Lions Land Prospect Hailed ‘Tough, Competitive’ by Exec in Insider Mock

Brad Holmes

Getty Brad Holmes speaks during the 2022 NFL combine.

The hours are ticking down until the Detroit Lions are on the clock for the 2023 NFL draft, and when their name comes up, who will they select?

Some final answers have begun to be provided across the mock draft landscape as the process winds down for this year, and Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo provided his last take on what he thinks will happen.

Lombardo revealed a final mock draft with some sourced information about several selections. For the Lions with the sixth-overall pick, he had the team drafting Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon. If the move happens, one of Lombardo’s sources thinks the outcome could be good for the Lions.

“Detroit plugs a hole in the midst of an ongoing rebuild in the secondary. After trading Jeff Okudah to the Falcons, the Lions pluck Devon Witherspoon, who plucked 3 interceptions and broke up 14 passes last season. “He’s arguably the toughest and most competitive cornerback in a pretty deep cornerback class,” an NFC personnel executive told Heavy as written in Lombardo’s piece.

With the second of Detroit’s two first-round pick, Lombardo gives the Lions another defender, this time Pitt’s Calijah Kancey, a star on the interior while playing in the ACC. As Lombardo pointed out, Kancey could help the Lions’ goal of rushing the passer up front.

“The first round feels like the opportunity for the Lions to bolster talent both on the front and back end of its defense. Kancey produced an impressive 22.7 pass-rush win
rate last season at Pittsburgh. In a league that’s all about pressuring the quarterback, Kancey’s skill set makes him a solid fit in the middle of Detroit’s defensive line,” Lombardo wrote in the mock.

Coming away from the first-round with Witherspoon, the top cornerback, as well as Kancey, a top interior defender, would be a very solid win for the Lions. The team’s defense was dreadful in 2022, ranking 32nd in the league. Adding two premiere players would go a long way toward helping some of those issues out.

Notably as well, is the personnel executive’s read on Witherspoon. Tough and competitive seem like player traits that would be a good fit for the team, especially under their current front office. If the first-round plays out like this, it could be a significant win for Detroit.

Lions’ Pick of Devon Witherspoon ‘Has to Happen’

As the draft process has taken shape, some around the business have started to appreciate the fit of Witherspoon to the Lions, and many even are begging to see the collaboration happen.

ESPN’s Jordan Reid was asked to name a pick that “simply has to happen” in the impending draft, and Detroit selecting Witherspoon made the cut. As Reid wrote in the piece with some draft buzz, there is no avoiding the passion and toughness that Witherspoon plays with, which makes him a perfect match for the Lions and their coaching staff and front office.

“Devon Witherspoon to the Detroit Lions at No. 6 overall. GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell instilled a toughness factor in this team and they’ve added a bunch of players who plays with passion. That fits with Witherspoon, who plays the game with a chip on his shoulder. He is without question the most physical cornerback in the class, and the Lions still need help at the position. So the Illinois product makes a lot of sense as an addition to an already impressive young core,” Reid wrote in the piece.

Detroit just subtracted cornerback Jeff Okudah via trade with the Atlanta Falcons, meaning they could have a need for another young corner in the draft. That’s in spite of the team adding names like Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson as free agents.

Clearly, if Witherspoon was the pick, it would make a lot of sense for the Lions in the mind of plenty of football experts.

Calijah Kancey’s College Stats & Highlights

As it relates to Kancey, it’s hard to disagree with the impact that he has made on the field within his first three years playing college football for Pitt.

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.

A team like Detroit, who is needy on the interior, could use a body like Kancey for the future. That’s especially true if he comes in the first-round, and also with a player like Witherspoon.

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