top of page

NFL Draft Begins Today: Who Could The Lions Potentially Take?

Updated: Apr 27

Brian Gornick, Sports Editor

Exterior of Ford Field in preparation for the NFL Draft. Photo//Mark Cunningham.

The NFL Draft officially kicks off today in Detroit, with the first round of the draft starting at 8 p.m. EST. 

For hundreds of college prospects across the country, their dreams of hearing their name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will become reality. 

Some players will be joining the Honolulu blue and silver as new members of the Detroit Lions. Barring any trades, the Lions currently have seven picks in the upcoming draft. Coming off of a season where the Lions won two playoff games until losing to the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 at Levi’s Stadium, the Lions find themselves in an unfamiliar position. 

Their pick is at 29, putting them near the bottom of the first round, and the subsequent rounds following. Many of the potential needs the Lions had in this upcoming season have been filled already through free agency, with cornerback Carlton Davis III being acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and cornerback Amik Robertson and defensive tackle DJ Reader being signed in free agency.

The draft is wide open for the Lions, and there are so many scenarios they can make a reality. However, the one not many talk about is: What if the Lions just stay at 29 and pick? There are a few players that can interest the Lions around that area, and I wanted to take a look at some of them.

South Carolina Wide Receiver Xavier Legette

2023 stats: 71 REC, 1,255 YDS, 7 TD

South Carolina wide receiver Xavier Legette has the prototypical size for a primary receiver. Standing at 6’1” and 221 lbs, his size makes him a prime candidate to be a contested catch receiver.

Legette boasts excellent abilities in locating the ball through traffic, utilizing his frame and flexibility to grab lobs thrown his way. Contrary to what one may think with his frame, Legette also has abilities as a YAC receiver with his top-end speed, posting a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. 

The one major knock on Legette is that he is a late bloomer. Despite playing five years at South Carolina, last year was the only season Legette got more than 200 yards in a season. He caught 71 catches for 1,255 yards and seven touchdowns. Lions General Manager Brad Holmes and company will have to figure out if last season was a fluke for Legette, or if he is finally blooming into the top wide receiver some think he can be.

LSU Wide Receiver Brian Thomas Jr.

2023 stats: 68 REC, 1,177 YDS, 17 TD

This one may be a bit of a stretch, as Brian Thomas Jr. has been predicted plenty of times to go in the middle of the first round. However, the draft is always unpredictable, and Thomas Jr. is a player the Lions could be interested in taking if he falls to 29. 

Thomas Jr. stands at 6’3” and 209 lbs, making him one of the biggest wide receivers projected to be drafted in the first round.

Thomas Jr. wasn’t the top receiver on his team, being the second wide receiver behind projected top pick Malik Nabers. While Nabers was the pure speed threat, Thomas Jr. served as a red zone target for Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels, catching 17 touchdowns throughout the season. 

Thomas Jr. has ideal speed too, and if he was added to the Lions receiver corps, he would serve as the great red zone target alongside speed threat Jameson Williams and tactical Amon-Ra St. Brown. 

Oregon Center Jackson Powers-Johnson

Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson continues the legacy of Oregon offensive linemen going high in pro drafts. Arguably the best center prospect in the draft this year, Powers-Johnson took over the starting center spot this past season and ran with it.

Powers-Johsnon was awarded the Rimington Trophy last year, awarded to the best center in college football. A first-team All-PAC 12 selection, he was also voted as a Unanimous All-American, one of only fourteen players this past season to earn that honor. 

With centers typically being seen as not valuable picks at the top of the first round, the Lions could see this fantastic interior lineman drop to them at nine.

Lions’ current starting center Frank Ragnow had to deal with questions on his retirement due to a nagging toe injury that would require experimental surgery, putting the future of the center spot in question over the next few seasons. 

Powers-Johnson could fill in at guard for a season or two, as he was already versatile while at Oregon, filling in as a guard during his first two seasons when called upon. If Ragnow chooses to hang up his cleats a season or two from now, Powers-Johnson could slide over to the center position, and continue the fantastic center play the Lions have been fortunate to have for over six seasons. 

Georgia Tackle Amarius Mims

If an offensive lineman was ever created in a lab, they would look a lot like Amarius Mims. The first thing that sticks out with Mims is his massive size. 6 '8" and 340 lbs, not to mention his 86.75” wingspan, giving him the frame to take on any defensive lineman coming his way.  

Mims is very fluid in his movements, being able to pull effortlessly if called upon, giving him an edge against rushers trying to run on his outside hand. Mims hands are also very powerful, stopping any bull rushes against him by getting a tight grip on a players jersey and anchoring.

Mims size is his strength, but it is also his weakness. Injuries have plagued his tenure at Georgia, only starting seven games at right tackle this past season, and eight starts overall in his three-year tenure at Georgia. 

He had tightrope surgery last season after a Week 3 game against South Carolina. His size and play when healthy have kept him in the conversation as a first-rounder, and one the Lions will need to consider if he is available at 29.

The Lions' offensive line is already set this season, and if they drafted Mims he fortunately shouldn’t have to start right away. He can get healthy and learn the ropes of the NFL, and potentially take up the left tackle position should the Lions move on from Taylor Decker next season, or one of the guard spots as both Lions guards Graham Glasgow and Kevin Zeitler are over the age of 30. 

Alabama Cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry

2023 stats: 14 G, 32 TOT, 2 TFL, 7 PD

Alabama corner Kool-Aid McKinstry has been garnering first-round buzz for over two seasons now. A five-star recruit out of high school, McKinstry has also been a multi-year starter for the Crimson Tide.

He’s an awarded corner, being a first-team All American last season, as well as a first-team All-SEC the past two seasons. Regarded as one of the safer corner picks in this year's draft, McKinstry thrives off of his high school football IQ, and his ability to read the receiver in front of him.

His fall has been largely a result of prospect fatigue, and some of his deficiencies were picked on later in the season. Some of those include a lack of top-end speed and his inconsistency in the run game. 

The Lions still need another outside corner, with Davis and Robertson being their two top corners. Adding McKinstry to that room would give the Lions a smart, physical corner in coverage that could learn the ropes of the NFL, not needing to be thrown to the wolves against the top receivers in the league during his first season.

Iowa Defensive Back Cooper DeJean

2023 stats: 10 G, 41 TOT, 2 TFL, 5 PD, 2 INT

Punt Return: 21 RET, 241 YDS (11.5 AVG), 1 TD

Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean is arguably the most versatile defender in this draft. DeJean can play outside corner, in the slot, and as a safety, playing all three last year while helping captain the Hawkeye's defense. 

DeJean is a fantastic athlete, boasting elite speed, size, and power that shows up in all aspects of his play. 

DeJean thrives more in zone coverage, but has the athletic profile to keep up with receivers in man coverage. DeJean is also very physical in the open space, not afraid to take on a receiver or running back who is bigger than him. 

DeJean also offers an innate ability as a punt/kick returner. During his time at Iowa, he returned 21 returns for over 200 yards and a touchdown. With the NFL adopting new kicking rules similar to what is used in the United Football League (UFL), DeJean’s value to an NFL franchise will only go up. 

Similar to how the Lions utilized Brian Branch last season, they could use DeJean. Having two versatile defensive backs would give defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn a lot of options as to what coverage packages he can utilize, and give the Lions a new weapon they can put in coverage, blitzes, etc. 

Missouri Defensive Lineman Darius Robinson

2023 stats: 12 G, 43 TOT, 8.5 SK, 14 TFL, 1 FF

Darius Robinson not only is a homegrown talent, but can also fit one of the Lions' underrated needs heading into the draft. The native of Southfield, Michigan looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman, standing at 6’5” and 285 lbs. 

Robinson played primarily on the edge at Missouri, serving as a pass rusher, getting eight and a half sacks this past season. However, Robinson projects more to slide inside at the NFL level, due to factors such as a lack of bend on the outside edge, lack of acceleration at the line of scrimmage, and being clunky in his pass rush moves against tackles. 

What Robinson does have is strong arms and hands, as well as a large wingspan, both would give him the advantage against an inside offensive lineman in the NFL. The Lions could utilize Robinson how they use Levi Onwuzurike and Josh Paschal, putting him on the inside of the line during passing downs to get inside pressure.

Robinson could fill in as an edge rusher if called upon, and could be the one-two tandem with Aidan Hutchinson that the Lions have been looking for the past two seasons.

0 views0 comments


bottom of page