In the latest Lions 3-Round Mock Draft, Detroit rounds out the roster and prepares for a run at the NFC North title in 2023.
The Detroit Lions have had a busy offseason thus far, signing several starting-caliber players in free agency, namely CJ Gardner-Johnson, Cameron Sutton, and David Montgomery. Dan Campbell’s crew fell just shy of a playoff spot in 2022, but given the way things stand in Green Bay, who knows how the NFC North will shake out next season?
The Bears are in the midst of a rebuild, and they should be greatly improved as a roster, but still not a viable pick for the division. The Vikings claimed the divisional title last year on the back of a career year by Justin Jefferson, but the rest of the depth chart is too shaky to stamp a repeat performance.
Lions 3-Round Mock Draft: A Haul Capable of Vaulting Detroit to NFC North Title
The door is wide open for Detroit. With a few starters already added to the fold, general manager Brad Holmes has four picks inside of the top 55 selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. This class could be the final push the Lions need to return to the postseason. In this 3-round mock draft, five prospects capable of starting as rookies make their way to Motor City.
Round 1, No. 6: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
A few months ago, seeing Jalen Carter on the board at No. 6 overall was merely a pipe dream. However, things have changed mightily since then, as off-field concerns and questions regarding Carter’s conditioning have surfaced.
Dan Campbell had some ‘interesting’ comments about Carter earlier in the offseason, but if the Georgia defender checks out, he could be a home run for the Lions. The team needs a difference-maker on the interior of the defensive line, lacking a run-stuffer to pair with the ascending Alim McNeill.
Carter provides the gap penetrator that Aaron Glenn has been begging for. He shuts down running backs, stopping them in their tracks and planting them into the turf. On top of that, Carter creates constant pressure on the pocket on passing downs. He could rack up double-digit sacks from the inside.
It is a risk, to be sure, but one well worth making at No. 6 in this mock draft. Carter is a blue chipper when it comes to the tape he put up at Georgia. It all depends on what the Lions think about Carter the human being because Carter the player is a bonafide franchise cornerstone.
Round 1, No. 18: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
My favorite cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft is Joey Porter Jr. The former Penn State defensive back possesses exceptional length for a boundary cornerback, pairing it with an ideal height and weight combo. As an athlete, Porter is a smooth mover, showing nice fluidity as he flips his hips and changes direction.
In man coverage, Porter is comfortable on an island and thrives in one-on-one situations. He has the moxie to talk trash and back it up. Porter’s ability in zone makes him an impact player from day one. The Nittany Lion standout boasts impressive instincts and is a sure tackler in space.
Where Porter can get in trouble is his grabby nature. All the best cornerbacks in the NFL know how to disguise a jersey tug, and Porter does too, but because his arms are so long, it is harder to hide these. I’d rather have a player too aggressive than not aggressive enough, all it takes is some NFL coaching, and he will be a top corner in the league, giving the Lions the final piece to the puzzle at the position.
Round 2, No. 48: Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State
Another spot that could use a high-upside piece is the linebacker room. Daiyan Henley is built like a Roman statue, flexing a six-pack that he is not shy to show off. He is built like a prototypical linebacker, and although new to the position, Henley is arguably the most instinctual defender in the class.
The Wazzou star gets from sideline to sideline effortlessly and exhibits top-tier range when working in coverage. Henley’s background as a wide receiver shows up in his mirroring ability, never looking outmatched against speedy pass catchers and bigger-bodied tight ends from the slot.
As a run defender, Henley brings the pop. He comes up with a head of steam and lays monster hits on unsuspecting ballcarriers. The edge Henley brings to the entire defense is a special trait on its own, let alone the physical and mental makeup he displays each time he takes the field.
Henley would start as the MIKE linebacker as a rookie, and I doubt he’d give up that role for at least a decade. He is built to last and is the perfect fit for the culture in Detroit. It makes too much sense not to happen.
Round 2, No. 55: Steve Avila, G/C, TCU
The Lions own one of the most-promising offensive lines in the NFL, but another steady hand on the interior would go a long way to keeping the unit headed upward. TCU veteran Steve Avila brings positional versatility and loads of experience with him to the league.
Avila is incredibly strong and possesses elite hand usage when working as a run blocker. He clamps on to his assignment and drives them backward, creating running lanes for his teammate, resulting in huge gains on the ground. Avila is also a capable pass blocker, but he could stand to improve his feel for picking up the blitz, as he looked overwhelmed by bigger/faster defenders.
Still, Avila is well worth the pick at No. 55 in this mock draft. He profiles as a starting lineman with Pro Bowl potential.
Round 3, No. 81: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
The Lions traded away TJ Hockenson during the 2022 season, leaving them without a true foundational piece at the position. The good news? The 2023 NFL Draft class is chock-full of starting-caliber tight ends. Iowa’s Sam LaPorta should be available in round three.
LaPorta, like Hockenson, starred for the Iowa Hawkeyes in college. He was given the freedom to run a diverse route tree and made the most of it by producing some of the best stats in the class. LaPorta caught at least 53 passes and recorded at least 648 yards in each of his two seasons as the full-time starter, especially impressive numbers in a run-heavy Iowa scheme.
As a blocker, LaPorta is willing and able to be an effective piece in the run game but lacks the ability to finish blocks on occasion. He is strong but doesn’t always use his strength to the best of his ability. NFL coaching can bring more consistency to his game, opening the door to be a focal point of the offense early on. As any tight end knows, if you want the ball, you must block.