The Detroit Lions have begun to think abut what improvements they can make in the 2023 NFL draft, and a common thought has been that the team will fix their defense.
The Lions need help up front, at linebacker and in the second level at cornerback. So far, most mocks and insiders have held that the team will elect to beef up their defensive line earliest in order to give them a better shot at winning in the future.
NFL Network analyst and draft insider Daniel Jeremiah put out his first mock of the offseason, and within, he revealed a bit of a surprise for Detroit that may disagree with that notion.
Jeremiah had Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon making it into the top 10 to pick six, where he landed with the Lions. As Jeremiah wrote, Witherspoon has instincts and ball skills as well as the kind of style that would mesh well with what the Lions are trying to build.
“I fell in love with Witherspoon’s skill set after the first game I studied. He is dripping with instincts and possesses outstanding ball skills. His feisty play style would fit the culture Dan Campbell and Co. are building in Detroit,” Jeremiah wrote in the piece.
From there, Jeremiah sent Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson to Detroit, who would provide another solid body for the team given his 165 career tackles and 13 sacks in college.
“The Lions add another athletic playmaker in Simpson, who could slide right next to Malcolm Rodriguez to form an excellent young LB corps,” Jeremiah wrote.
In this case, the headliner was Witherspoon. Most mocks have the Lions going defensive line with the sixth-overall selection and cornerback later. This mock has the Lions not wasting any time to add Witherspoon, a solid cornerback from college to solve one of their biggest problems.
The Lions have a major need at the position which most agree, but until now, few thought there was a player capable of being good enough for the top 10. Perhaps Witherspoon can become that guy for the Lions as the process evolves.
Witherspoon’s College Stats & Highlights
While Simpson would be an interesting piece as well, the focus here is on Witherspoon, given this mock is one of the first to rocket him up the board into the top 10.
Clearly, folks believe that Witherspoon will show his stuff during the draft process and get himself into the top 10 of 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.
Kerby Joseph Reacts to Witherspoon Mock
Being that Witherspoon went to Illinois, it isn’t a shock that a former member of the Illini would have a lot of support for this potential idea.
Safety Kerby Joseph, who was one of the NFL’s top rookies this season in Detroit, saw the mock on the internet and shared his excitement about the idea of having a former teammate as only he could.
On Twitter, Joseph shared a ninja emoji with a screenshot of the mock draft, implying that he certainly would approve of such a selection for his team.
As a player, Joseph learned the ropes quickly in Detroit. He would finish the season with 83 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and eight passes defended. Three out of his four interceptions came at the expense of Aaron Rodgers, and his effort on November 6 was particularly impressive:
At the end of the day, Joseph looks like a rising star for the Lions in the future on the defensive side of the ball in his own right. If the team managed to pair him with Witherspoon, it could be a major win for their defense in the future.
Not only would the group have a pair of potentially elite players, but their team chemistry would benefit as well. It could be a win-win for the Lions to add a player like Witherspoon to their defense as a result.