2023 Lions mock draft: Post-free agent kickoff edition
After the first few days of free agency have altered the Detroit Lions roster and need list, it’s time for an updated mock draft.
These projections are based off the current state of the Lions’ roster as of March 17th and the recent signings through K Michael Badgley.
The picks here are what I think the Lions might do with the picks in the given situation. They do not necessarily represent the choices I would make. For the first two picks, I ran three different draft simulators (PFF, PFN, Fanspeak) to try and build some level of baseline availability. If a player was gone on two of the three simulators, I considered them off the board.
For the first pick at No. 6, that ruled out C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and Will Anderson. It led to some interesting projections.
No. 6: We have a trade
This is admittedly a purely hypothetical trade…
The first five picks:
1. Panthers – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
2. Texans – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
3. Cardinals – Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
4. Colts – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
5. Seahawks – Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
That left one presumptive top-10 QB still on the board. The Tennessee Titans didn’t want to chance missing out and made the jump up from 11 to the sixth spot.
Tennessee trades No. 11 overall, No. 72 overall (3rd round) and a 2024 first-rounder to Detroit for No. 6 overall and No. 194 overall (6th round). The Titans select Kentucky QB Will Levis.
At No. 11, the Lions select Maryland CB Deontae Banks.
Banks checks every box the Lions want in their cornerbacks. He’s long, he’s insanely fast, he’s aggressive and experienced in man coverage and he’s got a physical presence that is easy to see appealing to defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
No. 18: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Hooker steps right in as Jared Goff’s backup — provided he’s fully recovered from a torn ACL in December. If he hadn’t suffered the injury, it’s easy to see Hooker being selected higher than this with his intelligence and appealing blend of arm strength and touch on the ball.
Like Goff, Hooker is great at evaluating the defense pre-snap and finding the best option. The Heisman finalist offers the added dimension of mobility, too. There is a considerable dropoff at quarterback beyond Hooker and that helps tip the scales in his direction here.
The inaction on the veteran free agent market sure feels like a hand-tipping by the Lions that they’re addressing the black hole behind Goff prominently in the draft, especially given Holmes’ own acknowledgment that he’s mishandled the position thus far. A first-round pick qualifies as taking care of business.
2nd round, 48 overall: Adetomiba Adebawore, DL, Northwestern
Adebawore fits the profile this regime has shown they covet in defensive linemen: positional versatility with high-level athleticism. At 6-2 and 282 pounds, Adebawore primarily played DE for the Wildcats, but he projects better as a 3T tackle in the NFL. It’s effectively the role Holmes drafted Levi Onwuzurike to play, except Adebawore is a better athlete, more technically adept as a pass rusher and doesn’t come with preexisting injury baggage.
The Lions have already met with Adebawore at the Senior Bowl, the scouting combine and Northwestern’s pro day this week. If they’re not interested, they’ve got a funny way of showing it.
No 55: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
This is earlier than the Lions would typically target the off-ball LB spot, but I can see Dan Campbell making an exception for a player like Simpson. His blend of athleticism, attitude and upside could convince Detroit to upgrade the size and speed around Alex Anzalone in the middle of the field.
Lions draft profile: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
If Simpson can click with the coaching, the Lions have themselves a more dynamic young LB corps than they’ve had in a very long time.
Third round, No 72: Jammie Robinson, DB, Florida State
Robinson is primarily considered a safety, but the reality is he’s a slot defender — and a pretty accomplished one. The Seminoles standout hits with outstanding force and does a fine job of keeping the play in front of him in short-area coverage.
Florida State DB Jammie Robinson meets with the Lions, checks a lot of boxes for Detroit
Though smallish for the safety position, Robinson steps in and challenges freshly re-signed Will Harris for the starting role in the slot.
No. 81: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
Mingo is a player the Lions met with at the Senior Bowl, where he had an impressive week. He runs good routes for a very physically imposing type of receiver, and his ability to play out of the slot at 6-foot-2 and 220 would give offensive coordinator Ben Johnson a lot of options to dictate coverages and create mismatches.
This is probably earlier than most projections will have Mingo, but the Lions don’t have another pick until the middle of the fifth round. That’s the luxury of having the extra Day 2 pick from the trade.
Fifth round: Chase Brown, RB, Illinois
Brown brings a big-play mentality and passing game skills that translate immediately–two traits that the Lions should covet in a running back.
From Draft Wire,
Powerfully built at 5-foot-9 and 209 pounds, Brown offers breakaway speed and instant acceleration through the hole. Illinois tracked his top speed at 22.5 MPH and it shows on game film. Brown reliably catches the ball out of the backfield and can turn it upfield quickly.
Ball security is a legit knock on Brown, but at this point in the draft it’s about finding coachable traits. The Lions have met with Brown at the Senior Bowl, the combine and Illinois’ pro day already.
Sixth round: Nick Broeker, OL, Ole Miss
Broeker is a versatile interior lineman capable of coming in and being the top reserve guard and center quickly. He showed more athletic ability in Lane Kiffin’s pro-style offense for the Rebels and during Senior Bowl week than he did in testing at the combine. When I watched his Ole Miss tape, there were more than a few times I was reminded of a taller Evan Brown, who just left the Lions after two valuable seasons as a fill-in starter.