2023 NFL mock draft 1.0: Detroit Lions add pass rusher, offensive playmaker in Round 1

Detroit Free Press

We’re a few weeks past the Super Bowl, and two months from the 2023 NFL draft. That’s a lot of time for things. The combine is next week, where some prospects will help or hurt their draft stock with their performance, and free agency in mid-March should crystalize teams’ needs.

Here’s my first shot at a 2023 NFL mock draft, where the Detroit Lions have two first-round picks, their own at No. 18 and the No. 6 selection from the Los Angeles Rams. This is a projection of what I currently think will happen.

1. Chicago Bears: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

This figures to be a quarterback one way or another. If the Bears trade Justin Fields, it’s because they’re drafting a new QB. If the Fields rumors are a smokescreen, some team is coming up to get Young.

2. Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

The Texans are one of those teams that could trade up to No. 1 if they’re especially convicted about Young or Stroud.

3. Arizona Cardinals: OLB Will Anderson, Alabama

New head coach Jonathan Gannon is a defensive guru who could have his choice of the draft’s top two defensive payers, Anderson and Georgia’s Jalen Carter.

4. Indianapolis Colts: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

The Colts might be the most quarterback-desperate team in the draft after suffering through two years of Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan at the most important position.

5. Seattle Seahawks: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

A monster of an interior pass rusher who played through injury this season, and the player I think would add the most to the Lions’ defense.

6. Detroit Lions: DE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

With the draft’s top quarterbacks and two elite defensive players off the board, the Lions must decide between the best cornerback and more help for their defensive line. Knowing general manager Brad Holmes’ taste — he has taken bigs with five of his six top-75 picks as Lions GM — I’ll give the Lions the big pass rusher (6-6, 275 pounds) so long as his medicals check out.

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7. Las Vegas Raiders: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

Peter Skoronski could be the first offensive lineman drafted, but Johnson’s length is a better fit for the Raiders’ Patriots-influenced leadership, and he’d be a Day 1 starter at right tackle.

8. Atlanta Falcons: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

If the Falcons don’t address their offensive line in free agency, they’ll need one of the draft’s top two tackles to keep whoever plays quarterback upright.

9. Carolina Panthers: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

Panthers owner David Tepper is desperate to find a franchise quarterback, which puts a trade up in play. If that doesn’t happen, they could roll the dice on Anthony Richardson here, though this seems a tad early.

10. Philadelphia Eagles: DE Myles Murphy, Clemson

He’s a player I could see being in the mix for the Lions at six. The Eagles, with lots of free agent decisions to make on their defensive line, will be happy to take this pass rusher if he falls to 10.

11. Tennessee Titans: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

New Titans GM Ran Carthon, who played briefly for the Lions, is a bit of a wild card in the draft, but tackle Taylor Lewan said he expects to be released this offseason and Jones is the best linemen left.

12. Houston Texans: DL Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

With their quarterback of the future secure, the Texans can get new coach DeMeco Ryans some help for his pass rush.

13. New York Jets: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

If the Jets pair him with last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, Sauce Gardner, they’ll have arguably the best cornerback room in the NFL.

14. New England Patriots: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Coach Bill Belichick has been awful at drafting receivers, but the Patriots need someone for Mac Jones to throw to.

15. Green Bay Packers: S Brian Branch, Alabama

Would replace free-agent-to-be Adrian Amos, though it would be funny if the Packers traded Aaron Rodgers and then finally drafted a pass catcher in Round 1.

16. Washington Commanders: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

The Commanders are another quarterback-desperate team, and with new ownership coming in the near future, this is a chance for GM Martin Mayhew and coach Ron Rivera to hitch their wagons to an exciting player to build around.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

How about following in the footsteps of his famous father, who had 60 sacks in eight seasons with the Steelers.

18. Detroit Lions: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

Oh, man, I can see the angry emails already. A running back? In Round 1? Well, Robinson is a top-10 talent in this draft, and if the Lions are serious about continuing to give Jared Goff all the weapons he needs to succeed, Robinson could be their Todd Gurley.

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19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

Lavonte David is a free agent, and Devin White is entering the last year of his deal. Simpson is the best linebacker available and the Bucs are retooling.

20. Seattle Seahawks: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

With Carter already in the fold, the Seahawks can take best player available and Mayer is someone who should help as a run blocker and in the pass game.

21. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jordan Addison, USC

Keenan Allen can’t play forever, Mike Williams has still never played a full season and the Chargers have to pay Justin Herbert this offseason. They need a good, young, cheap receiver.

22. Baltimore Ravens: DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson

Some project Bresee as a top-10 pick, but his health history could knock him down a peg, in which case he’d be a great value pick for the Ravens.

23. Minnesota Vikings: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Could end up the top cornerback on some teams’ boards. The Vikings should be thrilled to land him.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia

Evan Engram was a big-time weapon for Trevor Lawrence late in the season. If Engram leaves in free agency, Washington is a huge target who could take over as the security blanket.

25. New York Giants: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College

If he was bigger, Flowers (5-10) would be considered the best receiver in the draft.

26. Dallas Cowboys: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas

The Cowboys could use reinforcements for their offensive line, but Sanders seems like a good fit for Dan Quinn’s defense.

27. Buffalo Bills: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

If Jordan Poyer leaves in free agency, the Bills could target his replacement in the draft.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland

There’s a few good cornerbacks left at the end of Round 1, including Banks, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo and South Carolina’s Cam Smith.

29. New Orleans Saints: DT Calijah Kancey, Pitt

Kancey’s size (6-0, 280) won’t be for everybody, but he could sneak into Round 1 as a pass rushing three technique.

30. Philadelphia Eagles: OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida

The Eagles had the best offensive line in the NFL this season, but age and contract issues could necessitate turnover. Torrence is a plug-and-play guard.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: OL Cody Mauch, North Dakota

The Chiefs could lose both starting offensive tackles to free agency, and if they don’t, Mauch has the position versatility to help anywhere he’s needed.

*Miami forfeited its first-round pick.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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