2023 NFL Mock Draft: Dane Brugler gives Detroit Lions defensive help in first round

In previous years, discussions surrounding the Detroit Lions would turn to the draft after Thanksgiving, but while the team is still “in the hunt,” we Detroit Pride have been slow to shift our focus in that direction. That being said, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler—arguably the best NFL draft talent evaluator in the business—is worth paying attention to as he drops his first mock draft (subscription) of the season.

The Lions hold two picks in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft – following the Matthew Stafford trade – and the fall of the Los Angeles Rams, Detroit has the opportunity to add a big difference maker at the top of the draft.

Pick No. 3: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia (6-foot-3, 310)

Georgia’s defense dominated college football last season and had 5 Bulldogs drafted in the first round, including first overall pick Trayvon Walker. But if you listened to draft analysts at the time, Carter was considered the team’s best prospect. Now that the draft is eligible, the Lions have reaped the rewards of a depleted Rams squad and acquired one of the premier interior players to enter the league in years.

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Carter is the definition of a “wrecker.” With the ability to regularly beat blocks and go upfield, Carter gave the Lions an energy they haven’t had since Ndamukong Suh.

Here is an excerpt from my draft watch list from earlier in the season:

With an explosive first step and pass rush moves, Carter can get anywhere on the field. Does it need to pass quickly? no problem. Running chase on the back screen? He got that range. Catch the gap and beat the block and stop the run? Yes, he can do that..

Pairing Carter with Alim McNeil and signing them Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Pascal would immediately give the Lions one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL.

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Pick No. 13: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State (6-foot-2, 200)

This offseason, the Lions need to add depth at cornerback as well as a player who can compete for a starting role. Porter — the son of former Steelers All-Pro linebacker Joey Porter Sr. — is long, fast and physical. Able to stay in class with all types of receivers and thrive in run support, Porter can play in a variety of coverage schemes with a press-man-based foundation.

Porter was the third of six defensive backs projected to go in the first round in Brugler’s mock draft—Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Georgia’s Kelly Ringo were already off the board—and his offensive style matches that of Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. He needs it in the defensive back.

Other notes on Brugler’s mock draft

  • QB view: Three quarterbacks are projected to be selected in the first round, with Alabama’s Bryce Young going first overall, Ohio State’s C.J. Strode going fifth to the Carolina Panthers and Kentucky’s Will Lewis going 14th to the Indianapolis Colts. Had the draft been like this, the Lions would have opted to select a defensive player over quarterback, twice, from Strode to Carter and Levis to Porter.
  • NFC NorthThe Bears landed Alabama EDGE Will Anderson with the second pick, the Packers took edge rusher Tyree Wilson at No. 8, and the Vikings took Ohio State wide receiver Jackson Smith-Njigba with the No. 29 pick.
  • Michigan connection: Brugler’s first-round mock draft has no players drafted from universities in the state of Michigan, although he did mention that the Saints might target University of Michigan nose tackle Mazzie Smith in the second round (the first pick in this draft).
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