The Dallas Cowboys have lost the title of "America's Team." That now belongs to the Detroit Lions. It started with Dan Campbell's kneecap comment when he was introduced as head coach. Then, the Lions quickly rose up through the "most likable" team power rankings with an appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks." Detroit didn't let its new fans down in 2022, with a roller coaster of a season that ended on a high note.
The Lions started off the 2022 campaign 1-6, but rebounded to win eight of their final 10 games. That included a surprising 20-16 upset win over the rival Green Bay Packers in the regular-season finale to keep Aaron Rodgers out of the postseason in what is likely his last game as a Packer. After finishing second in the NFC North with their first winning season since 2017, everyone has eyes on the Lions moving forward.
Detroit finished 2022 with the No. 4 offense in the NFL, but the worst defense in the league. Additions will have to be made on that side of the ball this offseason. Thanks to the Matthew Stafford trade a couple years ago, the Lions own two picks in the first round this year. How should they use them, and what should they look to accomplish at large in the 2023 NFL Draft? That's what we're here to break down.
Lions 2023 draft picks
- Round 1: No. 6 (from LAR)
- Round 1: No. 18
- Round 2: No. 48
- Round 2: No. 55 (from MIN)
- Round 3: No. 81
- Round 5: No. 152
- Round 5: No. 159 (from ATL through JAX)
- Round 6: No. 183 (from DEN)
- Round 6: No. 194
EDGE Lukas Van Ness (Iowa)
DL Jalen Carter (Georgia)
DL Jalen Carter (Georgia)
QB Anthony Richardson (Florida) (Mock trade to No. 3 overall)
CB Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State)
CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon) (Mock trade to No. 13 overall)
DB Deonte Banks (Maryland)
DL Bryan Bresee (Clemson)
Shore up the defensive front
I think the Lions have anto make at No. 6 overall. Take the best defensive player available. Caesars Sportsbook odds indicate the Lions are targeting a defensive back (-300 first drafted position). I think a cornerback at No. 6 overall is probably a bit rich, especially considering the work Detroit has already put in at the position in free agency, but a pass rusher or defensive lineman here would be perfect. Will Anderson Jr. or Tyree Wilson headline my wishlist. Jalen Carter could be included as well, as long as Detroit's front office feels comfortable with him.
The Lions could stand to add to the defensive interior at some point in the draft. They hit on Alim McNeill, but it remains to be seen what Levi Onwuzurike's ceiling is. He didn't play at all this past season due to injury.
With how coach Campbell operates and general manager Brad Holmes being a former defensive tackle himself, there's a reason why many mock drafts are predicting the Lions take a defensive lineman in the first round. Hitting on a couple of these guys can totally reshape your defense. Winning in the trenches is important, and the Lions understand this.
Draft a quarterback
I don't have to implore the Lions to take multiple defenders in this draft. That's something that will happen. But what about quarterback? My colleague Cody Benjamin made a great argument for the Lions being in play for a quarterback this year:
"The Lions aren't hosting C.J. Stroud and Hendon Hooker on top-30 visits for no reason. With four picks in the first two rounds, they're better positioned than most to add a long-term signal-caller, regardless of how much lip service they've paid their current starter," Benjamin wrote in his.
Jared Goff has not been bad as a starter. He threw for 4,438 yards, 29 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last year. The former No. 1 overall pick is under contract for two more years, but is he capable of taking the Lions where they want to go? I think it's still fair to ask that question. I'm not calling for the Lions to trade up into the top five to draft Anthony Richardson or C.J. Stroud, but could Hendon Hooker be in play at the end of the first round or early in the second round? I like that potential marriage. If not, Clayton Tune and Tanner McKee are a couple quarterbacks that intrigue me. Chris Trapasso has Detroit drafting the former in the third round in .
In this draft, the Lions need to take a quarterback with potential.
Add a tight end
Sure, Shane Zylstra caught three touchdowns in a single game this past season and some believe James Mitchell has big potential, but T.J. Hockenson still finished as the Lions' leading tight end in receiving yards despite playing just seven games before being dealt to the Minnesota Vikings at the trade deadline.
I think adding a young tight end who could serve as another versatile playmaker for Goff would make this a great draft for the Lions. Detroit could target one relatively early, such as Luke Musgrave from Oregon State or Sam LaPorta from Iowa.
If we want to discuss a few prospects who aren't at the top of the tight end class, Davis Allen out of Clemson is a former basketball player who lined up in several different positions for the Tigers and knows how to high-point a ball in coverage. Cameron Latu from Alabama is a former defensive end whose versatility has certainly stood out. He's learned the position quickly, and while he's not a Day 1 or 2 TE, his best football days may be ahead of him.