Heavy on Lions Reveals Post-Free Agency 2023 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

Nolan Smith

Getty Nolan Smith celebrates a big play for Georgia in 2021.

The NFL offseason is underway, and the Detroit Lions have already done some major work reconstructing their roster before 2023.

Free agency is a few weeks old, and most of the big names have already signed. While the chance exists for trades and some smaller signings to take place, much of the major roster work has been done ahead of the start of April, the final month before the draft.

How have things changed for Detroit after their flurry of moves? With help of Pro Football Focus and their simulator, our second mock draft of the 2023 offseason was put together, and it features the team filling plenty of the existing holes their team still maintains at this point in time.

Here’s a look at the second mock of the offseason as free agency has settled itself a bit.

Round One, Pick Number Six – Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia

In terms of a player who could play a huge role up front for the Lions, Jalen Carter is a guy that would be an immediate difference maker for Detroit in the trenches if he falls this far in the draft, and if the team believes in him.

Far too often last season, the Lions managed to get pushed around at the point of attack with regards to the run game. Additionally, they’ve struggled to rush the passer. Carter could help in solving both of those problems himself.

At Georgia, Carter finished finish his career with 83 tackles, 18.5 tackles for-loss and six sacks to go with two forced fumbles and four passes defended. In terms of his talent, he’s an obvious space eater who could get along well with Alim McNeill.

Will the Lions look into Carter if he is on the board? With defensive tackle a big need, it’s hard not to give the best prospect at that spot in the class to Detroit, even in spite of some of the red flags. The Lions grab Carter and begin to fortify their line.

Round One, Pick 18 – Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia

If one Georgia Bulldog lineman is good, wouldn’t more be better? In this case, yes, with the super athletic Nolan Smith sticking out on the board like a sore thumb.

Smith came off of a very solid career where he was Carter’s running mate with the Bulldogs, and with 110 tackles and 12.5 sacks in addition to three forced fumbles and one interception, he did a very good job making life difficult on the opposition.

The Lions might not need an edge badly in this class, but it’s hard to not want to reunite teammates that enjoyed plenty of success together on the same defensive line. Detroit’s front could get downright scary with the freakish Smith along with Carter and Aidan Hutchinson in the years ahead.

Round Two, Pick 48 – Tanner McKee, QB, Stanford

After an offseason of talking about it, the Lions finally land their quarterback of the future in Tanner McKee in the second-round of the draft.

McKee might not be one of the big handful of names folks are drooling over being he played for a 3-9 Stanford team, but that doesn’t McKee isn’t talented himself. The quarterback has put up some solid stats during his career with the Cardinal, posting 5,336 yards and 28 career touchdowns to 15 interceptions through his three years on the field in school.

Here’s a look at the highlights, which show McKee as a prototypical pocket passer with a big arm.

Obviously, McKee is not one of the bigger-name quarterbacks in this class, so for that reason, this pick might draw some scrutiny from fans. He’s also more of a pocket passer like Jared Goff, and not a scrambling threat. Still, if brought along, he’s the kind of prospect that could pay dividends for the Lions in a few seasons as he learns the league.

Round Two, Pick 55 – Nathaniel Dell, WR, Houston

It’s been a busy offseason for the Lions on defense, but not so on offense. David Montgomery and Marvin Jones have been the two biggest weapons added, which means a wideout could be on the menu.

Houston’s Nathaniel Dell is an explosive playmaker that could fid Detroit’s wideout room well. While in college, Dell put up 3,155 yards and 32 touchdowns as a major part of the offense for the Cougars.

Dell isn’t the biggest player at 5’10” but he plays big and can make an impact with speed and athleticism. Adding him to this group would be intriguing for a Detroit offense that needs to find more big plays in 2023.

Round Three, Pick 81 – Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse

Following some major spending in the offseason, cornerback isn’t a huge need for the Lions anymore. Still, the team could add someone, and it’s tough not to see the value of Garrett Williams this far down the board.

The Syracuse cornerback has solid 6’0″ size for the spot, and also produced as part of a three-year career for the Orange. He put up 152 tackles, four interceptions and 9.5 tackles for-loss in addition to 21 passes defended and one forced fumble.

Williams in the third-round would be a lucky strike for a Detroit defense that has already turned itself around on the back end. Adding him to the mix would give the team yet another versatile weapon for their backfield.

Round Five, Pick 154 – Atonio Mafi, G, UCLA

The Lions made a good move to bring back Graham Glasgow for some good interior depth, and while they slashed the pay of Vaitai, he will likely be back in a starter role as well.

That makes the fifth-round a perfect time to take a flier on a developmental guard. In this case, there isn’t anyone better than Atonio Mafi, a physical prospect from the Bruins that the Lions have met with pre-draft. This might seem like a reach, but Mafi could be a sleeper in the trenches.

Mafi earned second-team All-PAC-12 honors during the 2022 season, and started 13 games for the team. In total, Mafi has played in 25 games the last two years as a very durable player. He’s someone the team could groom behind their veterans for a bigger role later on.

Round Six, Pick 183 – Davis Allen, TE, Clemson

The Lions haven’t prioritized additions at tight end this offseason outside of re-signing some of their own players. That could point to the team being content with what they’ve got at the position.

Still, a player like Davis Allen in the sixth-round could offer the team a bit of what they crave further down the board. Allen, out of Clemson, isn’t the best pass catcher or athlete, but he is the gritty kind of player the team could love at the position later in the draft.

With the Tigers, Allen totaled 951 yards and 12 touchdowns in a four-year career. He’d be a rugged addition to the Detroit front and tight end room.

Round Six, Pick 194 – Jacob Slade, DL, Michigan State

With Carter along with Smith, the Lions don’t have to look toward the interior for another pick, but Jacob Slade in the sixth-round was simply too good for the team to pass up.

Slade may not come with the big-time pedigree as many of Detroit’s other selections up front, but he fits the team’s gritty, hard working mindset and would be an asset to the roster as a rotational player on defense.

At Michigan State, Slade collected 86 tackles, four sacks, three passes defended and 11.5 tackles for-loss in his four-year career.

Slade feels like the kind of player Dan Campbell would love, so adding him to the defense in this spot feels like a no-brainer to close out Detroit’s draft.

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