage options outside. Rakestraw’s medical evaluation (torn ACL in 2021, groin surgery in December) could determine whether he cracks Round 1, but his profile fits what the Lions seek. He’s tough-minded, a willing tackler and adept in man coverage. Fun fact: GM Brad Holmes’ first pro day as an NFL scout was at Mizzou.” — Edholm
Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
“A year ago, Detroit plucked defensive back Brian Branch out of Tuscaloosa. Dan Campbell identifies another Nick Saban protégé in the first round to upgrade the secondary.” — Edwards
T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State
Source: Owain Jones (Pro Football Network)
“The Lions need corner help. While they have had players contribute, they still don’t have ‘that’ guy in the room. Iowa State Cyclones cornerback T.J. Tampa does everything well, and his quick, aggressive, violent mindset will excite fans in Motor City.” — Jones
It’s no secret the Lions need help at outside corner, and it’s no surprise that 16 of the 25 mock drafts we looked at in this week’s roundup projected Detroit to address that need.
Mitchell has been mocked to the Lions quite a bit during the season and for good reason: he fits exactly what the Lions want in a corner. The biggest obstacle will likely be that he is climbing up draft boards as more analysts learn about his skill set, and I expect him to be off the board before pick No. 20.
DeJean is a multipurpose defensive back who can play outside, inside, and at safety. He’s got some skill range that will remind you of Ifeatu Melifonwu, but he plays with the instincts of Brian Branch. One of my favorite players in this class, he’s a football player in every sense of the phrase.
Wiggins looks like a prototype outside corner, but at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, that combination of frame and skill set is going to draw a lot of praise in draft rooms.
Rakestraw is one of the best run-defending defensive backs in this draft class, can play in off-man and zone coverage schemes, and has the mental framework and communication skills the Lions desire. Expect him to be connected to the Lions a ton this offseason.
McKinstry entered the season as many analysts CB1 but it wasn’t long before others elevated their games while he seemed to plateau. He still has plenty of talent, but I’m not sure he took the step many were hoping for.
Tampa has great size—6-foot-2 1/2, 200 pounds—and is certainly talented, but right now, he feels more like a prospect they may target at pick No. 62, rather than No. 29. That being said, it’s still early in the offseason, so there’s plenty of time for his stock to rise.