Significant Defensive Decision Named Lions’ Biggest NFL Draft Question

Aaron Glenn

Getty Aaron Glenn on the field before a Lions game in 2021.

As the days and hours tick down ahead of the 2023 NFL draft, things are coming into focus for the Detroit Lions.

When the Lions go to select with the sixth-overall selection, they are going to have their choice of several top prospects, likely on both sides of the football. Defensively, though, is where most of the intrigue for the team lies.

Will the team select a big-time prospect to help in the trenches, or go for a cornerback? Pro Football Focus wants to know, and revealed the biggest question the team will have to be asking themselves before making their selection.

As writer Max Chadwick wrote, the Jalen Carter question is hanging over the team significantly. Carter is a talented defensive prospect with questions about character following him into the league. Detroit, though, offers him a solid fit at a major position of need.

That sets up the Carter decision as the biggest question the team will have to answer during the draft according to Chadwick.

“Detroit’s biggest need heading into the draft is arguably on the interior defensive line, and the best interior defensive line prospect since Quinnen Williams in 2019 could be available at No. 6. The problem is, it’s unknown whether Carter’s off-field issues will have him off the Lions’ board altogether. If so, Detroit could continue to boost the secondary with someone such as Devon Witherspoon or even take a swing on a sliding quarterback,” he wrote in the piece.

Detroit’s defense needs major help, and the team could theoretically use some beef up front, especially after adding some solid pieces in free agency to their defensive backfield. Quarterback could certainly be on the menu, but only if the right prospect is on the board.

Carter figures to be a player that could step up at a big position of need, but only if the Lions decide to take the gamble on him if some other teams don’t. The decision the team has to make on that front figures to dominate the headlines of the early round.

Insider: Lions Could Consider Jalen Carter

In terms of Carter, the question could be close to getting answered. The Lions could be set to give a serious thought to taking Carter when the draft plays out this week.

As the draft closes in, Carter, a player who has gone through a major off-the-field issue stemming from a deadly accident, will apparently remain under consideration. Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated revealed that Carter will be getting a strong look from Detroit in their spot given a good meeting, in addition to Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon.

“I’ve heard, like Seattle, the Lions had a good meeting with Carter. A mess of rival teams believe he’s going to be a real consideration in this spot. If Carter’s gone, or even otherwise, Witherspoon—seen as a strong fit for both Dan Campbell’s program and Aaron Glenn’s defense—is another player that’s been connected to Detroit pretty consistently over the last few weeks,” Breer wrote.

If the Lions went with Carter, they would be banking on him being motivated and checking out in terms of character. The pick would come with both Brad Holmes as well as Dan Campbell’s stamp of approval.

It seems that the Lions will at least be thinking of adding Carter to the mix with this latest report in mind.

Lions Could Target Deep Defensive Back Class

No matter what the Lions choose to do early on, 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.

Perhaps that will lead to the team prioritizing a player like Carter in the top 10 when all is said and done in the draft. Regardless, that will be a huge issue for the team to address.

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