Detroit Lions go equally to both sides of the ball in new ESPN mock
In the first 2023 mock draft from ESPN’s Matt Miller, the Detroit Lions add an equal number of help to each side of the ball.
For a lot of fans, with four top-60 picks to put the team in a nice position, it should be defense, defense, defense until the Detroit Lions are blue in the face (Honolulu Blue, of course) in the 2023 NFL Draft. Any other path just won’t do for some.
The Lions can definitely be more focused when it comes to any needs, immediate or future, on the offensive side of the ball. Jared Goff has pushed the conversation about drafting a quarterback out to 2024, perhaps, and at other spots drafting someone on the offensive side of the ball would be for immediate depth or/and an eye on the future.
Matt Miller is the latest ESPN draft analyst (subscription required) to put out a 2023 mock draft, his first of the new year and coming off the Senior Bowl. He did two rounds, and it’s certainly an interesting outcome.
Detroit go equally with offense and defense in new ESPN mock draft
Note: all quoted passages via Pride of Detroit.
At No. 6 overall, Miller has the Lions taking Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon.
"The top-ranked cornerback in the class goes to the Lions, and Witherspoon is exactly what the team needs as a physical, sticky cover man with instincts and ball skills. He is 6-1 and only 180 pounds, but he plays much bigger and is the best open-field tackler among this group of corners. Plus, he allowed just two completions of over 20 yards all season to go with his three interceptions."
Witherspoon is gaining steam as the best cornerback in a deep class at the position this year. He would be an ideal fit in Detroit, where he would also reunite with a college teammate in safety Kerby Joseph.
At pick No. 18, Miller has the Lions taking Iowa defensive end Lukas Van Ness.
"After selecting the best cornerback in the draft at No. 6, the Lions are back on the clock and look to double-down on defense. Van Ness is a raw pass-rusher after playing sparingly at Iowa, but he performed well enough to notch 6.5 sacks in 2022 and seven in 2021. The 6-5, 270-pound defensive end has shades of Trey Hendrickson to his game, which is why he’s seen as a potential first-rounder despite not starting for the Hawkeyes. The Lions hit pay dirt with Aidan Hutchinson and have a very good situational pass-rusher in fellow rookie James Houston. So Van Ness could round out the defensive line group with power, length and an ability against the run that’s needed opposite Hutchinson.”"
The pick of Van Ness for the Lions fits a mode of “you can never have enough good pass rushers in today’s game.” Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris are lined up as potential cap casualties, and John Cominsky is a free agent.
A pick 48 in the second round, Miller has the Lions going with a potential replacement for T.J. Hockenson, from the same school even–Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta.
"The Lions traded T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings in November and can add his replacement with the surprising availability of LaPorta at this spot. He is a fantastic move blocker and a stellar receiver over the middle, and he has enough after-the-catch ability to project as a starter. LaPorta had just five touchdowns in college, but like his NFL comparison Dawson Knox, he looks to be a better pro than college player.”"
Drafting a tight end should not be totally out the question for the Lions, depending on how free agency goes and what opportunities may come via other team’s cap casualties. This early feels a little aggressive though.
Miller has the Lions sticking with offense via their second second-round pick, No. 55 overall–Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs.
"The running back room in Detroit is highly dependent on Jamaal Williams, who is hitting free agency as he turns 28. Williams might be back on a short-term deal, but D’Andre Swift hasn’t developed into a true RB1 candidate. Gibbs, a fantastic receiver out of the backfield and a slashing runner, was compared to Alvin Kamara by one scout I talked to recently, though I see more Tony Pollard in him.”"
Gibbs has snuck into the late first round in at least one recent mock draft I’ve seen. That speaks to his potential. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry and 10.1 yards per catch on 44 receptions his past season at Alabama, after transferring from Georgia Tech. Miller’s comps to Alvin Kamara and Tony Pollard are interesting, as the Lions eye what their future will be at running back.
What grade would you give this mock, Lions fans? Here’s my grade.
Mock Draft Grade-ESPN Matt Miller 1.0: B+