Lions ‘Big Winner’ of Insider’s 7 Round Mock Thanks to Key Addition

Darnell Washington

Getty Darnell Washington makes a catch for Georgia against Mississippi State.

Mock draft season is pushing to an exciting conclusion, and analysts are racing to put in some of their final projections with the 2023 NFL draft just over a week away.

While many mocks stick to one to three round projections, some go for a seven round hypothesis. Draft guru Dane Brugler from The Athletic elected for that situation, and presented a pretty good outcome for the Detroit Lions by his own admission.

In Brugler’s latest mock, the Lions landed Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez with the sixth-overall selection, then getting Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey with the 18th pick in the first-round to close out the first day of the draft. In the second-round on day two, the Lions grabbed Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, and then followed that up with Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell with pick 55. They addressed the need for guard depth with North Carolina State’s Chandler Zavala with pick 81.

On day three, Brugler had the Lions starting things off with Stanford wideout Michael Wilson at pick 152, then coming back with local edge rusher Thomas Incoom of Central Michigan with pick 159. In the sixth-round, he had Coastal Carolina defensive tackle Jerrod Clark going off the board at 183, and Boise State offensive tackle John Ojukwu closing out Detroit’s draft at pick 194.

It was the selection of Washington in addition to everything else that made the Lions stand out as a winner for Brugler, though. Why? Detroit landed a tight end that is a capable blocker that they can grow with in the passing game, something Brugler saw as a major win for the team’s offensive development.

“In my opinion, the Lions were a big winner in this seven-round mock, and landing Washington with this pick is part of the reason why. Detroit needs to add to its tight end depth chart, ideally with a capable blocker whom the coaching staff can groom as a pass catcher. Washington is an ideal fit,” Brugler wrote in the piece.

Around all of the defensive talent, Washington gets the shout-out as a major part of the class. Why? He’s a player who could grow into a major mismatch at the NFL level if the Lions are able to hone his skills. Landing him for the offense seems to please Brugler in a big way.

Darnell Washington’s College Stats & Highlight

The rugged tight end is a very intriguing player when it comes to the draft, because he is high on talent as well as developmental ability for the future on the offensive side of the ball.

While playing for Georgia, Washington was a physical specimen at 6’7″ and 270 pounds. With those numbers, he can serve as almost an extra offensive lineman that can catch. While blocking is more of Washington’s forte, he did put up 770 yards and three touchdowns with the Bulldogs.

Interestingly enough, the Lions just had Washington in for a pre-draft visit, showing that they are seriously evaluating him as a prospect on their draft board. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 Houston was the first to reveal the visit.

“Georgia tight end Darnell Washington next visit Lions after visiting Bills,” Wilson tweeted on April 11.

Clearly, there is some interest on Detroit’s part, so the only thing left to see is whether or not Washington gets selected by Detroit.

Lions Mock Offers Major Defensive Boost

While Washington may have been a big reason Brugler proclaimed the Lions “winners” of this major mock, it’s hard to ignore some of the other additions he penciled in for the Lions early on.

In the first-round, the Lions end up with a pretty strong haul overall, landing arguably the top cornerback in the draft in Gonzalez and a top defensive tackle in Kancey. Specifically as it relates to Gonzalez, Brugler wrote that he is a top non-quarterback, making him extra valuable to the Lions.

“Most mock drafts have a cornerback pegged here for the Lions … which inevitably means Detroit will take a different position on draft day. That said, I’m sticking with Gonzalez because he is one of the top non-quarterbacks in the draft with the traits you bet on at a premium position,” Brugler wrote in the piece.

As for Kancey, Brugler seems to understand that one of the knocks on the prospect is his size, but also admits that he has the ability to impact the game from the middle of the line in a big way.

“The Lions would love to come away from the draft’s first night with two impact defensive prospects. They do so in this scenario: Gonzalez and Kancey. The Pitt defensive tackle is undersized, but disruptive defensive linemen come in all shapes and sizes,” he wrote.

In addition to those picks, the Lions came out ahead in this mock by landing Campbell, a player who’s already been speculated as a top fit for Detroit. The team also beefs up the trenches with a couple of middle round picks in Incoom and Clark, and adds to their offensive line depth as well.

What the draft may lack in terms of skill position talent, it more than makes up for with defensive talent and picks along both the offensive and defensive lines. Add in a quality project like Washington, and it could be a big win for Detroit.

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