Who Should the Detroit Lions take in the First Round of the 2023 NFL Draft?

This has been a lost season for Detroit. Dan Campbell is currently sitting at 6-19-1 as Lions head coach, and this team is struggling through horrible defensive play (again) and numerous injuries. Said injuries have also contributed to a severe drop in the offensive play, losing out on critical linemen Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Frank Ragnow, and playmaking receivers like DJ Chark and Quintez Cephus. Even the trade deadline had TJ Hockenson moved out of Ford Field and onto U.S. Bank Stadium to play for the NFC North-leading Vikings. It seems commonplace for Lions fans to be able to pick out so many bad things about a season, but there is one HUGE thing to look forward to.

Enter the 2022 NFL Draft. With the current standings showing 5 picks in the Top 75, the Lions have a lot of wiggle room and ways they could acquire a true game-changer. With that being said, who should the Lions target? Should they make a move up as they did for Jameson Williams, or should they draft Best Player Available at their spots? I’m here to hopefully establish an aggressive and somewhat attainable draft game plan for players I hope Brad Holmes will select.

Target One: Will Anderson Jr. EDGE, Bama
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, or maybe it is me seeing Brad Holmes’ aggressiveness, I don’t know; what I do know is that I want Anderson on the Lions. Sitting at a dominant 6’4” and 244 LBs, Anderson and Hutch could easily make the scariest pass rush in the game. He is a potential Top 3, or maybe even the potential First Overall pick. Anderson has accumulated 8 sacks, 44 pressures, and 25 hurries throughout the 2022 CFB season, and has just been a monster. He uses his hands very well and knows how to square up his lineman and use that leverage against him. Against the Texas A&M Aggies, he accounted for 8 of the 14 quarterback hurries the Crimson Tide had. He has linebacker flexibility as well, often lining up behind the D-Line for specific stunts and run plays. Anderson possesses game-wrecking speed and power and is so difficult to gameplan against for these College offenses.

With all that being said, how would the Lions get to a position to draft Anderson? Here’s my thought process. The Lions will need some things to go right, or they will need to use some picks they have acquired to trade up into the top three picks to grab Anderson. The Rams are just looking awful this season, so the possibility continues to grow that their pick will be very high in the draft, hopefully, high enough for a player like Anderson. If not, as said earlier, the 2nd round picks or the Rams’ pick should surely be enough to move up for a top spot, especially with teams like the Eagles, who if the Saints keep losing, could end up with a top-five selection. Either way, this guy is number one on my draft board as a Lions fan, and anyway that we can get him, I want to take that chance.

Target Two: CJ Stroud QB, Ohio State
You had to have known this was coming. Listen, the Lions have almost zero possibility of landing the number one overall pick and therefore will probably lose out on Bryce Young. That’s just how it is. However, if one of our current first-rounders gets to the top five, or if we make a move up, we can still grab a quarterback. Stroud has a great arm and good accuracy within a clean pocket. Even without it, he has been excellent at avoiding sacks and maneuvering within the tackle box, being especially dynamic when avoiding edge pressure. Of course, there’s the Ohio State curse that has plagued so many of their QB prospects, but Justin Fields looks to be breaking that threshold. So, Stroud could bring some consistency to a position that has been, for the lack of a better word, inconsistent over the last two years for Detroit. Stroud is a different playmaker than Fields though, opting to be more of a pocket-passer than Fields’ more modern scrambling style.

But let’s get one thing straight, Stroud is not going to come in and fix everything for the Lions. To that end, no quarterback would be able to fix the multitude of issues that the Lions have. The record lows the defense is putting up, coupled with poor injury luck are just things out of the quarterback’s control. It’s true that Goff is not playing well, he is game-managing this Lions team instead of being able to consistently make plays through the air. But, replacing Goff, for me, isn’t a top priority. Yes, grabbing a QB right now is great if the situation presents itself, but we really should focus on defensive play here.

Target Three: Kelee Ringo CB, Georgia
Cornerback is quite possibly the biggest need for the Lions right now. Okudah has taken major strides, and I stated previously that this CB room needed a true leader to step up this season. We got that in a big way. Okudah has looked like the talent that we drafted out of Ohio State, showing immense effort every play and making huge splashes in the CB1 position. El Jefe may have taken those steps forward, but Amani Oruwariye has fallen off the Earth. After a 2021 season filled with the highest of highs and lowest of lows, we thought that Oruwariye would be able to show more of that potential that was seen. The 2022 season has been consistent for Amani, but only consistently bad. Oruwariye’s coverage has been awful, posting a 28.2 PFF grade. On top of that, he has allowed 29 receptions on 37 targets with no interceptions, down from last year’s six.

With all that being said, Ringo is the guy if we want someone to step in and try to fix this secondary. Georgia’s defense has been nothing short of amazing this season, letting up 12 points a game on average. Ringo has been the top player in this secondary, and while his season started slow, he has started to pick back up where he left off in 2021. Per PFF, over the last 4 games for the Bulldogs, Ringo has only allowed 4 catches on 13 targets. He plays with great physicality and has that elite hand usage you look for in cornerbacks. The biggest qualities he has, in my opinion, are his measurables. He sits at 6’2” and 210 pounds, looking like a small linebacker lined up across opposing wide receivers. The biggest comparison I will make is to Sauce Gardner, who had that same physicality, and we are seeing how that natural talent is currently translating for the Jets. Ringo could bring that same natural transition that the Lions desperately wanted from Jeff Okudah. Either way, Ringo would hopefully develop into a star cornerback, bringing a lockdown duo to Detroit.
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