It’s time to believe in Detroit again. They may have missed the playoffs this year, but Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions have something special brewing. This Lions NFL Mock Draft can take them over the top and officially make them a team worth fearing in the NFC as early as 2023.
In this scenario, simulated trades were active among other teams via the Mock Draft Simulator, but the Lions held steady and did not make any moves.
Latest Detroit Lions 2023 NFL Mock Draft
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia | Round 1, Pick 6
This is the best-case scenario for the Lions. Jalen Carter, a prospect worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, falling to sixth overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s not the likeliest outcome, but it’s not out of the question. With so many QB-needy teams and so few quality quarterback prospects, a bidding war in the top five could bring Carter to Detroit on a silver platter.
Of course, this first assumes that Detroit isn’t a part of the QB drama and decides to roll with Jared Goff. If they do, they’ll be freed up to take a talent like Carter. With his elite explosiveness, natural leverage, power, and prying strength, Carter would be an immediate difference-maker on the interior defensive line.
Brian Branch, DB, Alabama | Round 1, Pick 18
Not long ago, cornerback was viewed as a potential strength for the Lions. Amani Oruwariye seemed to be emerging as a high-level playmaker in 2021. Jerry Jacobs showed promise on both the boundary and in the slot. And with Jeff Okudah coming back in 2022, the position was only supposed to keep improving.
Okudah proved he belonged in 2022, but the rest of the group is less solidified. In Round 1 of this Lions NFL Mock Draft, Detroit addresses the slot first, adding the 2023 NFL Draft’s best slot defender in Brian Branch. With his incredibly natural coverage ability and terse physicality, Branch can be an asset on both passing and running downs.
Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee | Round 2, Pick 48
Every team’s NFL Draft philosophy is ultimately dependent on what they do in free agency. But for the Lions, that’s especially the case. Detroit has a host of starters scheduled to hit the market, including DJ Chark, Evan Brown, DeShon Elliott, and Jamaal Williams. Chark may be an odd man out, and if he is, they’ll need another threat on the boundary.
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In Round 2 of this Lions NFL Mock Draft, Cedric Tillman serves as an excellent fit. He has the size and speed to threaten defenses vertically at 6’3″, 215 pounds. Like Chark, he has the high-end body control, coordination, and hand strength to make difficult grabs. Beyond that, Tillman is a nuanced route runner, with the throttle control and physicality to get free.
Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah | Round 2, Pick 59
Here’s the deal with Goff. Yes, he did prove in 2022 that he can be a quality starting QB — maybe even a guy you can win with. But if you’re going to put that pressure on him, you need to make sure he’s as well-equipped as he can be to succeed. No cutting corners with the personnel.
Brock Wright is a solid rotational TE, but after trading T.J. Hockenson, the Lions don’t have a premier weapon they can go to at the position. That changes with the addition of Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid is quietly one of the most well-rounded tight ends in the 2023 NFL Draft — an athletic, tough, and instinctive receiving threat with grit as a blocker.
Jaylon Jones, CB, Texas A&M | Round 3, Pick 81
Branch would be a transformational addition for the Lions in the slot. And his presence could potentially give the rest of the unit a facelift. Players like Jacobs and Will Harris have proven competent at times, but Detroit shouldn’t take that chance at such an important position and with such a deep CB class on deck.
In Round 3, investing in a former five-star talent like Jaylon Jones could be a prudent move for Detroit. Jones needs to keep growing as a playmaker, and he may take his lumps early on. But the Lions have enough talent to ease him in. And with high-energy athleticism and fluidity at 6’2″, 205 pounds, Jones has the foundation to grow into a quality starter.
Braeden Daniels, OL, Utah | Round 5, Pick 149
Brown played well when given the opportunity for the Lions in 2022, and there’s a chance he’s brought back. There’s also a chance he commands a larger deal in free agency, however. That would leave the Lions with a bit of uncertainty at guard. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is under contract until 2025, but he’s coming off a major back injury.
If Brown leaves, Vaitai likely gets another chance to be the starter. Still, that doesn’t mean Detroit shouldn’t invest in insurance on the interior. Braeden Daniels would be a superb acquisition, in this sense. A college tackle who projects to guard, Daniels has high-end athleticism, along with elite proportional length and steady awareness in the trenches.
Anfernee Orji, LB, Vanderbilt | Round 6, Pick 169
It’s still too early to tell, but the Lions might have something in 2022 rookie Malcolm Rodriguez. The rest of the linebacker group still needs work, however. Alex Anzalone enters free agency this offseason, as do Jarrad Davis, Chris Board, and Anthony Pittman. Whether it’s depth or potential starting talent, Detroit needs to bring someone new in.
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In time, Anfernee Orji could go on to fulfill both depth and starting roles for the Lions. There’s room for him to further hone his instincts and play with more patience. But the 6’2″, 230-pound defender is a tackling machine with explosiveness and physicality — traits that the Lions can use.
DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB | Round 6, Pick 180
This pick could be Jamaal Williams insurance. But even if Williams returns, the Lions will likely lose a bit of depth at RB. In addition to Williams, Justin Jackson is also a free agent. Whatever happens in March, chances are Detroit will need to add to their rotation again, and they can use their last pick in this Lions NFL Mock Draft to do that.
Over the past two collegiate seasons, DeWayne McBride amassed over 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground, while averaging around seven yards per carry. His tough, downhill running style at 5’11”, 215 pounds could win over Dan Campbell and make him a valuable stable back alongside Williams and D’Andre Swift.