The Detroit Lions had a major turnaround season, going from 3-13-1 in 2021 to 9-8 in 2022. While following short of the playoffs was a gut-wrencher for Lions fans, the franchise has a bright future led by coach Dan Campbell. Plus, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson announced he will return for next season instead of leaving for a head coach position.
With a great offseason, Detroit will likely take the next step and earn a postseason berth for the first time since 2016. The Lions have a wealth of picks in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Which positions of need could Detroit target?
2022 Season Record: 9-8
Status of Coach: Dan Campbell – Safe
Positions of Need
- Defensive tackle
- Tight end
Notable Draft Picks
- Round 1, Pick 6 (from Rams)
- Round 1, Pick 18
- Round 2, Pick 48
- Round 2, Pick 55 (from Vikings)
Defensive Reinforcements on the Way?
At times, the Lions’ defense managed to overperform in the 2022 season. However, the unit’s lack of talent and bad games, like allowing 37 points and 320 rushing yards against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16, cannot be overlooked. Detroit has several areas that must be addressed, and it is in a perfect position to make immediate upgrades with several high picks in the 2023 draft.
The trade of Matthew Stafford paid off this season, as the Los Angeles Rams’ first-rounder is the No. 6 overall pick. Plus, the Lions still own their No. 18 selection. Following a great season from Jared Goff, taking a QB with the sixth pick should be off of the table. Instead, the Lions can focus on taking a game-changer on defense.
Defensive tackle and cornerback are the two biggest needs. Detroit lacks a defensive tackle that can take on multiple blocks. It finished 31st in allowed yards per carry and 29th in allowed rushing yards per game. Plus, the Lions got only 3.5 sacks from their interior defensive line. Detroit also needs any cornerback to help it can get. Jeff Okudah was the only serviceable starter but he dealt with injuries. Overall, the Lions have a thin cornerback room.
Learn More About the NFC North Draft 2023
- Green Bay Packers 2023 Positions Needed & First Round Draft Picks
- Minnesota Vikings 2023 Positions Needed & First Round Draft Picks
- Chicago Bears 2023 Positions Needed & First Round Draft Picks
Potential First-Round Targets
With the No. 6 pick, defensive tackle seems like the best option. There is no elite cornerback prospect in the 2023 class that warrants a top-six pick – maybe even a top-ten pick.
At defensive tackle, Jalen Carter (Georgia) is a pipe dream that will likely be a top-four pick. If he slides, Detroit will be over the moon with his elite pass-rushing skills combined with great strength against the run game. Bryan Bresee of Clemson is the realistic defensive tackle option. Bresee would still be an excellent fit with his extraordinary strength and ability to eat blocks in the run game. He also has elite athleticism that provides pass-rush potential.
Bryan Bresee is unreal, he moves this fast at 6’5”, 305 pic.twitter.com/ndeGVESnQ6
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 12, 2022
Later in the first round, the Lions can get their cornerback. Kelee Ringo (Georgia), Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State), Christian Gonzalez (Oregon), and Cam Smith (South Carolina) will likely go between picks eight to 20. Ringo will likely be off of the board by No. 18, but the other three options could be there. Porter is a physical cornerback that excels in man coverage combined with good ball skills. Gonzalez is the most athletic cornerback prospect and is rangy with good length. Smith could be the most ideal fit for zone coverage and has good closing speed.
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer is another name to watch at No. 18. Detroit needs a tight end after trading T.J. Hockenson and Mayer is the top tight end in the class. The Notre Dame product can do it all. He is a good blocker with reliable hands and route running.
Don’t be surprised if the Lions look to trade as well. If they are not in love with defensive tackle prospects at No. 6, they could trade down and gain more draft capital. Plus, Detroit has two second-round picks that could lead to moving up from the No. 18 selection. The Lions have plenty of options in the 2023 NFL Draft.