The Detroit Lions have plenty of needs to contemplate in the 2023 NFL draft, and most can be found on the defensive side of the ball.
That’s left prognosticators a pretty easy choice early on within their mock coverage of the impending draft. Penciling in Detroit with a pair of first-round picks on defense has been one of the common calls early on.
What if a skill position was on the menu, however? ESPN analyst Jordan Reid took a stab at a new mock and provided an interesting addition for the Lions in the form of Texas running back Bijan Robinson.
While Reid had the Lions going with the chalk pick in Clemson’s Bryan Bresee with the sixth-overall selection, things got more interesting with pick 18. That’s where he penciled the electric Robinson into the mix for Detroit’s offense.
As Reid said, keeping Jared Goff surrounded by top weaponry should be a goal for the Lions, and given uncertainty at the position, a new back could be a sneaky addition in Detroit.
“The improved play of Jared Goff has quieted the need to draft a quarterback of the future, but the key to sustained success from Goff will be keeping top-tier firepower around him. The D’Andre Swift-Jamaal Williams duo has been exciting this season, but it’s possible neither running back is in the team’s long-term plans. Swift has battled durability issues and enters the final year of his deal in 2023, while Williams is set to become a free agent this offseason. Robinson would be a significant upgrade after rushing for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2022. His contact balance and short-area quickness are superb, but he also has dependable hands and can be deployed as a receiver from many alignments,” Reid wrote in the mock.
With that in mind, Robinson sounds as if he could be a good schematic fit for Detroit. The Lions often ask their running backs to catch passes out of the backfield, and in 2022, team runners have hauled in 73 passes for 607 yards and four touchdowns.
Robinson’s ability to be a dual-threat as well as a younger option for the Lions could appeal to the team, and that is what Reid projects within this mock draft. He offers plenty of other upsides, as well.
Robinson’s College Stats & Highlights
There’s no question that Robinson offers the NFL plenty, especially given what he’s been able to do while playing for Texas in college.
Robinson was arguably the top running back in the 2022 season, posting a solid 1,580 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also has caught 19 passes for 314 yards and two scores, and had several electric plays to his credit.
As a whole, Robinson has totaled 3,410 yards and 60 touchdowns on the ground in college. That’s to go with 805 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in his career catching the ball. It’s clear he is a diverse weapon capable of stretching out a defense.
Robinson has been seen as a potential first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft, and he’s a player who’s talent could lead him to be selected within the first half of the draft this year.
D’Andre Swift Decision Could Determine Offseason
Why would the Lions select a running back in the first round of the draft? Right now, there may not seem like a good reason to do so, but the future could leave the position open for additions.
This offseason, Jamaal Williams is a free agent. While he’s been solid and put up 15 rushing touchdowns this season to go with 994 yards, he also may have priced himself out of a Detroit reunion if he elects to hit the open market. There’s also the issue of what to do with D’Andre Swift.
When he’s healthy and engaged, Swift has looked like a top running back solution for the team. Problem is, he’s only played in a total of 39 career games through three seasons with just 16 starts, and injury has been as big a story for him as game-breaking plays, such as the ones he turned in during a 41-10 defeat of Chicago in Week 17.
Before a decision needs to be made with Swift’s contract for 2024, the Lions could elect to cut bait with him via trade as they did to tight end T.J. Hockenson and get a fresh start at the position with a younger, cheaper player.
Robinson isn’t a name that has been mocked to Detroit during the early stages of the process, but as this analysis shows, he could be one to remember in the next few months.