ESPN Senior Writer Todd McShay released his most recent mock draft. It was a two-rounder that has the Lions getting help on both sides of the football with their four picks (No. 6, 18, 48 & 55) in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft later this month.
With Detroit's first pick at No. 6, McShay has them selecting Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson. To set the table for this, three quarterbacks are off the board in his mock as well as Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. (No. 4 to Arizona) and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter (No. 5 to Seattle).
"This pick has to be defense," McShay wrote. "Detroit was miserable in that department last season, and it was the reason it came up short in the playoff hunt. The Lions were bottom-three in yards allowed per rush (5.2), yards allowed per pass attempt (7.9), opponent QBR (56.0) and third-down defense (45.1 percent).
View photos of NFL prospect Tyree Wilson.
McShay has the Lions selecting the clear No. 1 running back in the class, Texas' Bijan Robinson, at No. 18. It would be the highest a running back has been drafted since Saquon Barkley was drafted No. 2 overall.
In a conference call Wednesday coinciding with the release of his mock, McShay said he considers Robinson a better prospect coming out than Barkley was because of what Robinson can do in the passing game. McShay thinks this draft will be a test of how NFL teams value the running back position because he thinks Robinson is one of the best players in this class and should be a top pick on talent alone.
"Fans will question just about any landing spot for Robinson because of his position but consider how heavily the Lions lean on the run and what Robinson can do for an offense," McShay wrote. "We're talking about a top-five talent in this class who can break free with burst through the hole, make defenders miss with his strength and haul in passes with his reliable hands. Jamaal Williams is gone to New Orleans, and D’Andre Swift has struggled to stay healthy and is entering the final year of his contract.
"Yes, Detroit signed David Montgomery, but he has rushed for 100-plus yards just three times over the past two seasons. Robinson had only three games under 100 rushing yards last year."
In the second round, McShay has the Lions double dipping on a pair of Iowa Hawkeyes – linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 48 and tight end Sam LaPorta at No. 55.
"Campbell posted more than 120 tackles in each of the past two seasons, and he'd compete for snaps with Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez in the middle of this defense undergoing a big overhaul," McShay wrote.
"Yup, another tight end. LaPorta makes it six in the first two rounds, which would tie the common draft era record set in 1974. But this class is that good. LaPorta was consistent at Iowa, catching 153 passes over four seasons for 1,786 yards and five scores. He has speed down the seam and tempos his routes effectively. LaPorta could step in for T.J. Hockenson, who was traded to Minnesota at the deadline last season."
McShay also touched on a couple other topics in his conference call, as follows:
WR class: McShay said the league's been spoiled over the years with the talent and depth in the draft at wide receiver, and it's hard to keep up with the pace. He doesn't think there's a Top 10 talent at the position in this class, though he does like the overall depth at the position.
He mentioned players like Cedric Tillman (Tennessee), A.T. Perry (Wake Forest), Rashee Rice (SMU) and Jayden Reed (Michigan State) as second or third-round picks who can come in and immediately be a No. 3 receiver on a team with a chance to be a No. 2. For any Spartan fans out there, McShay said Reed is one of his sleepers at the position.
View photos of the top quarterback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
CB class: Who are some Day 2 cornerbacks who can come into the league and make an impact, per McShay? Tyrique Stevenson (Miami), Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (TCU), Clark Phillips (Utah), Kyu Blue Kelly (Stanford) and Riley Moss (Iowa).
LB class: McShay doesn't think it's a particularly strong class of off-the-ball linebackers. It's also a position he thinks has been devalued some by teams. He thinks Iowa's Jack Campbell and Arkansas' Drew Sanders have a shot to be late first-round picks at the position, but he expects Trenton Simpson (Clemson) and Daiyan Henley (Washington State) to not make it through the second round.
QB trades: Will there be a lot of interest for teams trading up for quarterbacks Will Levis or Anthony Richardson? McShay said he can see Tennessee (No. 11), Washington (No. 16) and Tampa Bay (No. 19) potentially moving up, but he doesn't think it will be as high as No. 3. If one of those QBs starts to fall a bit to the 7-10 range, McShay said he could potentially see it then.
TE class: McShay, like most other analysts, loves this year's tight end class both for top-end talent and depth. He thinks six tight ends could be drafted in the top two rounds. He said it's the best class in over a decade.