Heavy on Lions Reveals Pre-Combine 2023 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Sam LaPorta

Getty Sam LaPorta catches a pass and runs in an Iowa vs. Minnesota game.

The NFL offseason is close to beginning, and the Detroit Lions are preparing for some big moves to reshape their roster and take the next steps in 2023.

Free agency is approaching fast and the NFL combine is approaching, meaning the time is closing in for things to ratchet up in terms of the offseason. As a result, there’s not a better time to look at putting together an early mock draft as it relates to what the Lions might do.

With help of Pro Football Focus and their simulator, our first mock of the 2023 offseason was put together, and it features the team filling plenty of different important holes for a very needy roster.

Here’s a look at the first mock of the offseason before all the fun soon begins.

Round One, Pick Number Six – Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

So far, lots of mocks have begun to have Devon Witherspoon within the top 10, and it’s hard to disagree with them given all he can do on the field and how he fits so well at a position of need.

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. He’s the selection for Detroit right now within the top 10.

Round One, Pick 32 – Calijah Kancey, DL, Pitt

If the Lions could land Calijah Kancey with the 18th pick, it would be a huge win for franchise that needs a tough interior presence out of this draft in a big way.

In terms of career stats, Kancey has put up 91 tackles in his career, and 34.5 of those tackles have been for-loss. He also has 16 career sacks, showing how active he can be even within the middle of the line.

As a result of this work, Kancey was the 2022 ACC Defensive Player of the Year as well as a 2022 Consensus All-American. Those are some fantastic accolades for a player of his stature coming into the NFL.

It’s no lock Kancey is even on the board at 18, but if he is, the Lions need not think about this too long.

Round Two, Pick 48 – Andre Carter II, Edge, Army

The Lions need playmakers at all levels of their defense, and Army’s Andre Carter II should be a player that catches their attention given his ability to turn in plenty of dominating moments on the field as well as create turnovers.

At pick 48, Carter could be a steal for the Lions, and a great three-headed monster for the defense along with Witherspoon and Kancey that could help in transforming the defense for the future.

Carter finished his career with the Black Knights maintaining some fantastic production. He collected 96 total tackles 25.5 of which were for-loss, 19 sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and five passes defended in college.

As he gets set to transition to the next level, Carter is the type of player who could bring a big-play edge to the Lions around the football. The team should be looking for players like that to help round out their defense for the future, given they lacked it during the 2022 season.

Round Two, Pick 55 – Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State

Detroit has a major need at linebacker, even after selecting players like Derrick Barnes and Malcolm Rodriguez the last two seasons. Daiyan Henley could help them solve it with another young star.

Henley was a big play machine in college, first with Nevada and then after transferring to Washington State. In total, he put up some fantastic numbers, totaling 256 total tackles, 18.5 of which were for loss, five interceptions, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles and one touchdown.

Henley is the kind of around-the-ball player that could change the look of the Detroit defense in the second-level. He would bring another big-play element to Detroit that the team has lacked in recent years if he were on the board at this point in the draft.

Round Three, Pick 81 – Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa

The Lions have a need at tight end, and while it might not be as dramatic a need for a first-round pick, it’s still a need the team could look to address early on in the draft.

Detroit might want to get better after making their big midseason trade and Sam LaPorta could help them do that instantly. The tight end isn’t a prolific college pass catcher, having hauled in just five touchdowns and 1,786 yards in his career. He is gritty and tough as the tape shows, however.

LaPorta could also impact the game as a blocker, as most tight ends from Iowa translate well to the NFL. Names like Dallas Clark, Hockenson and Noah Fant have all done well in their transitions to the league, and LaPorta could be next in line to claim that mantle.

Round Five, Pick 154 – Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford

The Lions don’t have a huge need at wide receiver this offseason, but if a talent like Michael Wilson was on the board this far down, Detroit might have no choice but to snap him up and make the move.

Wilson, a wide receiver that managed to do some damage very similar to St. Brown in the PAC-12. Wilson put up 1,662 yards and 11 touchdowns in a five-year career, and additionally, collected 55 rushing yards on six attempts.

Detroit might have a similar player in Amon-Ra St. Brown, but Wilson has looked like a big play waiting to happen in college and very underrated. This could end up being another home-run steal for the Lions late in the draft.

Round Six, Pick 183 – Keaton Mitchell, RB, ECU

Early in the draft process, many have become enamored with getting the Lions a running back within the first or second round. Reality says they can find players further down the board with greater regularity.

One such player is Keaton Mitchell of ECU. The productive running back had a fantastic college career, putting up 3,027 yards and 25 touchdowns in college. Better than that, he put up 580 receiving yards and three scores, showing he can catch some passes, too.

Mitchell would be a good way for the Lions to address a potential need at running back, and take a swing at a player that offers some speed and toughness at the position. Adding him with a late pick like this could prove to be a major win.

Round Six, Pick 194 – Starling Thomas V, CB, UAB

The Lions have shown they aren’t averse to taking lottery scratcher type players later in the draft. Perhaps no player would embody this more than Sterling Thomas IV from the UAB Blazers.

Thomas, a cornerback, played four seasons for UAB and collected has 30 total tackles and 15 passes defended as a senior en-route to becoming first-team All-Conference USA. He collected one interception, one fumble recovery and 27 tackles as a sophomore in 2019.

Those numbers might not seem huge, but Starling is a solid athlete with 6’0″ height and very long arms, which could help him be a menace at the position for the future.

This kind of pick would be a perfect late selection for the Lions, and something where the team rolls the dice and ends up with a solid pick that ends up playing a bigger than expected role for the future.

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