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MOCK DRAFT WATCH: Defense dominates early predictions for Lions

The Kansas City Chiefs put a bow on the 2023 NFL season by winning their second Super Bowl in a row, beating San Francisco 25-22 last Sunday.

The NFL now officially moves into offseason mode with the next big event on the schedule the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis at the end of the month. The official start of the 2024 new league year is March 13.

Mock draft season has been in full swing for months now, but with the Combine fast approaching, interest is quickly turning toward the start of free agency in March and the NFL Draft in Detroit in April. Here are some of the latest mock drafts predicting what the Lions will do:

Daniel Jeremiah, Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson (No. 29)

Why: Wiggins is a height-weight-speed corner. He's very rangy and will help a Lions' defense that should often be playing with a lead, given the team's talent on offense.

Bucky Brooks, Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State (No. 29)

Why: The Lions need to find a complementary pass rusher to place opposite Aidan Hutchinson. Robinson is a freak athlete.

Eric Edholm, Ennis Rakestraw Jr., CB, Missouri (No. 29)

Why: Rakestraw's medical evaluation (torn ACL in 2021, groin surgery in December) could determine whether he cracks Round 1, but his profile fits what the Lions seek. He's tough-minded, a willing tackler and adept in man coverage.

Lance Zierlein, Darius Robinson, Edge, Missouri (No. 29)

Why: Robinson made the move from the interior to defensive end with impressive results this past season at Mizzou. He can rush from inside or the edge and help create a fearsome front for the Lions.

Cynthia Frelund, Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State (No. 29)

Why: The Lions' pass rush and perimeter defense are two areas of need. Detroit goes with the former in this simulation, selecting the Penn State edge rusher who boasts elite burst off the ball. Robinson's college speed -- in pads -- ranked in the eighth percentile at his position (10-season sample).

Chad Reuter, Darius Robinson, Edge, Missouri (No. 29)

Why: Robinson's 286-pound frame and quick hands made him a problem in one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl. Putting him opposite Aidan Hutchinson is a lose-lose situation for opposing blocking schemes.

Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia (No. 61)

Jarvis Brownlee Jr., CB, Louisville (No. 73)

Christian Haynes, G, Connecticut (No. 92)

Matt Miller, Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA (No. 29)

Why: He has easy bend and burst around the edge, and he is able to hug the corner before closing on the quarterback ... the Lions could bring in a player with double-digit sack potential to line up opposite Aidan Hutchinson.

T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State (No. 61)

Why: A physical cornerback who loves to chop it up at the line of scrimmage, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Tampa has stellar size and length for the position. He has ball skills, too, as he grabbed two picks and broke up six passes in 2023. He could be the Lions' answer to the starting cornerback job opposite Cam Sutton with Kindle Vildor being a free agent.

Field Yates, ESPN: Darius Robinson, Edge, Missouri

Why: Here's one of my favorite player-team fits, as Robinson feels like the kind of brute-force player the Lions crave on their roster. After 8.5 sacks in 2023, he would give Detroit a big boost on the edge opposite Aidan Hutchinson and could feast on favorable matchups while teams allocate resources to Hutchinson on every snap.

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Byron Murphy II, DL, Texas (No. 29)

Why: I can't imagine Murphy lasting this long; it's just that I couldn't find a place to slot him above. Either way, the Lions get a steal here with arguably the twitchiest interior defensive linemen in the class.

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Darius Robinson, Edge, Missouri (No. 29)

Why: Robinson could actually go higher than this, but if he's here, the Missouri star would be sensible for a Lions club that needs another rusher up front opposite Aidan Hutchinson.

View the best photos of the 2023 season as chosen by Detroit Lions team photographer Jeff Nguyen.

Josh Edwards, CBS Sports: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama (No. 29)

Why: A year ago, Detroit plucked defensive back Brian Branch out of Tuscaloosa. Dan Campbell identifies another Nick Saban protégé in the first round to upgrade the secondary.

Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports: T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State (No. 29)

Why: This might not be the ideal fit for Detroit, but whomever the Lions take here, I'd put money on it being a defensive back. As for Tampa, he's a tall and long corner who is better in zone coverages right now than man. He showed excellent ball skills at Iowa State thanks to his ability to dissect routes quickly.

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA Today: Ennis Rakestraw Jr., CB, Missouri (No. 29)

Why: Stifling in man coverage, Rakestraw Jr. is exactly the kind of tenacious yet savvy cornerback that Dan Campbell would appreciate. He could help provide needed stability to a secondary that has been repeatedly reshuffled in recent years and still gave up 411 passing yards per game over the last six games of the season.

Ben Solak, The Ringer: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Why: I'd rather see the Lions spend big money on a free agent, as early-round cornerbacks can bust like crazy, but if they do indeed make the pick, a high-upside player in Nate Wiggins makes sense. Wiggins needs to get bigger in the NFL, but he has length, ball skills, and speed.

Joel Klatt, Fox Sports: Ennis Rakestraw Jr., CB, Missouri

Why: What a great playoff run it was for the Lions, but it was clear that they needed to help their secondary. Their pass rush is pretty good, but they need to help it out with a better secondary.

Nick Baumgardner, The Athletic: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama (No. 29)

Why: The Lions are in dire need of CB help, although they also need to address the edge spot opposite Aidan Hutchinson. McKinstry, Arnold's running mate at Alabama, was the higher-rated recruit due to his terrific combination of size (6-1, 195), length and athletic balance. A very patient player, McKinstry could help Detroit right away.

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Ennis Rakestraw Jr., CB, Missouri (No. 29)

Why: The Lions' big issues with downfield cornerback coverage finally burned them for good against the 49ers in the NFC championship game. Rakestraw, a rising prospect worth watching in the pre-draft process, will be attractive to Aaron Glenn because of aggressive, fearless, and physical man-to-man coverage.

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