Lions 2-Round Mock Draft: Detroit Uses 2023 NFL Draft to Secure Their QB of the Future

2023 NFL Draft prospect Joey Porter Jr. #9 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Big Ten (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
2023 NFL Draft prospect Joey Porter Jr. #9 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Big Ten (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions currently sit at 1-4, tied with the Commanders and Panthers for the worst record in the NFC. It’s time to look toward the 2023 NFL Draft with an early two-round mock draft.

Lions Mock Draft: Detroit Uses 2023 NFL Draft to Secure Their QB of the Future

Even after posting a goose egg against the Patriots last weekend, the Lions’ offense still boasts a stellar weekly average of 28 points per game. This number can be misleading because the only reason they’ve scored so many points is that they’ve had to.

The defense features some promising pieces but is a long way away from being an above-average unit in the NFL. Rookie Aidan Hutchinson has been quiet outside of a three-sack performance in week 2, and the secondary looks like a bunch of traffic cones more often than not.

Head coach Dan Campbell did well to establish a culture in Detroit, but his time is likely running short as a head coach. I’d be surprised if the Lions brought Campbell back in 2023; instead, I expect them to bring in a new head coach and allow that person to give input in the 2023 NFL Draft.

This predicament makes things difficult when forecasting a mock draft. The schemes are in place, but a new coaching staff could flip the whole thing on its head.

If Campbell is let go, the new head coach will have some young talent at his disposal. The weapons are as good as any in the league. Amon’Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, TJ Hockenson, and rookie Jameson Williams — who has yet to see any action in 2022 — are a great group.

The offensive line is a strong point of the roster. Penei Sewell is on his way to becoming a top offensive tackle in the NFL. Guys like Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, and Taylor Decker have performed well in 2022.

Former No. 3 overall pick, Jeffrey Okudah, is coming off the worst game of his season, but before then, he looked elite for the first month. If Okudah and Hutchinson can stay locked in, they present a promising duo to build around. The 2023 NFL Draft steal, Malcolm Rodriguez, looks to have a long career ahead of him as well.

To help their case, the Lions also own the Los Angeles Rams’ first-round selection in 2023. Surprisingly, the pick currently sits at No. 13 overall (via Tankathon) due to a lingering Super Bowl hangover in Hollywood. This gives Detroit three picks in the top 35 as of today.

The popular thought is that the Lions bring in a new head coach and pair him with a rookie quarterback from the 2023 NFL Draft. Will that happen in this exercise? Without further ado, let’s get this mock draft rolling!

Round 1, Pick 4

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Yeah yeah yeah… it is the predictable move, but that doesn’t mean it is the wrong move. The defense undoubtedly needs help, but I can’t imagine the Lions passing on a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Alabama QB Bryce Young would bring leadership, poise, confidence, and high-end quarterback traits to the Motor City. Young is not a prototypical passer due to his meager frame (6’, 194 pounds), but the Crimson Tide signal-caller makes up for it with intangibles.

Young has 20 starts under his belt for Nick Saban’s squad; in that time, he has completed over 67% of his passes while throwing for 5,074 yards and 61 touchdowns. He was never much of a threat to run in 2021, but with a 100-yard game on his resume in 2022, Young proved he can do it at a high level.

The Lions present an ideal opportunity for the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner. Young would step into a roster with a stout offensive line and a slew of weapons, the likes of which he hasn’t even seen at Alabama.

Speaking of which, Young would be reunited with his former teammate, Jameson Williams. Williams broke out in 2021 as the top target for Young, going from an Ohio State transfer to the No. 11 overall pick in only a year.

Bryce Young’s arm isn’t as electric as Kyler Murray’s, which is why I don’t subscribe to those comparisons as much. However, the fact that Young probably isn’t even six-foot-tall tells me that he will face the same issue seeing over the offensive live.

Although Young doesn’t possess the overall arm talent of Murray, that’s not to say his arm isn’t great. Young can make any throw you ask of him, and if he can improve his ball placement on timing routes, then he will be fine on Sundays.

At No. 4 overall in this mock draft, the Lions and general manager Brad Holmes get the centerpiece to their rebuild. Bryce Young will trade in the crimson for the blue and silver. Hopefully for Lions fans, Young finds the same success with them as he did for the storied Alabama program.

Round 1, Pick 13

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

I just spoke about Jeffrey Okudah’s emergence as the top cornerback on the roster for Detroit. After Okudah, things get ugly fast. Mike Hughes is okay as a nickelback, but guys like Armani Oruwariye, Will Harris, and Bobby Price should not be starters on any roster.

Enter Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. The Nittany Lions have produced some premier defensive NFL talent over the past few draft cycles, highlighted by Micah Parsons, Jayson Oweh, Jaquan Brisker, and others. Porter Jr. is next in line.

The lanky cornerback has NFL blood flowing through his veins. His father, Joey Porter, spearheaded a 2005 Super Bowl run for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Porter also spent time with the Dolphins and Cardinals throughout his 13 seasons as a pro.

Though they play different positions, Porter Jr. displays the same edge that his old man brought to the table. He is capable of jamming the strongest receivers and is not easily moved off of his spot in coverage.

Furthermore, Porter Jr. is more than a willing tackler. Oftentimes when you turn on Penn State, you’ll see the rangy defensive back roaming from sideline to sideline in an attempt to secure tackles.

Porter Jr.’s confidence, when put on an island with a receiver, is reminiscent of 2022 No. 4 overall pick, Sauce Gardner. Porter Jr. will lock you up, and then let you hear all about it. Not every player can pull this off, but the Penn State product does.

Slotting in Porter Jr. on the opposite side of Jeffrey Okudah will give the Lions a duo that could potentially become the best in the entire NFL. After getting Bryce Young earlier on day one in the 2023 NFL Draft, Detroit begins addressing their defense with their second selection of this mock draft.

Round 2, Pick 35:

Antonio Johnson, DB, Texas A&M

I wasn’t kidding about the Lions’ secondary being an absolute wreck. However, adding Joey Porter Jr. earlier in this mock draft, and now this versatile Texas A&M Aggie, should instantly change things for Detroit.

Antonio Johnson is one of my favorite players in the 2023 NFL Draft. He is a hard-hitting defensive back that is capable of lining up all over the secondary.

Most of his time in College Station has been spent as a slot defender. Johnson thrives as an extra man in the box and is equally as impactful when he’s asked to cover his assignment downfield.

Johnson leads the Aggies with 48 total tackles, seven more than his next closest teammate. The stats don’t tell the whole story with Johnson, you have to see the kid play to fully grasp how much of a spark plug he is.

Johnson earned Player of the Week honors after a 13-tackle performance against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sept. 24. He was in on several key stops, and there’s no way that A&M wins that game without him.

As far as what he can do for the Lions, in short: everything. Johnson can take over as the starting nickelback or strong safety from day one. He offers an immediate upgrade over Mike Hughes at nickel and DeShon Elliott at strong safety.

The defensive unit in Detroit could use the sure tackling and intensity that Johnson brings to the gridiron. They are lacking when it comes to defending the pass as well, surrendering the 27th-most passing yards in the NFL in 2022.

The addition of Bryce Young on offense should be enough to keep the unit firing on all cylinders. Drafting Joey Porter Jr. and Antonio Johnson, two players with a killer mentality, will change the entire trajectory of the defense.

The Lions own three top-35 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. If they can come away with a haul of Bryce Young, Joey Porter Jr., and Antonio Johnson… everyone in the NFC North better watch out.