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Detroit Lions April Scouting Report
Draft preview: The Lions enter the draft with picks 6, 18, 48, 55, 81, 152, 159, 183, and 194. Five picks in the top 81 is a lot of quality draft capital and that gives them options for trading up or down. This is a team that finished strong in 2022 and a great draft would keep that momentum going. Let’s explore the possibilities:
QB: The Lions are doing just enough to keep people guessing about what they are going to do at the quarterback position. In last month’s report I mentioned how I was expecting them to do more than just bring back QB Nate Sudfeld as the backup to QB Jared Goff. Well in recent weeks we have some new developments. There was a report linking the Lions to free agent QB Teddy Bridgewater. This is someone who would fit the bill as a solid backup who you could get by with for a game or two if Goff were to miss time. You would certainly think at this point so close to the draft Bridgewater would let the dust settle and then he can sign with a team after the draft knowing where the rookies have landed and where the best fit would be. But will the Lions draft a quarterback? They had pre-draft visits with CJ Stroud and Hendon Hooker. Stroud will probably be gone before the Lions pick at 6 so it is a little curious that they would look at him. Hooker’s stock seems to be climbing. The bottom line is that Goff’s spot as the starter is very secure for now. I think the Lions also believe in him as the long term solution, but there is appeal in drafting someone who you could sit for a year and then have on a rookie deal. Or you could just sign Bridgewater after the draft to be the backup for a year. My best guess is that they do not draft a quarterback at all, even though I would personally give it strong consideration. Oh, and as far as any reports about Lamar Jackson to Detroit, forget it. People have speculated that Detroit could be a good landing spot, but the Lions aren’t going to invest multiple high picks and a huge contract in Jackson, when he might not even be an upgrade over Goff.
RB: There have been a few prominent mock drafts that have Texas RB Bijan Robinson landing with Detroit, despite the addition of RB David Montgomery as a free agent. It does make some sense, with the future of RB D’Andre Swift in Detroit not looking good. Picking Robinson could make Swift immediately expendable (trade?). I think they will draft a back at some point for depth and ride it out with Swift as part of a committee. Picking a back in round 1 is too early for me, even for a talent like Robinson. Pick 81 could be a sweet spot to take their pick of the second tier backs, with Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs expected to go early. By the way, the Lions appeared to make a fair offer to RB Jamaal Williams last month, who ended up signing with New Orleans for less, so his agent may have misread the market.
WR/TE: We had a free agent signing of note since our last report as veteran WR Marvin Jones signed with the Lions. He was a Lion from 2016 to 2020 and had excellent chemistry with Matthew Stafford. How much does he have left in the tank at age 33 and can he produce with Goff? I’m not sure, but he would seem to have a chance to compete with WR Josh Reynolds for a role as a rotational outside receiver. You can likely ignore in fantasy leagues as WR Jameson Williams and WR Amon-Ra St. Brown will receive the majority of the targets. Or the Lions could draft a big receiver and that would make Reynolds and/or Jones expendable. Jones essentially replaces DJ Chark, who signed with Carolina, and we also learned that Chark had another ankle surgery recently. The best guess is that the Lions do not draft a receiver early but grab one late for depth. This is supposed to be a good draft for tight ends and the Lions are lacking in talent at tight end. Maybe one of those second round picks could land them a new starter if the board falls right. There seems to be four tight ends in the top tier in this class but I don’t know if one would make it to 48. Maybe Darnell Washington of Georgia.
OL: The Lions are in good shape with their offensive line but right guard is a question mark. They also have to look long term and know that they probably can’t afford to extend and/or keep everybody. So selecting a guard or tackle early would make sense.
DL: The Lions scored big time last year by drafting DE Aidan Hutchinson in round 1. They could circle back this year and draft another big time defensive end to pair with Hutchinson as they try to build a scary pass rush. Will Anderson would be a dream scenario if there is an early run on quarterbacks and he falls. More realistically, the Lions are going to take a good look at Tyree Wilson of Texas Tech at 6. I think the Lions will view Jalen Carter as too risky even though his skill set as an inside pass rusher would fill a big need.
LB: Linebacker is like a lot of other positions on this roster. The Lions could get by with what they have at the moment, but upgrading via the draft would also be nice. It truly is a best player available situation looming for the Lions in this draft, as talent should outweigh positional need in the first few rounds. They did have a visit with Drew Sanders of Arkansas, so he could be a possibility in round 2.
DB: The Lions traded CB Jeff Okudah to Atlanta, so there will be many mock drafts that have the Lions taking a corner in round 1. I noticed the betting odds are expecting the Lions first pick to be a corner. I just think it is more likely they look for a corner at 18 than it is at 6. However, I suppose Gonzalez of Oregon and Witherspoon of Illinois are rated highly enough that you could justify picking either one at 6.
That’s it for now. Next month we will review the draft.
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2023 Madness NFL Rookie Draft Reference Guide
Monday, April 24th, 2023
Premium Pro Bowl and Super Bowl Package Subscribers take note. The time has come. The 2023 Madness NFL Rookie Draft Reference Guide has been released for your viewing pleasure. This
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