Selecting a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft is not a need for the Detroit Lions. The team’s current quarterback, Jared Goff, enjoyed a good-not-great season in 2022. Goff finished the year with 4,438 passing yards and 29 touchdowns compared to only seven interceptions.
Throughout his career, Goff has proven to be a quarterback that his teams can win with but not necessarily because of. He has enough arm strength to make most passes he is asked to. He is accurate and throws his receivers open, often making the correct read. However, Goff sits in the same quarterback tier as Kirk Cousins or Dak Prescott. There is nothing wrong with that, both Cousins and Prescott are solid NFL quarterbacks, but they are not the types of quarterbacks to consistently will their teams to wins.
Goff has already played well enough to get his team to the Super Bowl. That Los Angeles Rams team was stacked with talent on both sides of the ball, not to mention the highly-touted offensive scheming from Sean McVay. As the Lions continue their rebuild, continuing with Goff could prove enough to make a deep playoff run. However, the team needs to determine if the level of play Goff provides is enough to win a Super Bowl.
If the answer is no, then the 2023 quarterback draft class potentially holds the prospect who can take the Lions to contender status once the team’s rebuild is complete. The Detroit Lions hold the sixth and 18th picks in the first round of the 2023 draft. The team is in a position to draft a high-ceiling quarterback prospect with either pick. They also have the draft capital to move up if their guy is out of reach.
Here are four quarterbacks the Lions could target in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Should the Lions take the best player available approach in the 2023 NFL Draft? #OnePride
The Detroit Lions would likely need to trade up to select Alabama’s Bryce Young
If Bryce Young possessed even a slightly larger frame, he would undoubtedly be the consensus top quarterback prospect in this year’s draft. The 21-year-old junior stands at 6-0 and weighs in at 194 pounds. That is far from the prototypical build of a modern NFL quarterback, and it is the primary concern scouts have about Young’s draft profile.
With a slight frame, there are concerns Young will have the durability to take hits at the next level. It does not matter what other abilities Young has if he is continually injured due to his smaller stature. However, with all of the rules in place protecting the quarterback, some scouts do not see durability as an issue for Young. Although, his smaller size does create potential problems in his ability to see over the middle of the field. This has been on display with Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray who stands at 5-10. Not every below-average-height quarterback has had that problem, but it is something to monitor with Young.
Young has a strong enough arm. He does not possess elite-level velocity on his throws, but he can make all of the throws asked of him. He just will not be making the extremely long throws that Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes can make, and that is okay. Young throws with accuracy and touch, and he processes defenses very well both on pre-snap reads and post-snap reads. He is fairly mobile as well; however, he is far from a run-first quarterback.
Bryce Young’s potential fit in Detroit
Young is a prospect who can be a day-one starter in the NFL. His accuracy and ability to diagnose defenses are major reasons for that. If Young finds himself in Detroit, then Goff becomes an expendable asset. The team could keep Goff and have a competition in the offseason, or they could trade or cut him to save cap space. While Young can start right away, he will not take the Lions to contender status in his first year. This team still needs some time to draft and develop its young talent.
If the Lions determine Young is their quarterback of the future, they likely will need to trade up to select him. Young is the favorite to be selected second overall by the Houston Texans. Other quarterback-needy teams are candidates to trade up to the first overall pick with the Chicago Bears to jump in front of Houston. The Detroit Lions can certainly piece together a trade package to get the first pick. The question is if they want to spend the capital necessary to do so.
C.J. Stroud may be the best quarterback available at sixth overall
If all of C.J. Stroud’s collegiate performances were like the one he had against Georgia in the College Football Playoff, he might very well be the top prospect in this year’s draft. Everything there is to like about Stroud as a prospect was on full display in Ohio State’s game against Georgia.
The 21-year-old redshirt sophomore stands at 6-3 and weighs 215 pounds, much closer to a prototypical quarterback’s frame than Young possesses. Stroud has the arm talent necessary to have success at the NFL level. He throws a good deep ball and has the accuracy and ball placement to set his receivers away from closing defenders.
Under pressure, Stroud struggles a bit. Behind one of the best offensive lines in college football, Stroud was often stuck inside the pocket far more than he needed to be. When teams were able to generate pressure, Stroud became a sitting duck. Despite his mobility, Stroud was not much of a scrambler during his time at Ohio State. That is not to say he never scrambled, but it was not a common occurrence, even in moments where it should have been.
Then there is the aforementioned Georgia game. In that game, Stroud scrambled and improvised. With a strong Georgia pass rush, it was necessary for Stroud to escape the pocket to make plays both with his feet and throwing on the run. Stroud’s performance was a sign of good things to come if he can be nurtured at the next level.
C.J. Stroud’s potential fit in Detroit
If the Lions land Stroud in the draft, there is reason to believe he could spend a season sitting behind Goff. Stroud has the ability to start right away at the NFL level, but taking a season to learn and become more seasoned could do the 21-year-old some good. With a top offensive line and a great receiving corps, adding a quarterback with the arm talent that Stroud possesses could take the Lions offense to the next level.
Stroud may or may not be available to the Detroit Lions at sixth overall. While Young is likely to go with one of the top two selections, Stroud has some more variability in his draft selection. It will ultimately come down to team preference and who is willing to trade up.
The Detroit Lions could target a boom-or-bust prospect in Anthony Richardson
If NFL teams could build a quarterback from scratch, Anthony Richardson is close to what they would churn out. Richardson has a 6-4, 232-pound frame. The 21-year-old redshirt sophomore has the elite arm strength and elite athleticism that teams have coveted in their draft prospects over the past few seasons. Richardson only has one year of experience as a full-time starter at Florida, and his inexperience showed. However, the high-end talent that he possesses makes him a surefire first-round prospect.
Richardson needs to work on consistent accuracy. He can make pinpoint passes and throw with leverage, but he does not do so consistently. Overthrows and misreads are a part of his game as well. He needs to improve his diagnosis of defenses, and pocket presence as well. At times, he has a tendency to tuck and run instead of allowing his routes to develop.
Once he enters the NFL, Richardson will rank toward the top of the NFL in both arm strength and mobility. Any NFL team that has a lot of confidence in its ability to successfully develop a young quarterback would jump at the opportunity to select Richardson in the early to middle of the first round. His tape is far from perfect, but he showed gradual improvement as the season progressed.
NFL Analyst Marcus Whitman compiled a great analysis on Richardson as a prospect.
Anthony Richardson’s fit in Detroit
Richardson is a prospect that needs time to develop. However, he also has the talent and natural ability to potentially wind up as the best quarterback from this year’s class. A season or two behind Goff could set Richardson up for long-term success in the NFL. While the Lions’ rebuild continues, Goff can lead the way for a few seasons as Richardson learns. When the time is right, the Florida quarterback can take the reigns and take this team to the next level.
Richardson is almost certain to be available to the Lions at sixth overall. There is a chance he is available at 18th overall. If the Lions are willing to take a risk and take a swing on upside, Richardson is exactly the prospect for them to target.
Will Levis is an experienced high-upside prospect
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis fits the bill of a prototypical quarterback build similarly to Richardson. Levis stands at 6-3 and weighs in at 232 pounds. The redshirt senior entered the 2022 season with the potential to assert himself as the top quarterback prospect in this class, but a less-than-stellar 2022 campaign put Levis as a risky, high-upside prospect.
Levis has the size, arm talent and mobility to be a top quarterback one day, but there is a question as to whether he can put all the pieces together. Levis was inconsistent in his final season at Kentucky. Some of that is due to a lack of weapons to work with. However, that does not mean none of the blame should fall on Levis. Levis can put the pieces together, but he is closer to a dart throw and a surefire prospect.
Levis’ arm is the draw that NFL teams will covet in him as a prospect. Pro Football Focus writer Mitch Kaiser noted Levis has one of the best arms in the class.
“He has exceptional arm talent with a lightning-quick release,” said Kaiser in his draft profile for Levis. “He can make any throw on the football field, and there are times when he makes it look easy.”
Will Levis’ fit in Detroit
Levis, 23, has more experience as a starter than some of the other quarterback prospects in this class. He has some refining to do in his game, and some seasoning behind a quarterback like Goff would benefit his development. Levis is a high-risk, high-ceiling prospect. He may not have as high of a ceiling as Richardson, but his floor may very well be higher.
Some teams will fall in love with Levis’ intangibles. There is a world where he is the first overall pick, and there is a world where he falls into the middle of the first round. If the Detroit Lions are looking to add a rookie quarterback in the draft, selecting one of the younger prospects might be better for their long-term plans. They can take time to develop those prospects. Levis’ development track may need to be expedited.
(Featured Image Credit: George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY)