When free agency kicked off in March, Detroit Lions general manager wasted no time overhauling a secondary that needed an overhauling. Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson were joined by versatile safety Brian Branch in the draft, as a weakness now looks to be a real strength. And don't forget about safeties Kerby Joseph and Tracy Walker.
It's worth noting that the only cornerbacks currently on the Lions' roster who are signed beyond this season are Sutton and 2022 draft pick Chase Lucas. Gardner-Johnson is also on a one-year deal. So filling out the back end of the defense could be a bit of a thing next offseason.
Some might say it's too early for 2024 mock drafts. Others can't get enough draft stuff, with an eye on their favorite team getting better ASAP. In any case, let's look at what the Lions did in a couple recent 2024 mocks.
Detroit Lions eye future in their secondary in early 2024 mock drafts
Cam Mellor of Pro Football Network kicked off July with a mock draft using that site's 2024 draft simulator.
With the No. 25 overall pick, Mellor had the Lions taking Miami (FL) safety James Williams.
"They don’t make safeties much bigger than James Williams, and the big man plays to that size on every down. Williams has great coverage chops and brings the lumber on every hit. He can come downhill like a linebacker or track the football in space like a true free safety."- Cam Mellor, Pro Football Network
Willliams comes in at 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds. By Pro Football Focus metrics, he's suprisingly regarded as a much better coverage guy than run defender. He may be a little raw, but his projectability may be right up the Lions' alley.
Jordan Reid of ESPN (subscription required) is equally bullish on the 2023 Lions in his new 2024 mock, as they also land at pick No. 25. Penn State cornerback Kalen King is Reid's projected pick.
"Emmanuel Moseley, C.J.Gardner-Johnson and Jerry Jacobs (restricted free agent) are all only under contract for 2023, which means cornerback could quickly climb the Lions’ list needs. King is one of my favorite players to watch on tape — he is an easy mover. At 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, he will be labeled as undersize for some teams, but he reminds me of Denzel Ward as a prospect because of his ability to blanket receivers and slam throwing windows shut. He finished last season with 15 pass breakups, tied for fifth best in the FBS. It should not be surprising if King catapults up into the top half of the first round by next spring — or even ends up the first player selected at the position"- Jordan Reid, ESPN
On the surface, and over nine months out from it, King feels like a more likely 2024 first-round pick for the Lions than Johnson. But an eye on some longer-term pieces for the secondary is definitely in play.