Coming off an exciting 2022 season that saw their team nearly surge into the playoffs, Detroit Lions fans should be viewing the upcoming NFL Draft like a rich kid in a toy store. They already have everything they really need. But now, they get to go shopping for what they really want.
What Coach Dan Campbell really wants would be to finish the turnaround that he started in the Motor City just two years ago. In that short amount of time, he’s shifted his team’s fortunes on the field and the franchise’s mentality toward winning. There’s a lot less hope and much more expectation. That’s led to a huge ripple effect throughout the organization.
The Lions (9-8) may not have qualified for the postseason, but they provided plenty of signs to give the Ford Field faithful hope. Jared Goff had a renaissance at quarterback, Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to emerge as an elite, playmaking receiver, and Jamaal Williams led the league with 17 rushing touchdowns.
And that’s just the offensive side of the ball. Young stars Aidan Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph, along with the rest of the Detroit Lions defense, were certainly no slouches either. In fact, they can be credited with pulling out a couple of wins for the team when the offense sputtered. So needless to say, Coach Campbell already has his biggest pieces in place for a contender.
The next two drafts, where the Lions have acquired extra high picks, could be crucial in developing a serious Super Bowl contender someday.
Starting with the most important position on the field, it doesn’t appear like the Detroit Lions are in the market for a new quarterback
As mentioned, Goff had a stellar year, particularly down the stretch. The former Super Bowl starter looked truly up to championship form in 2022. He completed 65.1% of his passes for 4,438 yards. While he only tossed 29 touchdowns, he also only had seven picks and showed great judgment as the offensive leader.
Not only does he deserve another season or two as a starter, but he also eliminates a need at the number-one spot on the roster. But perhaps the most valuable asset that Goff brought with him from Los Angeles was a wealth of draft picks.
The Matt Stafford trade has set up Detroit for a lot of success, particularly if they choose wisely over the next two years. Along with a quality QB in Goff, the Lions received the Rams’ first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023, and a third-rounder back in 2021.
Moving tight end T.J. Hockenson and some late-round selections to the Vikings also netted them a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.
So, with a wealth of weapons already in place and a solid signal-caller, where should the Detroit Lions focus in the upcoming draft? What is their strategy for taking the next step forward?
Detroit’s immediate future will be heavily shaped by the decisions they make at the 2023 NFL Draft
Since it’s doubtful that the franchise will look to move up in the draft, so assuming they stay in the two spots they’re already at in the first round. General Manager Brad Holmes will be in the catbird seat, having the sixth (from LA) and 18th overall selections.
That means that the crafty draftsmen can add an impact player on each side of the ball early. Look for the squad to add a pass rusher to team up with Hutchinson, or possibly a hard-hitting, run-stopping linebacker. In the NFC North, defense is always at a premium, particularly against the ground game. The team’s first choice will likely be to shore up that part of their defensive game.
As far as the other first-rounder is concerned, it could be dangled as part of a trade, but not likely.
If the Detroit Lions don’t stay with defense and draft a cover corner, then look for a receiver in the mix here. St. Brown needs a solid running mate, and former first-rounder Jameson Williams has yet to prove anything up to this point. This is a good spot to draft some insurance in that no. 2 receiver spot behind their star playmaker.
As the 2023 draft progresses into the second and third rounds, the Lions should definitely look for a replacement for Hockenson at tight end. This is a position that’s loaded in 2023, and someone like Georgia junior Darnell Washington (6’7″, 269 lbs) could step in and contribute immediately.
As far as the middle to later rounds, it’s likely that the team will look to add depth on both sides of the line. That’s an area where you normally find a lot of diamonds in the rough.
Adding anything on the O-Line is a positive, considering there’s not a lot of QB help currently behind Goff right now. Taking a fourth-round flyer on a projected backup to the 28-year-old veteran is always a possibility, as well.
Whatever happens, there will most definitely be a different vibe in and around The Motor City when that first night in April arrives. By the time the NFL Draft weekend is over, fans of the Silver and Blue may have witnessed the start of something they’ve never even dreamed of: A Detroit Dynasty.