The college football season is quickly coming to an end, believe it or not. That means the draft prospect evaluation season is really starting to heat up.
Normally, the NFL draft is a bigger priority amongst Lions fans at this time of the year. And while the scouting staff has been operating like always, the success of the 7-2, first-place Lions has put the draft on the back burner for most fans.
In looking ahead at the 2024 NFL draft, which will take place in Detroit next April, the draft range for the Lions top pick figures to be in the 25-32 overall range of the first round. Picking that much later opens up a lot more possibilities for the Lions and what player(s) they might target.
Here are 10 prospects who appear to fit what the Lions want in a prospect and would fill a need on the Detroit roster. It’s just an early look at who the Lions figure to have some interest in drafting with their top pick. They are listed here in alphabetical order.
Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama
Crimson Tide running mate Kool-Aid McKinstry gets more attention, but Arnold quietly has been the better corner for Alabama in 2023. His anticipation and fluid movement in coverage are ready-made for the Lions current scheme. At 6-0 and 195 pounds, he’s got enough bulk and length to hold up on the outside. Arnold is in just his second college season, so he lacks seasoning, but his rapid skill progress is very encouraging.
Graham Barton, OL, Duke
Barton began his career at Duke as a center before kicking outside to left tackle. His best NFL future path appears to be in between those spots at guard with his 6-foot-5, 310-pound frame and short-area power. He’s great on the move and consistently wins with pad level and good hand/shoulder technique when asked to block to the inside.
Two other feathers in his cap that will appeal to the Lions: Barton is a two-time Academic All-American and a team captain.
Brandon Dorlus, DL, Oregon
The Lions have an affinity for the pass-rushing DT/DE tweener. Dorlus very much fits that bill. He’s a very easy, natural replacement for the player the Lions wanted (and needed) Levi Onwuzurike to be. His long arms and savvy run defense are bonuses. Lions scouts were on hand for his exceptional all-around game against Caleb Williams and USC, where Dorlus showcased everything the team wants at his position(s).
Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas
Mitchell’s game has blossomed with his transfer from Georgia to Texas. At 6-foot-4, he works effectively out of the slot as well as outside. His footwork, quickness and balance for a taller wideout really stand out. Mitchell is fantastic in the red zone and also isn’t shy about blocking.
Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
Odunze was my first-round selection in the first edition of the Lions mock draft. This was true then, and it’s more time-tested now with Odunze,
Odunze brings a lot of traits that the Lions covet. He’s fiercely competitive, above-average athletically and smart on and off the field. Those boxes all get checked with the Huskies standout.
Then there’s the act of actually playing wide receiver. Odunze does that very well, too. He’s a bigger wideout at 6-foot-3 and a solidly built 215 pounds. He’s got strong hands and excellent timing on catching balls away from his frame and contested catch situations. While he doesn’t play to it often, Odunze has run a 4.34 40-yard dash and has decent agility for a receiver of his size. He’s tough to tackle.
Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State
Robinson was once seen as a potential top-10 pick, but he hasn’t played to that level in 2023. The freakish athleticism for a 250-pound pass rusher is evident, and his speed around the edge calls to mind former Nittany Lion Micah Parsons. Robinson’s work in shedding blocks and finishing plays needs some refinement, but the potential for an impact pass rusher is certainly there in the Maryland transfer. The always-hot motor holds real appeal for Detroit.
T’Vondre Sweat, DT, Texas
Sweat isn’t often projected in the first round right now. Wait for him to put on an athletic show in workouts at around 355 pounds. Guys that big aren’t supposed to move like this:
We are watching a truly special season for T’Vondre Sweat unfold in front of our eyes. pic.twitter.com/sqfyoLvZJn
— Nash (@NashTalksTexas) November 12, 2023
Add in the fact that he lives on the honor roll and brings a passionate leadership style to the field and it’s easy to see Brad Holmes really liking the currently underappreciated Sweat.
Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington
Trice was my projection for the Lions in the last mock draft, and he still makes a great potential fit for Detroit. At 270 or so pounds, he’s got the bulk and strength to play the EDGE role much in the way Aidan Hutchinson does; he’s not stuck being just a hand-in-dirt DE or a stand-up OLB. Of all the players listed here, my guess at this point would be that he is the least likely to be available when the Lions make their first pick.
J.T. Tuimoloau, EDGE, Ohio State
Tuimoloau has a real knack for playing his best in big games. His ability to win power-to-speed but also with quickness around the outside is appealing in a role opposite Aidan Hutchinson. Tuimoloau has the best 2-step closing burst on the QB of any pass rusher in this class, better even than guys (Laiatu Latu, Dallas Turner, Jared Verse) who will be off the board before Detroit picks.
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Wiggins checks a lot of boxes the Lions want in their outside corners. He’s got a high football IQ, excellent short-area athleticism and closing burst, a good nose for playing the ball in the air, and he’s worked hard to improve his technique. Wiggins could use some bulk on his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame to help handle run defense duties and bigger receivers, but don’t mistake him for being weak.