The 2023 NFL Draft is just around the corner. After an aggressive free agency period, the Detroit Lions have afforded themselves the flexibility to take the best player available with every pick. The only position that remains in need of a major upgrade is interior defensive line.
GM Brad Holmes and the Lions’ front office will do their due diligence on the top prospects in this year’s class. Detroit owns eight picks in the 2023 draft. Four of those picks fall within the top 55 selections, and two picks fall in the first round.
With the scouting combine in the rearview mirror, NFL teams and prospects will turn to their respective Pro Days to show off their talents. For those prospects who were not invited to the combine, it is an opportunity to showcase their skills up close and personal to NFL scouts and coaches for the first time this offseason. For those who were invited, it is a chance to double down on a strong performance or clean up after a shaky combine.
There are plenty of schools with top prospects the Lions could have their eyes on hosting their Pro Days this week. While these performances in gym shorts and without pads may not sway NFL team’s views on them as prospects much, the opportunity to visit and speak with these prospects could do wonders for certain aspects of a team’s evaluation.
Here are some of this weeks Pro Days that Detroit Lions fans should keep an eye on.
Monday, March 27
The University of Miami
Cornerback prospect Tyrique Stevenson is a potential name to monitor if the Lions target a corner in the second round. Stevenson projects as a press-man boundary corner at the NFL level. He played sparingly in the slot in 2022. In a crowded cornerback class, Stevenson will have the opportunity to hold every scouts’ eye at Miami’s Pro Day.
Tight end Will Malory is another name to monitor the Hurricane’s Pro Day. The Lions are in need to tight end depth and competition for projected starter Brock Wright. In the later rounds, Mallory could hear his name called by the Motor City.
Tuesday, March 28
Washington State University
Linebacker Daiyan Henley has another chance to show off his athleticism at his Pro Day. This year’s linebacker class is not viewed as particularly deep. Some, like Pro Football Focus, view Henley as the best linebacker in the class. Others, view his ceiling as nothing more than a backup and special teams ace. Henley needs every chance he can get to stand out amongst the mediocre linebacker crowd in this year’s draft.
Wednesday, March 29
The University of Pittsburgh
Size is the major area of concern for defensive lineman Calijah Kancey. The pass rusher is undersized at around 6-1, but he showcased high-end athletic traits at the combine. Kancey is a name that has been connected to the Lions as a potential fit with the 18th pick. He fills the need of an interior defensive lineman, and his pass-rushing potential is amongst the best in the class. As a run-stopper, Kancey is likely to be more hit-or-miss at the NFL level, especially early in his career. That can be attributed to his lack of elite size.
All eyes will be on Kancey at Pitt’s Pro Day. Will any of the questions about the prospect be answered? No, but he will be able to yet again show off his athletic traits.
Thursday, March 30
The University of Florida
Quarterback Anthony Richardson has another crack at showing off his arm talent at Florida’s Pro Day. Richardson possesses the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks in this year’s class. It is likely he enters the league already near the top in terms of arm strength. His mobility will be top-five instantly as well. However, his accuracy and ability to read defenses is an issue he needs to clear up. Richardson can throw accurate balls. He has some pin-point dimes on his highlight reel, but he is inconsistent.
A chance to show he is working on his mechanics and overall accuracy could go a long way toward securing his placement in the top seven picks of this year’s draft.
Guard O’Cyrus Torrence and defensive lineman Gervon Dexter Sr. are two other names to watch at Florida’s Pro Day. With Jonah Jackson and Graham Glasgow both only under contract for the 2022 season, a guard prospect could easily be on the Detroit Lions’ radar early in the draft. Torrence ranks as the consensus top guard in this year’s class. If the team is looking for an interior defensive lineman outside of the top 60 picks, Dexter Sr. could be available to them in the third or fourth round.
Texas Christian University
Steve Avila is generally viewed as the second-best guard prospect in this year’s class. There is a strong likelihood he will be available to the Lions with one of their two second-round picks. Unless the team is willing to roll the dice on potentially losing both starting guards next offseason with no backup plan in place, taking a guard prospect should be high on the team’s priority list. Avila has good size and a good anchor.
Quentin Johnson is a receiver who could go anywhere from the top-10 picks to late in the first round. He is an explosive receiver with a big frame at 6-3. It is unlikely that the Lions spend the sixth pick on Johnson, but if the team trades down, or if he slips to the 18th pick, there is a world where he finds his way to Detroit. After losing D.J. Chark in free agency, the Lions are in the market for receiver depth. Johnson can join a talented room that already includes Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams.
Tre’Vous Hodges-Tomlinson does not have elite size for an NFL cornerback. Actually, he is significantly undersized at just 5-8. However, he still projects to be a productive off-zone cornerback. After adding Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency, corner is not an immediate need for the team anymore. They can wait for one of their later picks to draft a developmental prospect. In the third round, Hodges-Tomlinson could be good value for the Lions.
Of course, quarterback Max Duggan is someone worth monitoring. The Detroit Lions re-signed Nate Sudfeld recently, but that will not stop the team from drafting a quarterback prospect if the right one is available to them. Duggan offers good mobility and an average arm. Nothing about him screams potential starter, but he could develop into a nice backup one day.
Other notable Pro Days around the country this week
- March 27: Baylor, Boise State, Duke, Florida International, Jackson State, Memphis, North Carolina and West Virginia
- March 28: Arkansas State, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Louisville, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Tulsa, Vanderbilt
- March 29: Arkansas, LSU, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, USF, Wake Forest, Washington
- March 30: Oklahoma, Tennessee
- March 31: Florida State, Kansas State
(Featured Image Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)