NFL mock draft 3.0: With Georgia DT Jalen Carter on the board, do Detroit Lions bite?

Detroit Free Press

The first wave of NFL free agency is in the books, which means it’s time for another mock draft.

The Detroit Lions addressed their biggest need in a big way, adding three potential starters at cornerback in Cam Sutton, Emanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who can play safety or as a slot defender.

As much depth as the Lions have at cornerback — Jeff Okudah, Jerry Jacobs and Chase Lucas also return, and the team re-signed slot corner Will Harris — I still think the Lions could address the position in the early rounds.

Sutton and Lucas, who played sparingly as a rookie seventh-round pick last season, are the only two of those seven players signed beyond 2023. At No. 6, though, I see the Lions having a big decision to make on whether to take arguably the best player in the draft.

1. Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama

I had Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud going No. 1 in my last mock because he is the apple of head coach Frank Reich’s eye. But recent reports indicate owner David Tepper is a Young fan, and owners have a way of getting what they want.

2. Houston Texans: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

I would guess Stroud is the first or second quarterback on most team’s boards, but I’m playing a hunch here that GM Nick Caserio swings for the fences.

3. Arizona Cardinals: Edge Will Anderson, Alabama

The Cardinals are in prime trade-down position, and the deal that makes the most sense is moving down one spot to get extra draft capital, while staying in position to get the best defensive player in the draft.

4. Indianapolis Colts: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

No trades projected in this mock, so Stroud slips to No. 4. This feels like his absolute floor.

5. Seattle Seahawks: DE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

The Seahawks could be in the first-round quarterback mix, too, but I’m giving them the draft’s No. 2 edge rusher, ahead of Georgia’s Jalen Carter, for now.

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6. Detroit Lions: OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

That leaves the Lions with the Carter decision. I had one scout tell me last week Carter is the best player and biggest enigma in this year’s draft. He’s also the best fit for the Lions from a talent-meets-needs perspective. The Lions will do plenty of homework on Carter between now and April 27, but I have them passing on the big defense tackle for now. Instead, I gave them the best offensive lineman in the draft. Skoronski could start at guard this season, with an eye on perhaps moving to tackle if Taylor Decker, 29, ever ages his way out of town.

7. Las Vegas Raiders: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

For all the questions about Carter, I don’t think he slides too far. He settled his criminal charges and he’ll have private workouts and top-30 visits to rehab his image. The Raiders seem like a team willing to roll the dice on his upside.

8. Atlanta Falcons: QB Will Levis, Kentucky

That leaves Levis, the fourth quarterback in the draft, here for the Falcons. Atlanta took Desmond Ridder last year and signed Taylor Heinicke in free agency, but neither can match Levis’ long-term potential.

9. Chicago Bears: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

The Bears filled a bunch of needs in free agency, but still have a big one at offensive tackle to make their line complete. 

10. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

They brought back Darius Slay and James Bradberry, but Eagles GM Howie Roseman is a value over need GM, and Witherspoon is the top corner in the draft.

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11. Tennessee Titans: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

The decline in running backs is well documented at 1,800 carries. Derrick Henry, if he returns to Tennessee, is at 1,750 for his career, and Robinson is a top-10 talent.

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12. Houston Texans: Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia

This might be a little rich for Smith, but after taking a quarterback at two, the Texans can use the second first-rounder to give new coach DeMeco Ryans more talent on defense.

13. New York Jets: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Pairing Gonzalez with Sauce Gardner would give the Jets one of the NFL’s best cornerback tandems.

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

Bill Belichick hasn’t had much luck drafting receivers, but Smith-Njigba will be a slot sensation in the NFL.

15. Green Bay Packers: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Maybe Aaron Rodgers will change his mind about a trade if the Packers draft a pass catcher.

16. Washington Commanders: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

The Commanders signed Andrew Wylie in free agency, but he can slide inside to guard if Jones is ready to be a Day 1 starter.

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

Cam Sutton is out. Patrick Peterson is in. And the Steelers’ secondary remains a work in progress.

18. Detroit Lions: DE Myles Murphy, Clemson

The Lions passed on Carter at six, but they should be able to get help for their defensive line at 18. Murphy was once considered a potential top-10 pick. He’s big, plays hard and would be a nice addition to the Lions’ young line.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland

Bucs GM Jason Licht spent seven top-100 picks on defensive backs in his first four seasons as GM, and one in the three years since. It’s time to add another playmaker to that unit.

20. Seattle Seahawks: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia

Some evaluators consider Washington, a dominant run blocker with freakish athletic traits, the best tight end in the draft.  

21. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jordan Addison, USC

Mike Williams turns 29 this season and Keenan Allen will be 31. Addison would give Justin Herbert a young, cost-controlled weapon to grow with.

22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College

There aren’t any top-tier receivers in this year’s draft, but there are a bunch of good ones who should go in the back half of the second round.

23. Minnesota Vikings: DL Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

I thought about Van Ness, who had 13.5 sacks the past two seasons despite never starting a game, to the Lions at 18.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Anton Harrison Oklahoma

Jawaan Taylor signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, so the Jaguars need insurance at tackle in case Walker Little is not ready for a starting role.

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25. New York Giants: CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State

The Giants’ current projected starting cornerbacks for 2023 are Adoree’ Jackson, Cor’Dale Flott and Darnay Holmes.

26. Dallas Cowboys: DT Calijah Kancey, Pitt

Another lineman I considered for the Lions at 18, Kancey is one of the best interior rushers in this class, and would be a terror in Dan Quinn’s defense.

27. Buffalo Bills: LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

With Tremaine Edmunds in Chicago, the Bills could use a versatile linebacker for the middle of their defense.

28. Cincinnati Bengals: DL Keion White, Georgia Tech

White is one of the easiest players to root for in the draft, a converted tight end who developed into one of college football’s top pass rushers after starting his career at Old Dominion.

29. New Orleans Saints: DB Brian Branch, Alabama

Branch is part safety, part slot cornerback, and in a down safety class, he should go in the back half of the first round.

30. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee

As good as the Eagles’ offensive line was last season, there are age and depth concerns they need to address in the draft.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: TE Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Travis Kelce is the best tight end in the NFL, but he can’t play forever.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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