Overlooked Wideout Leads Top 5 Sleeper Draft Pick Fits for Lions

Michael Wilson

Getty Michael Wilson celebrates a score in a 2020 game.

Everybody knows the big names associated with the 2023 NFL draft that the Detroit Lions are likely to be associated with, but how about some of the potential hidden gems for the team?

The last few years, Brad Holmes has made his name in finding some of the untapped potential in rounds three through six with names like safety Kerby Joseph, linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown and edge rusher James Houston. There’s no reason the team can’t find more secret stars in that vein this year.

When the draft rolls around, who are some of the more underrated players that could make a home in Detroit and become stars for Holmes? Here’s a look at some names that fit the team well later in the draft that it won’t be wise to forget.

Michael Wilson, Stanford WR

It hasn’t been often that a Stanford wideout has made waves on the national stage, but Michael Wilson is a player who will figure to break that mold in a big way once he gets into the league.

Wilson, a wide receiver that managed to do some damage very similar to Amon-Ra 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.

During the Senior Bowl, Wilson was a player that stood out as well, having a major performance. The Lions could nab him down the board and insert him into the offense to learn from St. Brown and others. It could be a good solution at wideout for the team to remember.

Roschon Johnson, Texas RB

Many have discussed Detroit’s potential need for a running back early in the draft, but the team could score in a more traditional way if they waited a bit to land their back of the future.

In Roschon Johnson, the Lions might have such a fit. Johnson has been a sledgehammer for the Longhorns, rushing for 2,190 yards and 23 touchdowns in college. He has also caught 56 passes for 420 yards and three scores in the passing game, proving Johnson has that ability as well.

The highlights show some of the physicality that has become Johnson’s penchant in recent years, and he is a strong runner that is hard to stop once he gets downhill in the secondary.

Without spending a high draft pick on a runner, the Lions could find the kind of back that makes life difficult on the opposition well into the future. To this end, Johnson is the kind of player that could become a big steal for the team’s offense.

Jacob Slade, Michigan State DL

It’s possible the Lions end up with a few big-name prospects for their defensive line early in the draft. In the case that they don’t, or are simply looking for depth, a solid player exists pretty close to home for the team.

Jacob Slade may not come with the big-time pedigree as many of Detroit’s other recent 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, and would be ideal depth for the team that could morph into a future stud with the more repetitions he managed to get. That makes him an intriguing name to recall late in the draft when Detroit picks.

Atonio Mafi, UCLA G

Do the Lions need to draft a guard? That could be the case, and in the position Detroit’s in with veterans on the roster, they could wait a bit longer to make the selection.

In this case, there isn’t anyone better to pick up later on than Atonio Mafi, a physical prospect from the Bruins that the Lions have met with pre-draft. 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.

Jartavius Martin, Illinois CB/S

The Lions scored by nabbing Kerby Joseph last year, and many expect the team will strongly consider Fighting Illini cornerback Devon Witherspoon with a high first-round pick.

If they go in a different direction, though, they could still score with Jartavius Martin, another cornerback from the Illinois factory. Martin has been a rising prospect on draft boards, and could have the position versatility the Lions crave for their defensive backfield.

In college, Martin has been sneaky productive, posting 225 tackles, 10.5 tackles for-loss, seven interceptions, 22 passes defended, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

For the Lions, Martin could play the slot position in addition to flashing at safety. With names like C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Will Harris on the roster, Martin could be yet another player who fits in a hybrid role for the team’s backfield. He could be a good value either day two or day three.

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