Lions prioritize defense, replace Hockenson (and Swift?) in two-round mock


The Lions are sitting pretty with four picks in the first two rounds of the 2023 draft, tied with the Seahawks for most in the NFL. With the right moves, they can cement themselves as favorites in the NFC North next season.

Detroit has clear needs just about everywhere on defense, where it ranked last in the NFL in 2022. Cornerback looks like priority No. 1. On offense, the team could use immediate help at tight end, the interior of the offensive line and possibly running back.

With Jared Goff entrenched as the Lions' starting QB next season, GM Brad Holmes is in good position to enhance the rest of the roster early in the draft. What will he do with two firsts and two seconds?

With the sixth overall pick in ESPN's two-round mock compiled by Matt Miller, the Lions fill their most glaring need with Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon, widely considered the top corner in the draft:

Witherspoon is exactly what the team needs as a physical, sticky cover man with instincts and ball skills. He is 6-1 and only 180 pounds, but he plays much bigger and is the best open-field tackler among this group of corners.

A consensus All-American last season, Witherspoon had three interceptions and 14 passes defended. He would have a chance to begin his NFL career as the No. 1 corner in Detroit.

At No. 18 overall, the Lions select Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness, a raw pass-rusher with a high NFL ceiling who could team up for the next several seasons with Aidan Hutchinson:

The 6-5, 270-pound defensive end has shades of Trey Hendrickson to his game, which is why he's seen as a potential first-rounder despite not starting for the Hawkeyes. ... Van Ness could round out (Detroit's) defensive line with power, length and an ability against the run that's needed opposite Hutchinson."

The Lions turn to offense in the second round, replacing T.J. Hockenson with fellow Iowa TE Sam LaPorta No. 48 overall:

He is a fantastic move blocker and a stellar receiver over the middle, and he has enough after-the-catch ability to project as a starter. LaPorta had just five touchdowns in college, but like his NFL comparison Dawson Knox, he looks to be a better pro than college player.

And at No. 55, the Lions find a potential long-term replacement for D'Andre Swift, who's entering the final season of his rookie deal, in Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs could also help replace Detroit's leading rusher and free-agent-to-be Jamaal Williams:

Williams might be back on a short-term deal, but D'Andre Swift hasn't developed into a true RB1 candidate. Gibbs, a fantastic receiver out of the backfield and a slashing runner, was compared to Alvin Kamara by one scout I talked to recently, although I see more Tony Pollard in him.

Gibbs had 926 rushing yards (on 6.1 yards per carry) and 444 receiving yards last season at Alabama after transferring from Georgia Tech.

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