From starting the 2022 season 1-6, to finishing 9-8, and sweeping the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, it was a promising season for the Detroit Lions! Jared Goff proved he can be more than a bridge quarterback, and that will allow the Lions to focus on other areas in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Lions have massive potential heading into the 2023 season, and here is a pre-free agency look at what their draft could look like to take them to contender status.
*Simulated using the PFF Mock Draft Simulator, no trades.
Round One (via Los Angeles Rams)- Christian Gonzalez, Cornerback, Oregon
Cornerback will absolutely be the top priority for the Lions this offseason after allowing the third most passing yards with 4,179 and 26 touchdowns. In addition, Mike Hughes, and Amani Oruwariye are set to be free agents. Christian Gonzalez has absolutely showcased his skills enough on the field to be regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in this draft. Gonzalez tracks the ball extremely well downfield and has the speed to stay with receivers stride-for-stride. When playing zone coverage, Gonzalez’s speed continues to show up as he closes quickly to make a play on the ball. Gonzalez over his three years allowed only a 57.4% completion percentage for 1,054 yards. He also improved his ball skills in 2022 securing four interceptions and six pass breakups. Getting Gonzalez would be a fantastic addition.
Round One- Trenton Simpson, Linebacker, Clemson
Malcolm Rodriguez showed he could turn into a very promising linebacker in 2022. Outside of him, though, this linebacker group needs a boost. Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis, Chris Board, and Anthony Pittman all enter free agency, so depth at the minimum is a must. The Lions don’t just get depth here, they get the best linebacker in the class. Simpson can contribute to this Lions defense in many ways. When stopping the run, he does an excellent job of deconstructing blocks and has the flexibility to get around defenders. Over three seasons he had 119 tackles, 79 run stops, and even got 64 pressures and 12 sacks. It doesn’t stop there as he excelled in coverage, allowing only 50 receptions on 73 targets for 406 yards and only three touchdowns. His versatility also allowed Clemson to line him up at safety occasionally. Simpson would be a true chess piece for the Detroit defense.
Round Two- Mike Morris, Edge, Michigan
John Cominsky was good, but pairing Aidan Hutchinson with his teammate from college was too good to pass up. Over the last two seasons Morris played 360 snaps in each notching 51 pressures, 11 sacks, 26 tackles, 26 run stops, and even dropped back into coverage where he secured an interception. Morris is quick off the line and frequently gets past defenders with his first step, if he can’t, he also has the strength and hand techniques to disengage from blocks. Having both Morris and Hutchinson off the edge would be a nightmare.
Round Two (via Minnesota Vikings)- JL Skinner, Safety, Boise State
Now it is time to address the safety spot. DeShon Elliott is a free agent, along with William Harris and Bobby Price. The Lions could use an upgrade here, and Skinner has the potential to be that. When talking about Skinner, the first thing that has to be brought up is his physicality. Making 52 tackles, and 19 run stops in 2022, Skinner is willing to help in run support and does so successfully. He reacts to plays extremely well, and his fluidity allows him to also cover in man coverage exceptionally. Skinner was targeted 32 times and only allowed 17 receptions for 176 yards. The mentality Skinner plays with absolutely fits this Detroit defense.
Round Three- Jaylon Jones, Cornerback, Texas A&M
Cornerback depth is still a necessity that the Lions need to continue adding to. Jones is another physical cornerback and plays to his size at 6’2, 205 pounds with how he contests the catch point, or helps stop the run by wrapping up his tackles. Jones also tracks the ball extremely well downfield, and doesn’t lack speed, as he frequently keeps pace with receivers. Jones would add good depth to the cornerback room.
Round Five- Luke Schoonmaker, Tight End, Michigan
After trading away T.J. Hockenson, the Lions could use more competition at the tight end position. So, why not dip into the Michigan talent pool again and get Schoonmaker. He has an extremely large catch radius and regularly hauled in off-target passes with ease. His route running is also precise, as he gains separation with great footwork. His 6’5, 250 pound frame also helps him excel as a blocker, and he still has upside in this area. Schoonmaker is someone the Lions can take a gamble on, as he has the possibility to grow into a starting caliber tight end in the NFL.
Round Six- Caleb Chandler, Guard, Louisville
Halapoulivaati Vaitai is coming off a back injury, and overall the Lions need more interior offensive line depth. Chandler plays with an aggressive tenacity and uses his power frequently on blocks. When he can’t dominate with his power, he can overextend and lose his balance. While he allowed 11 pressures in 2022, none turned into sacks. There are things to work on with Chandler, but at this spot he provides decent depth for Detroit.
Round Six- Jerrod Clark, Defensive Interior, Coastal Carolina
Jerrod Clark is a player that has an immense amount of potential, and getting him here is a great pick for the Lions. At 6’4, 340 pounds, Clark has the build to take on double teams and still get past opponents. His quickness is also great, as he combines this with his power to get blockers unbalanced. To get that pressure from the interior and work his way into the backfield is what the Lions need. In 2022, he had 28 pressures, four sacks, and 22 run stops. There are still areas for him to refine, but overall, he could turn out to be a late round steal down the line.