Close this search box.

Draft Nerds – 2023 Detroit Lions Mock Draft

The Lions just missed the playoffs in 2023. @MonCalFF mocks the draft to fill the holes on the lineup.

In 2022 the Detroit Lions offense ranked third in touchdowns scored behind only the Chiefs and Eagles. So how is it they only went 9-8? They allowed 51 touchdowns to opponents, third highest in the league. With that in mind, the Detroit Lions should make defense the focus of the 2023 rookie draft.

So what exactly are their most significant needs? Once again, we can look to the previous season for hints. They allowed 245.8 passing yards per game, the third highest in the NFL, and 26 passing touchdowns, tied for 8th most. On the ground, they allowed 146.5 rushing yards per game. Good for fourth highest in the league, and 22 rushing touchdowns, tied for third highest behind the Bears and Texans. A coaching change mid-season improved their passing defense, and while it could certainly use more help, their run defense needs even more assistance.

It’s thought that the Lions will be targeting defensive linemen and cornerbacks in this draft. Luckily for them, this is a rather deep cornerback class with a half dozen players expected to go in the first round and another eight or so on Day 2. They also need a tight end after trading TJ Hockenson to Minnesota mid-season. In addition, they may need to fill other holes as there are a few other veterans set to become free agents. The biggest question is whether they attempt to target a quarterback. Given Jared Goff’s consistent production in 2022 and the Lions draft position, it’s unlikely they target a quarterback unless they are willing to pay an absolute premium to outbid other quarterback-needy teams currently vying to trade up. 

Credit for the mock draft simulation goes to NFL Mock Draft DB. Team needs are also generated from this site. Compensatory picks have not been assigned and will not be included in this exercise.

1.06 – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson

At sixth overall, the chances of a top quarterback still available will be slim. The Lions could go all-in on Christian Gonzalez at cornerback. With the depth of the class, it would make more sense to wait. Positional scarcity strikes again! But don’t take this as a strike against Bresee.

Entering Clemson, Bresee was a 5-star recruit. As a freshman, he recorded 23 tackles and 4 sacks across 11 games. In 2021 he tallied 13 tackles with 1.5 sacks in just four games before tearing his ACL and being out for the remainder of the season. He returned in 2022 and recorded 15 tackles with 3.5 sacks across ten games. While his production might not be amazing over the last two years, his measurables are.

Bresee made Bruce Feldman’s 2022 Freak’s List (an annual list of college players displaying “freak” level athleticism). According to the list, he can bench press 435 pounds and deadlift an astounding 585 pounds. On top of that, he’s reportedly running the 40-yard dash in just 4.7 seconds which would place him in an elite tier considering his 6’5″, 300-pound frame.

The biggest concern with Bresee is whether or not he can return to his pre-ACL tear form. If he’s able to rebound, he could be considered a bargain even at 6th overall.

1.18 – Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

At 18, the Lions should have a variety of options at cornerback despite the likelihood that a few cornerbacks go before their pick. Whether Cam Smith, Joey Porter, Kelee Ringo, or even Christian Gonzalez should he fall, they should get a promising addition to their secondary.

At 6’1″ and 187 pounds, Cam Smith is a touch light but isn’t afraid of contact. He gets physical when applying pressure down the field, sometimes to a fault, but his production was strong.

His freshman year was quiet, with him only seeing two games. His first two years were quiet, with him playing only ten games. In 2021 he broke out, recording 41 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 11 broken-up passes across eleven games. In 2022 he totaled 27 tackles with one interception and 5 broken-up passes but also tallied 2 quarterback hurries.

He may need some time to fully develop but could become a solid starter opposite Jeff Okudah for this defense. He’s very good in zone coverage but could use work in man. His athleticism is ample, and his instincts look strong. As an IDP option, I expect him to become a high-floor player with occasional interceptions after some experience and refinement.

2.48 – Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

Since the departure of TJ Hockenson to the Vikings last season, the Lions have been making do with Brock Wright, James Mitchell, and Shane Zylstra. While all three have proven to be solid blockers and capable of making the occasional catch they now lack a true receiving tight end. Kincaid could be that guy for them. He spent his first three years at San Diego before transferring to Utah in 2020. During his first year at San Diego, he racked up 374 yards on 24 catches with 11 touchdowns. In year two he tallied 835 yards on 44 receptions with 8 touchdowns. He continued that production as a junior at Utah, with 510 yards on 36 receptions and 8 touchdowns in his third year. In his final season, he saw 890 yards across 70 receptions with another 8 touchdowns.

For fantasy purposes, he’s likely a wait-and-see option. Typically elite athleticism is a requirement for top-end tight end fantasy production. While Kincaid was very productive, his measurables are expected to land in the “very good but not elite” range.

2.55 – Henry To’oto’o, LB, Alabama

Henry To’oto’o (pronounced “toe oh-toe oh”) started his college career at Tennessee. He totaled a staggering 72 tackles in his freshman year and 76 in his second year. He then transferred to Alabama, where he tallied 59 tackles his junior year and 49 his senior year. He’s a light and fast linebacker, running a 4.52 40-yard dash at 6’2″, 225 pounds. He has strong instincts but has relied on his athleticism, which often doesn’t translate to the NFL. He was set to attend the Senior Bowl but canceled at the last minute with an unknown injury. Should the Lions be able to help him develop, he could very well turn into a high-floor IDP option, but it’s unlikely we’ll see a massive breakout his first year in the league.

3.81 – Calijah Kancey, DL, Pitt

Calijah Kancey is a name few people knew until a few weeks ago when he was unexpectedly placed in the first round of Mel Kiper’s first 2023 NFL mock draft. Kancey has been kicking around the third round of most mock drafts. Kiper estimated he would go to the Eagles with the 10th overall selection. Kancey has had some solid production at Pitt, totaling 91 tackles across 33 games, including 16 total sacks. Another member of Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List, he is stout, 6’0″, 275 pounds but exceptionally quick, running a 4.69 40-yard dash.

He’s a good pass rusher as it stands and has room to grow. Should he develop into an even better pass rusher, he could become an exciting IDP asset, providing a high ceiling for defensive line spots.

5.154 – Jay Ward, S, LSU

With two veteran safeties up for new contracts, Detroit may look to the draft for a replacement. Jay Ward is a cornerback converted to safety. He’s the kind of go-hard player that fits right into the type of culture that Dan Campbell has built. At cornerback, he struggled when closer to the line of scrimmage. At safety, his ball-tracking ability and willingness to engage physically have made him dangerous. His biggest weakness is his tendency to go for a big hit rather than securing a tackle. This might work well against college athletes but will be less effective against larger professional athletes with better contact balance. It will be interesting to see if he can fix those issues.

Besides the big hits, the one other thing that flashes on film is the quickness of his hands. He’s seemingly able to get them up to break up a pass or pluck the ball from the air in an instant. If he can earn time on the field he could end up a volatile interception-dependent IDP option. For your IDP drafts, he’s likely not worth a pick, but he is someone you may want to keep in the back of your mind for the future.

6.183 – Thomas Incoom, Edge, Central Michigan

Thomas Incoom was a 2-star recruit who played his first two years of college at Valdosta State before transferring to Michigan. He had a quiet first three years before breaking out in 2022. During that season, he totaled 57 tackles, including 11.5 sacks across 12 games. It will be interesting to see whether he can stand up against the next-level competition at the Senior Bowl. His speed is intriguing, but his technique needs some heavy refinement. If he can develop, he could become a rotational piece for Detroit.

6.194 – Camerun Peoples, RB, Appalachian State

With Jamaal Williams’ and Craig Reynolds’ futures currently up in the air, Detroit may decide to seek depth in the draft. Camerun Peoples is pretty far down most draft lists, and it’s easy to see why when you consider the competition ahead of him. He only saw a total of four games during his first two years. In his third year, he broke out, racking up 1139 scrimmage yards across 12 games. He didn’t match that total again in his final two years but was still productive.

His physique is intriguing, standing 6’2″, 220 pounds with a reported 79″ wingspan and 33 ¾” arms, and 9 ⅝” hands. Despite this pterodactyl-like silhouette, he had only 11 receptions over five years. That may be a result of Daetrich Harrington being the established receiving back through Camerun’s full tenure, but it’s still a serious concern for his fantasy value.

Fantasy Impact and Analysis

With Detroit having positional needs primarily on the defensive side, there isn’t much to love outside of a few IDP options. Dalton Kincaid could eventually be fantasy relevant, but given the wasteland that is the tight end position, he’s likely not worth a roster spot. Especially considering most tight ends take 2-3 years to break out. The same can be said about Camerun Peoples. Should Detroit decide to draft a running back earlier, we may see some competition against Swift, but their other needs are more immediate.

End of the Perpetual Rebuild

It seems that the time of the perpetual rebuild in Detroit may be coming to an end. With the Lions winning eight of their last ten games, they have clearly turned a new leaf. The offense is firing on all cylinders, and Jameson Williams isn’t even fully up to speed yet. Chances are the Detroit offense doesn’t change much, and we know what’s in store. Their defense may see key pieces added, and if so, they will be a force to be feared. The days of the Lions being an easy matchup for teams have been gone for two years now, and they’re about to get a lot tougher.

Share on Social

More to read

UNlock Premium For Free

Deposit at least $10 at Underdog Fantasy and get our #Nerdherd and DynastyGM FREE for 12 Months!
Use code Nerds at checkout!
* Restrictions Apply | New Users Only


Rank Name Position Pos. Rank


Dominate your Dynasty leagues

Dynasty Nerds App is Mission Control for your Dynasty Leagues. Download Now!

Dominate your
Dynasty leagues

Dynasty Nerds App is Mission Control for your Dynasty Leagues. Download Now!

Black Friday Sale

25% OFF 

Coupon Code - holiday25
Sign-up Now
* Terms & Conditions Apply

Log In

Not a member yet?