The Detroit Lions boasted one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2022. The team ranked fifth in total points scored and fourth in offensive yards gained. Behind one of the league’s top offensive lines, Detroit’s offense had a balanced attack. The team could easily rush the ball and had weapons for QB Jared Goff to thrive.
Goff’s 2022 season was one of the best of his career. Alongside offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, Goff led the Lions to the eighth-ranked passing offense in the league.
This offseason, some new faces have found their way into the mix. Last season’s NFL rushing touchdown leader Jamaal Williams is gone. He is replaced by former Chicago Bear David Montgomery. The team brought in a stop-gap right guard in Graham Glasgow. He returns for his second stint in the Motor City. Detroit let wideout D.J. Chark walk and brought Marvin Jones Jr. in for his second run with the team to replace him.
The Detroit Lions should add receiver talent in the draft
Detroit’s offense is reloading for the 2023 season while its defense undergoes a much larger overhaul. Goff will have a solid group of weapons to work with next season. Jones Jr. joins a receiver room with talent in Pro Bowler Amon-Ra St. Brown and last season’s 12th overall pick Jameson Williams. Behind a solid starting trio, the Lions have good depth. Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds have proven themselves as reliable receivers when called upon.
However, there is always room to add more talent to an offense’s skill position group. Jones Jr. is on a one-year deal, and Detroit could look to the draft to find a more long-term plan at receiver.
After dealing cornerback Jeff Okudah to the Falcons, the Lions now own nine picks in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Four of those picks fall in the top 55 selections: Pick Nos. six, 18, 48 and 55.
There are more pressing needs for the team with its first-round picks. The team will select the best talent on the board regardless of position at sixth overall. At 18, interior defensive line, cornerback and tight end likely take priority over adding a receiver.
The middle rounds make much more sense for the Lions to take a wideout, especially in a class that does not have clear superstar talent at the position. The team has its two second-round picks as well as pick No. 81 in the third round. Detroit also has the draft capital to move around in the third or fourth rounds.
There is receiver talent to be had in these rounds, and the Lions could find their long-term third receiver to pair with St. Brown and Williams. Here are three mid-round wide receivers who should be on the Lions’ radar in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Jayden Reed, Michigan State
The Michigan State Spartans did not boast an explosive passing game in 2022. The team’s passing attack in 2021 was greatly helped by Doak Walker Award recipient Kenneth Walker III. However, throughout all of MSU’s triumphs and struggles over the past two seasons, Jayden Reed consistently stood out as the best of the bunch in the receiver room.
The 5-11 23-year-old has the versatility to play on the outside or in the slot. He runs clean routes and has the speed and acceleration to separate from defenders. Reed can beat defenders over the top on deep routes, but he also has the footwork and agility to thrive on short and intermediate routes as well.
He tracks deep balls well and was one of the best contested-catch receivers in college football. He consistently finds good positioning and fights through contact to win jump balls.
Reed also offers an explosive threat in the return game as well. He tallied three punt return touchdowns in two seasons with the Spartans.
The Detroit Lions could easily trade back into the late second round, or possibly even wait till they pick at 81 to land Reed. Detroit can line Reed up anywhere as a receiver and he will produce solid receiver play. Right now, he is an ideal third receiver who has the potential to grow into a team’s second option at receiver.
Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper mocked Tennessee wideout Jalin Hyatt to the Lions in his latest two-round mock draft. Kiper projected Detroit to select Hyatt with the 55th overall pick.
The 6-0 receiver is a dangerous vertical threat. He struggles at times against press coverage, he had only one catch against press man in the 2022 season. However, he possesses the ability to burn past defenders if he gets to full speed.
Hyatt enjoyed a successful 2022 season with Tennessee. He racked up 1,267 receiving yards on just 67 receptions. He posted 15 total touchdowns on the season as well.
Hyatt runs clean routes and is quick on cuts and breaks. However, he does not have the quickest burst out of routes. He can take time to accelerate up to speed.
There is good reason to believe Hyatt’s success as a receiver will heavily depend on the scheme. Tennessee’s offense had designed routes and formations that easily got him into open space. At the NFL level, that may not be the case. Hyatt needs more burst off the line of scrimmage and he has to prove he can beat press coverage and attack contested catch opportunities.
Hyatt has good upside as a deep threat, and if he can fall to the Detroit Lions at 55, he is a solid pick. If he falls to 81st overall, Hyatt is a steal. He does have serious bust potential if he cannot overcome his struggles against press coverage. There are too many examples of receivers who have been drafted because of their speed and never worked out at the NFL level.
Michael Wilson, Stanford
Michael Wilson’s production does not jump off the page. He posted just 421 yards and four touchdowns in six games in 2022. The redshirt senior spent much of his collegiate career banged up. He appeared in 15 games total over the past three seasons.
However, Wilson stood out at the senior bowl. He has a good burst off the line of scrimmage and snaps into his breaks. Wilson has good size at 6-2. He possesses the size to go win contested catches, and he tracks the deep ball well.
Wilson has the ability and experience to run a diverse route tree. Stanford boasts a run-heavy offensive scheme which resulted in Wilson rarely being a featured part of the offense. However, when the team did turn to him, he was a reliable receiver who could make plays.
Health is the biggest concern for Wilson at the NFL level. He has missed significant time during his collegiate career, and there is a risk injuries will continue to be an issue for him. However, his versatility and highly competitive style of play bode well for his potential if he is able to stay healthy.
For the Detroit Lions Wilson fills a role as a depth receiver with the upside to grow into a third option someday. For a team that already has three guys who fill the starting receiver spots, having a developmental piece like Wilson is good insurance for the future. At pick 81, Wilson is a solid selection; however, if the team can trade back or move pieces around to land Wilson in the late third or early fourth, that is an even better value for him.
Honorable Mentions: Cedric Tillman, Tennessee, Parker Washington, Penn State, Marvin Mims, Oklahoma, Rashee Rice, SMU
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
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