Thanks to the Matthew Stafford trade, the Detroit Lions have the Los Angeles Rams first round pick in the NFL Draft, which sits at sixth overall. With this selection they have many good options. This includes a chance to add a high quality prospect to their defensive unit or a quarterback for the future.
Their biggest focus of this offseason so far has been rebuilding their defense that finished last season dead last in the league in yards. Most notable of their free agent additions were made in the secondary. Cameron Sutton signed a three-year, $33 million deal, Emmanuel Moseley earned a one-year, $6 million deal, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson received a one-year, $8 million deal.
Heading into the draft, the question is whether they’ll look to keep adding to their defense this offseason or target a quarterback of the future? We list out their top five options, which covers what their best option is in different scenarios on draft night.
Without further ado, let’s start with their number one option.
5 Players the Detroit Lions Could Draft With The Sixth-Overall Pick
Option One: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
While Jared Goff is a solid quarterback in the short term, he’s not someone who is going to carry a team on a deep playoff run. It’s not often that teams get the opportunity to draft this high, so they have to at least consider making a move for a quarterback while they have this pick.
It’s an unlikely scenario for Stroud to fall to sixth overall, but if Bryce Young goes number one, the Lions could get Stroud for a good price. With the Texans drafting second, they could easily pass on Stroud, as he shares an agent with Deshaun Watson. After that the non quarterback needy Cardinals sit at three, giving the Detriot Lions an opportunity to trade up in the draft. Arizona has a lot of needs, so the price tag to move up may not be very steep. An offer of a second round pick could get the deal done, which would be worth it to secure Stroud if this scenario presents itself.
C.J. Stroud has actually gotten Goff comparisons by many analysts. Although this isn’t a perfect comparison, the two quarterbacks are pretty similar. The big difference would be that the Lions would have four years of Stroud on his rookie contract. This is a big talking point in team building discussions and for good reason. You can win in the NFL without an elite quarterback, but you need to build the supporting cast around that quarterback very well and the rookie contract quarterback allows you to do that.
As far as the skill set that Stroud brings to the table, he fits extremely well with the Detroit Lions. His accuracy is the best in this class and while his ability to deal with pressure and make plays out of structure was questioned through the season, he answered those questions with his performance against Georgia.
Option Two: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
As I just mentioned on the Stroud breakdown, targeting a quarterback in the NFL Draft makes a lot of sense for the Detroit Lions for a variety of reasons.
Anthony Richardson is a big wild card in this draft. I would project him to come off the board somewhere in the top five before this selection. However, with Richardson’s inconsistent accuracy it’s a plausible scenario for him to still be on the board at sixth overall. If Richardson is on the board, he would be a very intriguing option for them. With Goff in Detroit, Richardson wouldn’t have to start year one and with his athleticism perhaps they could design some sort of role for him to play red zone or short yardage situations. In year two, Richardson could take over as the starter more prepared to have success.
Richardson’s arm strength and pocket presence are also strong components of his game that will intrigue NFL teams. The ball coming out of his hands simply looks different than most quarterbacks and the velocity he’s able to generate allows him to make tight window throws that a lot of quarterbacks can’t make.
His pocket presence is the best in this class as not only can he utilize his athleticism to avoid sacks, but his recognition of where pressure is coming from and navigate the pocket to avoid it is exceptional. This is a big reason why I wouldn’t consider him as big of a project as he’s made out to be. A lot of quarterbacks fail to develop because they can’t handle pressure, but this won’t be a concern for him.
Top-ranked #Florida QB Anthony Richardson:
“Going and sitting behind a veteran, that’ll be a blessing.”
— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) April 14, 2023
Option Three: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
As mentioned earlier, defense is the biggest current draft need for the Detroit Lions. Adding Jalen Carter wouldn’t just fill a need, but at sixth overall would be outstanding value as he’s considered the best player in the class by most analysts.
Jalen Carter was a star on one of the best defenses college football has ever seen the last two seasons at Georgia. He checks just about every box you want to see out of an interior defensive linemen as his quickness, power, and hand usage are all elite. The Detroit Lions already have some good options at edge rusher, so Carter also gets the draft edge over Will Anderson Jr. from a positional need standpoint.
The biggest reason Carter could fall on draft night is due to the news about his arrest for reckless driving that came out at the combine. His draft stock is going to depend a lot on how he interviews with NFL teams. This is information that people outside of the NFL can’t know, but ultimately Carter is likely still one of the top non-quarterbacks off the board and would be a big addition for the Lions.
Option Four: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
Will Anderson Jr. has been hyped as one of the top prospects in this class for a while and that will be shown on draft night. Anderson could obviously be off the board by the time the Lions are on the clock, but it’s not an unrealistic scenario that he gets out of the top five. Either a run on the four quarterbacks coming off the board or a team valuing Tyree Wilson over him could lead to him getting pushed down the board a bit.
Edge rusher isn’t necessarily a big need for the Lions as they already have a solid group, but Anderson is too good of a player to pass on just because it isn’t a big positional need.
The two-time Nagurski award winner at Alabama projects very well to the NFL as well. His elite quickness and burst combined with his relentless motor will terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Plus, although he’s a bit on the smaller end for edge rushers at 253 pounds he still plays the run very well as he consistently wins leverage battles at the line of scrimmage.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 7, 2023
Option Five: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Prior to free agency, Devon Witherspoon was a very popular player amongst Detroit Lions draft community. After bringing in Sutton, Moseley, and Gardner-Johnson in free agency, it’s not quite as popular of an option, but still a very solid option for the Lions.
Although they made these signings, Moseley and Gardner-Johnson are on just one year deals, so it’s still a long term need for them. They could still carve out a role for Witherspoon on this defense in his rookie year and be a key piece of the defense moving forward.
He brings an intriguing skill set to the table as he has the tools to excel in both man or zone coverage. In zone coverage, he has excellent instincts as he’s phenomenal at reading where the ball is going along with great closing speed to make breakups.
Witherspoon was also quite effective in man coverage, which Illinois ran a ton of. Although he doesn’t have great size or length, he still plays with good physicality. He also can change directions and stick with receivers not allowing much separation very well. He played an aggressive style of corner and it often paid off for him as he’s good enough to win almost every rep and not get burned.
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