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Draft Coverage

TWENTYMAN: 10 prospects who make sense for Lions in first round

The NFL Draft is fast approaching, and GM Brad Holmes and the Detroit Lions have a lot of capital to improve their football team by the end of the weekend.

The Lions have nine total picks, two in each of the first two rounds and five in the top 81. Holmes has the picks to move up if he wants, he can stay put at No. 6 and No. 18 and take two really quality players, or he could decide to move back and stockpile more assets. The work he did in free agency improving the defense in particular will allow him to trust his board and not have to reach to fill holes. Detroit is in a good spot heading into the draft.

Here's a look at 10 players who make sense for the Lions in the first round:

1. EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

A three-year starter for the Crimson Tide, Anderson might be the cleanest prospect in the class mixing terrific athletic traits with a lot of production. Anderson recorded 62.0 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks in 41 career games. If the Lions walk away with the top pass rusher in two straight drafts that's a huge win for Holmes. It would give the Lions bookend playmakers on the edge for the next four or five years.

2. DT Jalen Carter, Georgia

Carter is arguably the top interior defender in the class and that's currently the biggest need for the Lions heading into the draft. Carter is a disruptive interior defender with power, but moves like someone who weighs 30 to 40 pounds lighter. There's obviously some off-field issues the Lions had to vet in the pre-draft process.

3. EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

Wilson is a long (6-5, 274), athletic and rangy edge rusher whose 22.3 percent pass-rush win rate ranked in the top 10 in college football last season, per The Athletic. He might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class. He recorded 27.5 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks the last two seasons combined.

4. CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

Witherspoon is an aggressive cornerback who plays much bigger than his size (5-11, 181). He can play outside and inside, and excels in man coverage. He's tough as nails and recorded 17 passes defended with three interceptions last season. The Lions are on the lookout for more ball production from their secondary, and Witherspoon certainly fits. Oregon's Christian Gonzalez and Penn State's Joey Porter Jr. are also fits in the first round from the cornerback position.

5. RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

This isn't so much a fit at No. 6 because of the position value, but when we start getting into the teens it's all about best player available, and Robinson is likely to have a top five grade on most draft boards. Robinson rushed for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and forced an amazing 104 missed tackles on 258 rushes. He's also a terrific receiver. He's the best running back prospect to come out of the draft since Saquon Barkley in 2018, and most analysts believe Robinson is an even better overall prospect.

6. EDGE Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

Van Ness is a powerful edge rusher with the versatility to work inside as well. His strength really shows up on film along with his tenacity. He's also got some explosive traits to go along with that strength, running the 40 in 4.58 seconds at 272 pounds at the Combine. He's another one of those prospects with a really high ceiling as he builds his pass-rush toolbox.

7. EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia

Smith is an uber athletic edge rusher with the ability to also stand up and play in space. He's got sub-4.4 speed (4.39) and terrific bend which will allow a creative defensive coordinator to use him in a lot of different ways. He's also got some of the highest football character of any prospect in the class.

8. TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

A three-year starter for the Irish, Mayer was the primary target in Notre Dame's offense the last two seasons. He can play in-line and detached, and is expected to be an impact starter Day 1 in the NFL. He racked up 180 receptions for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns the last three seasons. Utah's Dalton Kincaid and Georgia's Darnell Washington would also be a fit in the middle to late first round.

View photos of NFL prospect Michael Mayer.

9. DT Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

He led all defensive tackles in tackles for loss (14.5) in 2022 and became the school's first unanimous All-American since Aaron Donald. He's undersized like Donald, but he lived in the opposing backfield in college with his quick step and burst. He plays with great pad level and was the most disruptive interior defender in college football the last two seasons.

10. DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson

Bresee is an athletic big man that played anywhere from nose tackle to the five technique as a three-year starter at Clemson. He's had an injury history in college, so the medicals will be important in his evaluation, but he's an explosive player with disruptive potential at the NFL level.

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