The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine starts this week and by the end of the event the 32 teams in the NFL will have all the medical data and on-field testing numbers for the 319 draft-eligible participants here in Indianapolis. It's a big step in the pre-draft process with pro days and player visits to team facilities next on the docket.
Here's a look at five things to watch as the Lions' front office, coaching and medical staffs prepare for the annual evaluation for most of this year's NFL Draft prospects:
1. Holmes and Campbell availability
Lions general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell are expected to speak to the media in Indianapolis.
Holmes made it clear after the season one of his main areas of focus will be on bolstering Detroit's 32nd ranked defense. How much of that will take place via free agency? The draft? What do Holmes and Campbell view as the strengths of this draft, especially on the defensive side of the ball?
They'll also likely address the staff and coaching changes we've seen since the season's conclusion. These are usually informative sessions on a wide range of topics.
View photos of the defensive back prospects who were invited to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
2. Defensive help
The Lions have to add talent and depth to every level of their defense. The good news is Holmes has five picks in the top 81 and cap space to work with. He has room to address the need both in free agency and the draft.
This week the focus will be on the on-field drills and most importantly the 15-minute interviews teams get with the prospects here in Indy. Detroit has the No. 6 overall pick and the No. 18 pick, plus two picks in the second round (No. 48 & No. 55) and one in the third (No. 81). There's a good chance Holmes is thinking best defensive player available at No. 6 and then best player on the board at No. 18.
This is a very strong defensive class at cornerback and edge rusher. There are some blue-chip interior defensive linemen at the top, while the linebacker and safety positions have pretty good depth.
3. Cornerback shuffle
Expect Holmes, Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn to take a long, hard look at this year's cornerback prospects. That's an area where the Lions need to add talent and depth the most, and what a perfect year to go looking for cornerback help. It's a stacked class both with top talent and depth. Dane Brugler of The Athletic had three cornerbacks ranked in his Top 15 prospects and 13 cornerbacks listed in his Top 100.
Devon Witherspoon (Illinois), Christian Gonzalez (Oregon) and Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State) are all potential fits for the Lions in the first round. Who separates themselves from the pack this week? Does a sleeper emerge from the group of cornerbacks to warrant Day 1 consideration?
4. QB class
Last year when the Lions held the No. 2 overall pick, the pass rushers ruled the top of the class. Detroit got a great one in Aidan Hutchinson. Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter and Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. might be the two best players in this draft, but it's the quarterback class that's expected to dictate how the top of the draft plays out ahead of Detroit's pick at No. 6.
Holmes and the Lions are likely wishing all the top quarterbacks here this week have a ton of success so there's a run on them early and the top defensive players drop down closer to No. 6. Who knows, their pick at No. 6 could become a pretty hot commodity for a quarterback-needy team depending how this week goes.
Holmes and Co. will do their homework on the QB class. They could be in the market for a backup to Jared Goff, 28, depending on what they do in free agency first. Holmes could opt to develop a youngster, but I don't believe he'll look to do that until Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft. There are bigger fish to fry for this team to take the next step in 2023.
Still, a lot of eyes will be on Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Will Levis (Kentucky), Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), Anthony Richardson (Florida) and the other quarterbacks in this class to see what the pecking order looks like coming out of Indianapolis and heading into the pro day circuit.
5. NFC North News
I always like wandering over if I have time and listening to what the general managers and head coaches from Minnesota, Green Bay and Chicago have to say during their media sessions.
There could certainly be some interesting tidbits from those sessions this year with Chicago owning the No. 1 overall pick and the Aaron Rodgers buzz currently going down in Green Bay. It's always good to stay on top of what's happening in the division, so we'll be sure to keep everyone up to date.