Jeff Okudah, the highest-drafted cornerback in 25 years, was traded by the Detroit Lions to the Atlanta Falcons, paving the way for a fresh crop of talent to make their mark. With the NFL draft looming, we examine the Lions’ options in the first round and the key players who could be wearing the Honolulu blue and silver in the upcoming season.
Devon Witherspoon: A Rising Star in the Secondary
Devon Witherspoon, the hard-hitting cornerback from Illinois, is a top candidate to fill the void left by Okudah. His physicality, combined with his agility in man and press coverage, makes him an ideal fit for the Lions’ defensive scheme. As the only cornerbacks signed through 2023 are Cam Sutton and Chase Lucas, Witherspoon could be the key to bolstering the team’s depth at the position.
Jalen Carter: A Powerful Presence on the D-Line
Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter is another strong option for the Lions. Previously seen as a long shot, Carter’s draft stock has dipped due to off-field issues, making him a more realistic target for Detroit. His skill and tenacity would help fill one of the team’s most pressing needs.
Tyree Wilson: A Dominant Pass Rusher from Texas Tech
Tyree Wilson, the edge defender from Texas Tech, is an appealing option for the Lions. With his imposing size, arm length, and Big 12 pass-rushing pedigree, Wilson could join a formidable group featuring Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Paschal, James Houston, Romeo Okwara, and Charles Harris.
O’Cyrus Torrence: A Formidable Force on the Offensive Line
O’Cyrus Torrence, the top-ranked guard from Florida, could help solidify the Lions’ offensive line for years to come. Drafting Torrence would provide insurance in case Jonah Jackson leaves, maintaining the strength of the team’s line and keeping it among the NFL’s best.
Bijan Robinson: A Record-Breaking Running Back from Texas
Bijan Robinson, the standout running back from Texas, could be an exciting addition to the Lions’ offense. His ability to break tackles and excel on the ground and through the air makes him a strong candidate for the team’s first-round pick.
Quentin Johnston: A High-Flying Receiver from TCU
Quentin Johnston, the explosive wide receiver from TCU, could add a new dimension to the Lions’ passing game. He’s truly one of the top physical freaks in the NFL draft. With an impressive 40.5-inch vertical jump and a 6-foot-2 frame, Johnston would be a welcome addition to Detroit’s receiving corps.
Joey Porter Jr.: An Aggressive, Long-Limbed Cornerback from Penn State
Joey Porter Jr.’s length and aggressiveness should have every defensive coordinator in the league pointing their general managers in his direction. Porter would provide Aaron Glenn with the aggressive press options he’s coveted since landing in Detroit. He measures 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, boasts a 35-inch vertical, a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, and has those enviable 34-inch arms. The corner allowed only 143 yards in coverage last season at Penn State. He put some concerns to rest and then some, scoring an impressive 9.71 RAS.
Lukas Van Ness: A Powerful Trench Warrior from Iowa
Lukas Van Ness, the powerful edge rusher from Iowa, could bring valuable inside-outside versatility to the Lions’ defense. With a 9.39 Relative Athletic Score and explosive speed, Van Ness is a potential force to be reckoned with.
Calijah Kancey: The Interior Defensive Line Energizer
Calijah Kancey might not fit the mold, but that might not matter. Kancey would bring a ton of juice to the interior defensive line. The concerns stem from his 6-foot-1, 281-pound build. However, those are erased when watching his lightning-fast hands and explosion from his stance in the trenches. Kancey ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a defensive tackle in combine history at 4.67 seconds. He was elite across the board in speed, explosion, and agility testing. Kancey created 30 quarterback hurries, winning 22.7% of his pass rushes last season at Pittsburgh. In his first draft in Detroit, Holmes tried to find a twitchy interior havoc creator (Pick 41 on Levi Onwuzurike), but that hasn’t panned out, and Onwuzurike’s future is more than cloudy.
Deonte Banks: A True Athletic Force at Cornerback
Deonte Banks, the Maryland cornerback with impressive length and athleticism, is one of the most popular choices for the Lions’ No. 18 pick in the NFL Draft. His high “Relative Athletic Score” and versatility make him an attractive prospect, especially in a deep cornerback room.
Bryan Bresee: Overcoming Adversity
Bryan Bresee’s stock has cooled in recent months, at least in mock drafts. However, he’s one to watch as a former five-star recruit who moves impressively well for his 298-pound frame. Bresee dealt with injuries and off-field tragedy while at Clemson, but he fought through that to deliver the best pass-rushing year of his time there, posting 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and 17 quarterback hurries in 10 games. Bresee won 14.5% of his pass rushes, finally tapping into those high expectations as 2020’s top recruit.
In Conclusion: A Draft Full of Possibilities
As the NFL draft approaches, the Detroit Lions have a plethora of options to consider, from bolstering their secondary to adding explosive defensive linemen or even snagging a game-changing running back. With the recent trade of Jeff Okudah, it’s clear that the Lions are looking to make some bold moves to reshape their roster. As analysts and writers continue to mock various players to the team, one thing is certain: this draft will be crucial in determining the Lions’ future success on the field.
For more from the author Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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