It’s not a real surprise, but the Detroit Lions double-dip on defense in Mel Kiper’s first 2023 mock draft.
The Detroit Lions are riding high after a winning season. Looking ahead to April’s draft they’re in a nice spot, with two top-20 picks and four of the top-60 picks.
As mock draft season gets going, there are certain “1.0s” that stand out as notable. ESPN’s Mel Kiper is one, since he’s the proverbial “Godfather” of draft analysis in a public forum. He’s now out with his first 2023 mock (subscription required).
It’s fair to assume the Lions will draft heavily on the defensive side of the ball again this year. Kiper joins the run of early mock drafts which have them going that direction in the first round.
Detroit Lions go 2-for-2 taking defensive players in Mel Kiper’s first 2023 mock draft
With the No. 6 overall pick, the pick from the Los Angeles Rams, Kiper has the Lions taking Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson.
"The Lions finished the season with eight wins in their final 10 games, but their explosive offense papered over massive holes on the other side of the ball, They ranked last in the league in yards per play allowed (6.2) and opposing QBR (55.9); they had issues defending the run and the pass. Wilson, the top true defensive end in this class, would help both (against the run and pass). He can use his burst at the snap to beat offensive tackles on passing downs or use his 6-foot-6 frame to hold up against the run. An edge-rushing duo of Wilson and Aidan Hutchinson would be formidable, with surprise rookie James Houston working in on obvious passing downs.”"
At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Wilson would be a great addition to the Lions defensive line. There’s a case for defensive end/edge rusher not being an urgent need for Detroit, but you can never have enough good pass rushers. The Lions may also be thinning their depth there (Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara, cap casualties?) and Wilson is more than a just a pass rusher.
At No. 18, Kiper has the Lions going with Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez.
"Remember when I mentioned earlier that the Lions have cornerback issues? Well, hopefully at least Lions fans were reading. Jeff Okudah flashed the talent that made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2020, but he was still inconsistent, and there’s no surefire starter on the other side of the field, Gonzalez was a lockdown defender at Colorado before transferring to Oregon last year, where he picked off four passes and improved every week. He’s going to test really well at the combine in March too. This pick makes too much sense for a Detroit defense that badly needs an infusion of young talent in the secondary.”"
There’s a chance Gonzalez is gone before the 18th pick. If he’s there he’d be a fairly no-brainer pick for the Lions, with plug-and-play No. 1 corner skills. Or they could consider a move up to get him. Maybe they’ll consider taking him at No. 6.
The Lions could viably go multiple directions to leave the first round of April’s draft with two very good young defensive players, depending on who is available. Wilson and Gonzalez is one possibility, and one our own Jacob Phillips eyed in his offseason moves to upgrade the Lions defense.