The Detroit Lions are in an enviable position in the 2023 draft because of the work in roster building that GM Brad Holmes and his staff have done in the last two years and continued in this year's free-agent market.
The Lions will be drafting from a position of strength, starting with two first-round picks – No. 6 and No. 18 – and through their final pick in the sixth round.
It doesn't mean Holmes won't be faced with hard decisions as he navigates the Lions through his third draft, but many of those decisions will be based on which good option to take.
It could be which position to strengthen, or whether to trade up or down – or stand pat.
Mock 4.0: Final Selection is my fourth and last mock draft for 2023. Quarterbacks dominate the early picks, but defensive backs, defensive linemen and offensive linemen take command after that.
Unlike the previous three mock drafts, mock trades are not allowed. As usual, feel free to disagree.
Following is Mock 4.0: Final Selection:
1. Carolina Panthers (7-10 via Bears 3-14):
The Panthers traded up with the Bears from No. 9 to draft a quarterback. There's no doubt about that. The only question is which one – C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young.
The suspense ends.
Pick: QB Bryce Young, Alabama. Big talent outweighs smaller size (5-10, 204).
2. Houston Texans (3-13-1):
The Texans have won 11 games in the last three seasons. I think they'll draft a quarterback, but I don't think it's guaranteed. The top pass rusher is an enticing possibility.
Pick: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State. Good size (6-3, 214) and great stats (85 TD passes vs. 12 interceptions last two seasons) make him the pick.
3. Arizona Cardinals (4-13):
The run on quarterbacks doesn't end here. It just pauses for a franchise defender.
Pick: EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama. A high-production player: 205 tackles, 62 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks in 41 games over three seasons.
4. Indianapolis Colts (4-12-1):
My first major change. The Colts still get a quarterback, but I'm replacing previous pick, Will Levis of Kentucky.
Pick: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida. It makes sense. If you're going to draft a quarterback for development, draft the one with the higher ceiling. And not just because Richardson hit the roof with a pass at his Pro Day workout.
5. Seattle Seahawks (9-8 via Broncos 5-12):
The bottom line on this pick is that the top-rated player in the draft is still on the board for whoever wants to draft him.
Pick: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia.
6. Detroit Lions (9-8 via Rams 5-12):
It's a difficult pick, but only because so many options make sense. Among them:
Trade up earlier with the Cardinals to draft Anderson? No argument here.
Draft a cornerback, even though the Lions went heavy on cornerbacks in free agency? No problem. The draft isn't for one year. It's for the next 5 to 10, depending on how the prospect performs.
Offensive line? It's the Lions' strongest unit and one of the league's best. Adding a high-quality player for depth is a move to keep it that way when inevitable injuries strike.
Running back, wide receiver, tight end? No problem. The offense is already potent, but adding to it can't hurt.
As head coach Dan Campbell has said, you can't have too many pass rushers. The Lions add to the defensive line with a powerful, versatile player who can play on the edge and move inside.
Pick: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech. Aidan Hutchinson at 6-6 on one side and Wilson on the other at 6-6 give the Lions two pillars of defense.
7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-11):
Jimmy Garoppolo, signed to replace Derek Carr at QB, has been injury prone and needs protection. I'm flip-flopping on this pick and going back to my original pick.
Pick: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State, replacing OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern.
8. Atlanta Falcons (7-10):
The Falcons have been tough to figure out – which might be why I've had them taking a quarterback or offensive lineman in previous mocks. One last switch.
Pick: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon.
9. Chicago Bears (3-14 via Panthers 7-10):
There is some concern about size, but versatility that projects him to play guard or tackle makes up for it.
Pick: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (14-3 via Saints 7-10):
The Eagles might prefer bigger cornerbacks than this prospect, who's 5-11.5 and 181, but his athleticism fits just about anywhere.
Pick: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
11. Tennessee Titans (7-10):
When in doubt about which receiver to draft, take the guy from Ohio State.
Pick: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State.
Quentin Johnston of TCU was the pick for the first three mocks.
12. Houston Texans (3-13-1 via Browns 7-10):
Pick: DE Myles Murphy, Clemson. Nolan Smith could be the pick if not for an injury concern.
13. Green Bay Packers (8-9 via Jets 7-10):
Change is a constant, especially in mock drafts. I had Michael Mayer going here in my last mock draft and safety Brian Branch of Alabama in the previous two.
Pick: S Brian Branch, Alabama. The Packers can get a tight end in the second round.
View photos from offseason workouts on Monday, April 24, 2023.
14. New England Patriots (8-9):
I had running back Bijan Robinson of Texas going here in my last mock after picking tight end Michael Mayer of Notre Dame in the first two. I'm sticking with the running back. He's a top five-10 prospect.
Pick: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas.
15: New York Jets (7-10 via Packers 8-9):
Jets management would not need Aaron Rodgers' blessing to make this pick. Any quarterback would like it.
Pick: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia.
16. Washington Commanders (8-8-1):
I've thought all along that Will Levis is a distant No. 4 in the top four quarterbacks. This is a good spot for him to compete with Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett and Jake Fromm.
Pick: QB Will Levis, Kentucky.
View photos of the top safety prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-8):
No waffles on this one, and it's a good pick for a Steelers' defense that took some hits in free agency.
Pick: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State. He brings size to the secondary.
18. Detroit Lions (9-8):
The Lions are in a position here that is similar to what they faced at No. 6. They have options, and freedom of choice to go with it. They have built their roster to a point where they don't have to chase any position.
Cornerback, running back, defensive tackle, linebacker and tight end are all positions the Lions can consider here with their second pick in the first round.
For the Lions, adding to the defensive line is the right option at this point.
Pick: DT Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh. At 281 pounds, he doesn't have the bulk to dominate inside, but his time of 4.67 in the 40 at the Combine shows he can be disruptive with his explosive speed.