The Detroit Lions are starting to ponder what they can do to improve their team, and the NFL draft process will be starting soon for the team in terms of evaluations.
When that process begin, what players make the most sense for the team? With tons of draft needs and some major decisions to be made, answering that question might not be that easy when all is said and done.
Pro Football Focus, though, seems to have a good idea of what the team should be looking to add. First and foremost, the answer to that is apparently defense. Writer Trevor Sikkema put together a new list for every team in the league with their best fits both early and late in the impending draft.
For Detroit, defense is the word. Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon and Alabama defensive lineman Byron Young were named the team’s best fits this year. As Sikkema wrote, either could help to improve the team’s defense in a big way at spots of need.
“Defense is the theme for the Lions this offseason. Witherspoon (or even Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez) would be a great pick for them in the first round. They could follow that with a reliable and experienced interior player like Byron Young to free up Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston IV, as well as allow Alim McNeill to move to his more natural nose tackle spot,” Sikkema wrote in the piece.
The Lions need help for a defense that ranked 32nd overall in 2022. Detroit’s draft classes have been fantastic, so if the team were to add players, it might only serve to help them in the future with regards to depth and playmaking.
Detroit probably needs to find a few starters on the back end, so Witherspoon would be a good fit in a deep class there. Up front, the team needs bodies as well, and Young would be an excellent piece with some future upside.
Young’s College Stats & Highlights
While Young does not come with the high name pedigree as some of the others on the list for defensive line Detroit could be looking at, he does offer some major production from the SEC.
Young has managed to put up some fantastic numbers in a sold four-year career with the Crimson Tide. He has totaled 130 tackles, 20 of which have been for-loss. He has also piled up 7.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble in his career. The tape shows a very agile player up front:
Another advantage to Young? He could be a second or third round pick for the Lions, and could help plug a hole for a cost-effective price up front. Draft experts such as Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network have lauded Young’s ability to stop the run in the middle of the line while also showing some burst as a pass rusher.
The Lions may not have to spend a high draft pick to get a high impact player for their defensive front. That could be the biggest advantage that Young would provide in the end for the team if they looked his way in the draft.
Witherspoon’s College Stats & Highlights
In terms of cornerbacks, there will be no shortage of draft options for Detroit. Witherspoon might end up being the best thanks to his toughness and his mindset on the field.
Clearly, folks believe that Witherspoon will show his stuff during the draft process and get himself into the top 10 conversation for the draft. While at Illinois, though, Witherspoon was certainly not a slouch as a player.
In a four year career with the Illini, Witherspoon put up 157 tackles, 11.5 tackles for-loss, one sack and five interceptions. He also defended 25 passes and collected three fumble recoveries. That work led him to being named a 2022 consensus All-American.
Witherspoon seems to have the kind of toughness and grit that the Lions would crave at the position. As the highlights show, he isn’t afraid to get dirty and make tackles in the run game, which the team could love.
When paired with Young, he could offer the Lions some great playmaking for the future on defense.