Analyst Has Surprising Take on Lions’ Top Draft Need After Free Agency

Joey Porter Jr.

Getty Joey Porter Jr. celebrates a Penn State win in 2021.

The Detroit Lions have focused on fixing a broken defense most of the offseason, and the results of their work have been very good so far.

A moribund defensive backfield has been upgraded in free agency in a big way, which could lead the Lions to have less needs at that position come the 2023 NFL draft.

While that might be the case to some, others are continuing to hold up the backfield as a spot of need heading into the draft in a month. Bleacher Report took a fresh look at team needs after the early wave of free agency, and pointed out that holes could still exist.

Writer Kristopher Knox put together an updated list of needs for every team after the free agency frenzy. Not much has changed for him as it relates to the Lions, who still maintain a major need at cornerback in spite of signing Cameron Sutton, as well as Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

The reason? Detroit lost two players at cornerback, and has another player in Jeff Okudah who might have an uncertain future with the team. That could combine to make the addition of even more young talent a must.

“Even with Sutton on the roster, it would also be wise to add another starting-caliber cornerback. The Lions lost both Mike Hughes and Amani Oruwariye in free agency and still haven’t seen 2020 third overall pick Jeff Okudah develop into a shutdown corner. Okudah played only 10 games over his first two seasons because of core muscle and Achilles injuries. He started 15 games last year and was solid (87.6 opposing passer rating) but not spectacular,” Knox wrote in the piece.

The situation with Okudah might make it more pressing the Lions find a young player to build around. Moseley and Gardner-Johnson are both on one-year deals. Beyond Okudah, the Lions have Jerry Jacobs to rely on, but not much else solidified at the position.

Detroit may or may not be sold on Okudah long-term, which could mean Brad Holmes and his brass want to find a top-flight cornerback that they can develop on their own.

No matter how much the Lions have added to the position, a need could still exist. That’s just what Knox and Bleacher Report seem to think is the case.

Lions Also Encouraged to Draft Defensive Line, Linebackers

While the backfield could remain as a major need according to Knox, the team has done little to solve its problems at linebacker and also along the defensive line.

In free agency, the Lions re-signed internal glue players like Isaiah Buggs and John Cominsky for the interior while bringing back linebacker Alex Anzalone as well as Jalen Reeves-Maybin after one year away. None of that has made enough of a dent to consider this spot completely fixed on the team.

As Knox wrote, the team must continue to hit the defense hard, especially with regards to the line and linebacker spots relative to what they haven’t yet added during the offseason.

“The Lions must continue focusing on defense in the draft. Adding a high-end linebacker or defensive lineman who can improve the run defense should be an early priority. Detroit was also 30th in yards per carry surrendered (5.2) in 2022. That fact, combined with the reality that the Lions have not done much heavy lifting outside of the building along the defensive line, would figure to point to the notion that the team will address the lines hard during the draft,” he wrote.

There are plenty of top prospects the Lions could look at during the draft, including defensive tackles Jalen Carter and Calijah Kancey in the first-round, and also edge players like Tyree Wilson, Will Anderson Jr., Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy and others.

Detroit needs help across the board, so the potential for them to add some elite bodies to the linebacker and defensive line rooms to supplement what has already been done feels like a fantastic opportunity for the team.

Defensive Backs Lions Could Target During Draft

No matter what the Lions choose to do, the team should feel secure in knowing that cornerback figures to be one of the deepest spots in the entire 2023 NFL draft.

Within the draft, the Lions have plenty of players in the class that could fit between picks six and 18. The addition of Sutton and Moseley could make it seem the Lions would not be interested in drafting a cornerback high, but it can’t be ruled out, especially with the quality names that could be on the board.

Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes, Illinois corner Devon Witherspoon, Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. and Maryland’s Deonte Banks could all be first-round talents that the team identifies for either of their early selections.

Later on in the draft, other players such as Darius Rush of South Carolina, Garrett Williams of Syracuse or Tre’Vius Hodges Tomlinson of TCU could be found further down the board in other rounds. The pressure will not be heavy on the Lions to take a corner early, especially if they feel they can develop one of these younger players.

While corner is still a clear need, the Lions have a major advantage in the draft with a deep class. It’s a good year to need a defensive back, and a good year for the Lions to have four picks in the first two rounds.

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