Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

The Detroit Lions front office was forced to quickly change its attention from Super Bowl to offseason, as Detroit blew a 17-point lead to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game. It was a painful way to have your season end, and it will certainly sting for quite some time. But what the Lions accomplished in 2023 was nothing short of incredible. 

One reason why Detroit tied a franchise record with 12 wins and won the NFC North for the very first time was because of its draft class. First-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs racked up 1,261 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns in the regular season, Jack Campbell finished second on the Lions defense in total tackles with 95, Sam LaPorta was one of the best rookie tight ends in NFL history with 1,065 receiving yards on a record-breaking 107 catches and Brian Branch led the team with 13 passes defended. If the Lions put together another draft like last year’s, they could win the Super Bowl in 2025. 

What should the Lions be focused on in this year’s NFL Draft? That’s what we’re here to explore. 

Lions 2024 draft picks

(Per Tankathon)

1

29

2

61

3

73 (from Minnesota)

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Ryan Wilson

EDGE Bralen Trice

Washington

Chris Trapasso

CB Terrion Arnold

Alabama

Josh Edwards

CB Kamari Lassiter

Georgia

Best defensive player available 

At No. 29 overall, the Lions would be smart to draft the best defensive player on the board. Detroit’s offense ranked top five in total yards and points for the second straight year, but the defense ranked No. 19 in yards allowed per game and No. 23 in points. The secondary in particular struggled, as it allowed the sixth-most passing yards in 2023. 

The Lions could stand to add a defensive playmaker virtually anywhere, but two positions I’m targeting are pass rusher and cornerback. In looking at mock drafts, some players that could be options in the first round are Washington pass rusher Bralen Trice, Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, Iowa corner Cooper DeJean, Georgia corner Kamari Lassiter or Alabama corner Terrion Arnold.

As far as our CBS Sports NFL Draft experts go, those are the two positions they are targeting as well. 

Wilson on Washington EDGE Bralen Trice: “Trice only had seven sacks during the season — including two against Texas and Quinn Ewers in the semifinal matchup — but he also led all of FBS in QB pressures with 77 in 14 games. Now line him up opposite of Aidan Hutchinson in Detroit and imagine what that looks like.”

Trapasso on Alabama CB Terrion Arnold: “An ascending player, Arnold played awesomely in 2023 at Alabama, showing how much of a playmaker he can be thanks to his fluidity and acceleration.”

Edwards on Georgia CB Kamari Lassiter “Detroit has been adding building blocks ever since making the Matthew Stafford trade. The Lions will not have Los Angeles’ first-round pick for the first time in three years. Kamari Lassiter gives the Lions a player who could be within the organization for a decade rather than the short-term options they have been adding to fill a need recently.”

EDGE/CB

Let’s assume the Lions go cornerback in the first round. In the second, I’m still eyeing the pass rusher position. Romeo Okwara is a free agent, Charles Harris is a free agent and James Houston is an exclusive-rights free agent. Doubling down on defense in the second round at pass rusher if there’s an intriguing prospect available would be smart.

Pass rusher is a premier position and mock drafts change drastically from now until April. Alabama’s Chris Braswell is an interesting name to watch over the next few weeks. He recorded 10.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 14 games last season, and was named Second Team All-SEC.  

Penn State’s Adisa Isaac is another player who should be available in the second round. Isaac could have come out last year, but decided to return to school, and it was a good decision. He went from Third Team All-Big Ten to First Team All-Big Ten, and recorded a career-high 16 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 13 games played. The general consensus is that he’s not the most polished pass rusher, but the potential is exciting. 

A couple of other EDGE players listed around the 60s-70s in CBS Sports’ overall prospect rankings are UCLA’s Gabriel Murphy and Washington’s Zion Tupuola-Fetui. 

Kicker

A kicker? Yes! Detroit should do its homework on the kicker position, as the Lions used two this season in Riley Patterson and Michael Badgley. If you were wondering why Dan Campbell didn’t trot out Badgley for a long field goal attempt in the second half against the 49ers, Stathead points out that the “Money Badger” was 9 of 20 on field goal attempts from at least 48 yards out.

Alabama’s Will Reichard is CBS Sports’ No. 1 kicker in this class. In five seasons, he missed just two of 297 extra point attempts, and went 22 of 25 on field goals this past season. According to his profile on Alabama’s official website, he’s the NCAA’s career points leader with 547. Go get him. 

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