When the draft gets going, Detroit figures to have a gift waiting for them in the form of a top 10 pick, likely to fall near pick six, by way of the Los Angeles Rams. After a hot finish to the year, though, some definite needs have emerged over others for the team.
No longer are the Lions seen as a can’t-miss destination for a quarterback. With other needs perhaps not matching the top of this particular draft either, Detroit could be primed for a trade back to acquire even more picks and talent.
ESPN draft insider Matt Miller recently made that interesting point about the Lions and their future planning. As he said, this draft may not fall the way the Lions want it to in terms of need, which could make them a good spot for a quarterback needy team to target high in the draft.
“One of the most interesting teams in the top 10 of the 2023 draft is the Lions. Current projection is pick No. 6 but team’s needs don’t match the top-end of this draft. Put the Lions down as a very favorable trade back team for those trying to come up for a QB,” Miller tweeted.
It’s beyond early, but the Lions probably have to hope that Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis surge at quarterback during the process. Alabama’s Bryce Young could be a top-three pick, and could be out of range to help Detroit. Either of the other two options could figure into the top 10.
Detroit would probably love to land either Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. or Georgia’s Jalen Carter. It seems right now, though, that they might have to get very lucky for that to play out. Assuming it doesn’t, the team could simply decide on moving back like Miller predicts.
How a Draft Trade Back Could Benefit Lions
As general manager, Brad Holmes has shown that he is not adverse to the big move, especially regarding netting himself draft picks.
During the 2022 draft, Holmes traded up from the 32nd pick to pick 12 to select Alabama wideout Jameson Williams while also landing a second-round selection. This season, he surprisingly dealt tight end T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota for a second-round pick. Holmes also made the blockbuster deal to acquire a pair of first round picks and Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford.
No matter where he has picked, Holmes has shown he can find talent. The Lions have nabbed key contributors in the last two drafts anywhere from the second to sixth round. In 2021, the team landed tackle Alim McNeill (third round), wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown (fourth round) and linebacker Derrick Barnes (fifth round). 2022 produced defensive tackle Josh Paschal (second round), safety Kerby Joseph (third round), linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (sixth round) and edge rusher James Houston (sixth round).
Detroit’s roster has shown that it badly needs more depth for the future, especially on defense. Having cracks at more picks would allow the Lions to continue to throw players at problems at multiple spots. It could also allow the Lions more of a chance to make trades for veteran players who are on the block if need be.
Trading back can always makes sense for all teams, but it could make extra sense for the Lions right now relative to where they’re at. This is a scenario to keep in mind as the draft planning presses on.
Lions’ 2023 Draft Needs
No matter where the Lions end up picking or when, the team has plenty of needs in the 2023 draft. Most will figure to be on the defensive side of the football given how poorly the team has played this year in that spot.
On the back end, the Lions could use big help at cornerback and safety since they have struggled with depth there. The team also needs more linebackers and perhaps defensive lineman to change the narrative in the trenches, seeing as the team has been getting pushed around at times in those spots.
Offensively, the Lions feel unlikely to make any drastic change at quarterback given the solid season that Jared Goff has enjoyed. Perhaps the team adds a young option to develop behind Goff, but beyond that, it might not be a pressing issue early in the draft as much as it seemed earlier last fall.
The Lions are seemingly loaded at the skill positions, but could decide on a new wideout or running back to help depth, and perhaps a tight end as well. Depth along the offensive line could be important for the team as well given injuries happen in the trenches.
Detroit will have plenty of options this year, and that should make them one of the more dynamic teams to remember this coming April.